Monthly Archives: December 2016

It is New Year’s Eve – and things happen

Tomorrow is a New Year; new work; new challenges – and long standing beliefs. These beliefs go back to happenings long ago – but were they ‘real happeningsor are they just stories?  No-one knows for certain – but while there is doubt there is risk so when in doubt….. – now that’s up to you!  The decision is up to you – and this is one such situation.

Walk along the High Street at Stonehaven in Scotland at Midnight on this night and you’ll come across the Ancient Fireballs Ceremony. This fishing community, 16 miles south of Aberdeen, is ‘home’ to one of the unique Hogmanay festivals in Scotland – and argued by many as the best.

For over 150 years, at the stroke of midnight, the High Street has been lit up as sixty or so local fireball-swingers make their way through their town, swinging their fireballs above their heads. It looks dangerous but the fireballs are very safely packed in wire cages and attached to strong, five-foot-long wire ropes. The balls are made of combustible and oily waste matter, (rags, twigs, cones, bits of coal), soaked in paraffin and are held together in a case of wire mesh. The ‘balls’ are made as heavy as each ‘swinger’ feels they can handle – anything from 5 to 15 pounds. Some balls can be 3 feet in diameter and, in the past, have been recorded to burn for 2 hours!  Now, however, they only last for 20 minutes maximum: – Health & Safety rules must be followed you know!

For the parade, the swingers, all of whom must reside in the Burgh, march down the High Street to the accompaniment of Pipes and Drums from the Mercat Cross to the Police Station, swinging the flaming balls around their heads. After the ‘fireball swingers’ have proceeded through the town they go down to the harbour where the balls are then thrown into the sea.

As you would expect, fireball-swinging is an energetic activity. One regular participant recorded recently that: “I can personally attest to the effort needed to continue swinging for the 10-15 minutes the ball will burn.”  

The ceremony is said to date from a fishermen’s festival in the 19th century but these torch processions can be dated back to before Christianity arrived in Scotland and there are a number of theories about the significance of the festival.  Some say that it coincides with the winter solstice and the swinging fireballs relate to the recall of the sun but others follow the pre-Christian theory in that the fireballs are to purify the world by consuming evil and warding off witches and evil spirits.

Another, more detailed, theory is that at some time in the Dark Ages a shooting star appeared above what is now Stonehaven and that those living nearby had bumper crops in the following year. The seers of the tribe then attributed this prosperity to the coming of the shooting star.  The Fireball is regarded as a mimic of that shooting star and that recalling it at this time will bring a return of that prosperity.

Now, whatever the background, this celebration has become such a popular event that, in the interests of safety, barriers are erected to separate the swingers and pipe bands, and control the thousands that come to spectate! But the spectacle and atmosphere are still second to none.

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An invitation from Janine and Peter

Hello Mum & Dad

I’ve just had another letter from Janine and Peter. 

No – it’s nothing to do with them going off to some outlandish place out-back as they say down there.  It’s much, much, more exciting than that!

They have invited all seven of us little folk to go down to see them and their new life.  Peter is so rich that he will pay for everything!

They are going to get married and want us all to be there!!!!  We have the tickets and leave in one week’s time!  Must go now – we’ve got shopping to do.

Love Albert

PS: I promise that I will take some photographs and send them to you as pictures. 

For you dear reader this is the end of this story.  Just keep in touch because I am sure there will be more to come and in the meantime have a great Christmas and New Year

A letter from Australia

Hello Mum & Dad
I’ve just had a letter from Janine and Peter.  They asked me to say hello to you.
They took their time heading to Australia.  She said that they stopped in Singapore for two nights on their way down.  That makes me very envious – Singapore is a place I have always wanted to visit.  Perhaps I will get a chance sometime because I am determined to visit Janine and Peter in their new life.
They are now living in Melbourne, Australia and, from what Janine says, they have a very posh house there.  She says that they are just ten minutes from the sea and that it is, of course, much warmer down there than we ever know.
She says that they plan to stay there for a while before setting up a permanent home somewhere.  It seems that Peter has lots and lots of money so they can take their time in deciding that next step.
What Janine doesn’t say, though, is when they are going to get married!
Some people can really hide things from you can’t they?
Lots of love
Albert

A visit to Janine’s dad

Hello Mum & Dad

Well, it is five weeks since Janine and Peter went off into the sunset.  Three of us went down to her father’s house today and delivered the letter as Janine asked.
We explained why we had come and who we were and gave him the letter.

He invited us in.  We were a bit reluctant because of how Janine had discribed her step-mother but he assured us that it would be alright – he was alone.

He seemed a bit quiet and we sat down while he read the letter.  He then said quite simply:
‘Gentlemen – you may care to know that my second wife dropped dead, suddenly, just over five weeks ago.  I wanted to tell Janine but unfortunately I did not know where to contact her.  If you hear from her could you tell her this please?’
We left him looking very old and lonely.

We checked the calendar when we got home.  The woman died on the day Peter first saw Janine in hospital!

It’s strange how some things happen isn’t it?
Take care of yourselves

Love

Albert

Now she’s home she said she’s leaving!

Yesterday, after Janine and Peter had told us about their past, we were all very very happy.  We were still all for telling the police but it was decided that no-one would believe us anyway.

Now – today – Peter and Janine told us that they have decided to go to Australia so that Janine’s step-mother will never be able to find her.  Not only that – they are going to get married! 

She has given us a letter for us to deliver to her father but we are not to do that until one month after they have left here – and that is this coming Wednesday!  In other words – by the time anyone knows anything about all of this they will be married and living somewhere in that faraway country.

We shall miss her, and hate to see her go, but it’s her life.  We shall just have to knuckle down and keep the flat up to the standard she would expect.

Janine is home!

Dear Folks

Janine is home!  We had all set to and made the place spotless for her …. we just couldn’t let her come back to the mess we’d allowed the place to become could we!  Peter was here from the hospital and it is great having her back.  We don’t know how long she’ll stay though.   With us all together for the first time we heard the whole story of their ‘friendship’.
Apparently Peter and Janine have known each other for a long time.  Both their families are quite well off and it seems Peter and Janine sort of kept bumping into each other at social events.  Friendship grew into fondness and then into love.  Unfortunately Janine’s mother died around this time and it really knocked her father sideways.  Janine had to give up virtually everything to keep him afloat.

Just after then, Peter’s parents moved abroad on business and he went with them.  He and Janine kept in touch by letter but ob saw nothing of each other.  Janine’s father got over his deep depression and then rushed into a second marriage after an instant romance.
Apparently Janine’s step-mother and her struck sparks off each other from day one.  They argued about everything, especially Janine’s friends and particularly Peter.  It finally got to the stage where her step-mother was tearing up all Peter’s letters before Janine ever saw them.

Janine was still writing to Peter but – she thought – never getting a reply.  What with that and constant rows with her step mother she finally walked out without telling anyone.  That was when she turned up here – with us.
It appears that her step-mother wouldn’t let it stop there though.  She got a private detective to track her down.  He finally found her here and reported back.  That’s what caused Janine’s problem.  She came to see her, claiming that she wanted to make it up with her.  She had brought some apples for them to share.  Like a fool Janine believed her.  The apple had obviously been tampered with in some way because Janine could remember biting it but nothing else until she heard Peter’s voice yesterday.

The whole room went silent as each thought of what the two had gone through.  It was Grumpy that broke the silence.  ‘Disgusting’ he said, then, ‘anyone for tea or coffee?’

It really and quickly brought us back to the real world.  Orders were place and everyone started talking to everyone.  We were and are all so pleased to have ‘our’ Janine back.

Bye for now

Love Albert

What’s in a name?

Peter got permission to stay with Janine for a while but we went home.  Once home we sat and thought about his name.  It sounded quite posh we thought.  Doc is the most knowledgeable among us – he’s actually got some books that aren’t just for helping people get well.
Peter – he said – means ‘stone’ and was first used as a nickname that was given to the Apostle Simon by Jesus who said ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church’.
Stuart – he said – can be a given name as well as last name. It is, he said, the French form of the surname Stewart and was brought to Scotland from France by Mary Stuart, in the 16th century.
Lawson, Doc told us, comes from ‘son of Laurence’ – a surname of truly ancient origins that can be traced back to an ancient Roman city called ‘Laurentum’!

Doc really does love showing us how clever he is but sometime he goes a bit too far for us.  He had just reached that place when Peter came back from the hospital.

‘Her Doctor’s happy’, he said, ‘Janine is coming home tomorrow!’
You have never heard such a cheer.
‘We’d better get to bed,’ said Doc, ‘so we can get this place as tidy as Janine would want it.’

No-one argued and we all went to bed.

The man returns and a miracle happens

Dear Mum & Dad

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday but so much has happened.  The man came back yesterday as arranged.  We had spoken to the doctor and he said that if we felt it was OK for the man to visit her then he would go along with it.

We told the man – Peter Stuart-Lawson is his name – that he could see Janine for a few minutes if he came with us.  He agreed. When we got to the hospital he came in with two of us.  For a moment he just stood and looked at her and then, before either of us could stop him, he stepped forward and kissed Janine on the lips.  While he was still bending over her he whispered – ‘Janine, my love, it’s Peter.  I’m here.’

We both heard him …… and so did Janine!  For the first time since we found her she opened her eyes.  He kissed her again and said something like … ‘I’ll never leave you again’.

It was like magic because Janine answered him!  ‘Peter’, she said, ‘Hello’.

We were dumbfounded and the doctor was equally surprised.  He did some tests there and then and pronounced Janine perfectly well!  She is being kept in for a few more days – just for observation – but the doctor says she’ll be home for the week-end!

What a wonderful day.

Love  Albert

Another visitor arrived today

Dear Folks

The place is getting like Piccadilly Circus: we had another visitor today – a tall, good looking, fellow in an expensive suit.  He asked for Janine by name; said they had known each other a long time ago but he had only just learnt of her illness.

We asked him where he had heard such a story.  The funny thing was, he couldn’t tell us where he had heard the news – said he just had.  It seemed strange, but in a peculiar way it rang true; a totally different sort of feeling to that we had about the woman of a few days ago.

He said that he wanted to see Janine but we said we would have to check on that.  He understood. We’re going to have a word with the doctor tonight and have asked the man to come back tomorrow.  We’ll see what we do then.

Only me and Bashful got to see Janine tonight.  Sleepy was tired and Sneezy has a cold so Dopy, Grumpy and Doc set to tidy up the place.  We need to have the place looking tidy when our visitor returns tomorrow.

When we got to the hospital there had been no change in Janine.  She still lays there looking as beautiful as ever – just as if she fell asleep five minutes ago.  We are all beginning to wonder if she will ever become her old self again.

I’ll let you know the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting.

Love

Albert

We have had a visitor

Dear Mum & Dad

We had a visitor call at the flats today.  She was a middle-aged woman.  To look at her I would think she used to be quite good looking – but her face has gone hard now, if you know what I mean.

She wouldn’t say who she was but said she had heard there was a vacancy at the flat.  When we told her that there wasn’t one she seemed quite surprised.  In fact, she had the nerve to ask if we were sure!

We told her in no uncertain terms that we were sure – VERY SURE.  We told her that a person – one of our flat mates – was ill but that we expected a full recovery.  There was no chance of a place becoming available here – NONE!

For some reason we referred to Janine as ‘the person’ and did not say where that person was in hospital.  The woman seemed quite put out by the news.

As she turned and walked away I heard her muttering to herself ‘We’ll see about that’!

Funny – weird – spooky.

I’ll write again soon.

 

Love from Albert and my friends here.