Tag Archive | Helen

100 days – Day 81 (ii) – On This Day, 1979

100 days – Day 81 (ii): on this day, 35 years ago


12 July 1979:  we set off from Heathrow to Trinidad in a British Airways Jumbo.  I was to be the Church of Scotland minister at Greyfriars/St Ann’s in Port of Spain for the next four years.  I was 31 years of age.




A twelve hour plane journey to the West Indies can be pretty awful, and, on that day , it was the flight from hell, as we set off to my new ministry  (travelling via Antigua and Barbados)

Richard, our younger son was only 21 months old, so, being under the age of two years, didn’t qualify for a seat of his own.

Consequently, he had to sit alternatively of Helen’s and my respective laps.  And have you ever tried to change a nappy in a tiny aeroplane loo?- it’s not easy.

The drinks were complementary, so H and I had quite a few G & Ts – though most of them ended up being spilled down us, because of the aforesaid wriggling and squirming infant.

At Antigua, I got off the plane to stretch my legs and buy some duty free.  By the time I walked to the terminal, my grey clerical shirt had tuned 50 shades darker because of the scorching heat and subsequent physical reaction to it (in other words, I was sweating like the proverbial pig)

Got a couple of bottles of rum, then was told that I couldn’t go back to the plane until the embarkation call and would have to queue up with other punters who were boarding.

So, I had my very first Caribbean beer (Banks of Barbados) served by the surliest barman that I’ve ever encountered – maybe it was the clerical collar or more likely he was miffed at working out the change in local currency from the US bill that I’d handed over.



Eventually back on the plane, and onward, via Barbados, to Piarco Airport, Trinidad.

The welcoming party must have wondered what they’s let themselves in for:  a dishevelled, sweaty minister with a grubby shirt reeking of (spilled) gin and whose breath must have smelled like a brewery.

For some reason, Helen and the little boys were driven off in one car; I in another

Helen told me later that young Richard picked up Elder Ronnie Fraser’s (a kirk Elder, originally from Forfar)  torch and threw it out of his car window.  Ron just shrugged

On the way from the Airport to Maraval (suburb of P.O.S) where the Manse was, I noticed lines of young women standing by the side of the road into the City.  Helen thought that they were hookers trying to attract the drivers of passing cars for custom.

What had we come to?  What had I done to my little family?

(it transpired later that they were simply waiting for “maxi-taxis” (mini buses) to take them into Town!)

We got to the Manse eventually, tired, jet-lagged, grubby, hot and bothered, disorientated, and already homesick – only to be visited by two separate groups from the congregation who popped round to welcome us.

Helen was on the point of quitting altogether, and flying home the next day, but managed to sleep fitfully for a few hours

The next morning, she opened the (imported) American mega-fridge and discovered that it was crammed full of goodies – lovingly donated by the church members.

And – WOW! – real, proper big mangoes for breakfast in the patio….. this wasn’t so bad, after all.

And more kindly folks popping round to see if we were settling in.  So lovely, so caring, so involved….. hey, maybe we’ll stay…. and stay we did, living and working amongst the most wonderful people imaginable.

The return flight to the UK four years later (I could only stay that short amount of time, because of work permit conditions) was dreadful and upsetting……. but, unlike the outgoing journey 35 years ago today, this time we were leaving behind many true saints of the church…… and were missing them dreadfully.


p.s  beer was mentioned above – when we got to the Manse,  waiting there in the kitchen was a case of……. Carib Beer!  Huzzah



100 days – Day 55: Second Anniversary of the Death of my Beloved Wife, Helen

100 days – Day 55: Second Anniversary of the Death of my Beloved Helen



Kinks – Days Lyrics

Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I’m thinking of the days,
I won’t forget a single day, believe me.I bless the light,
I bless the light that lights on you believe me.
And though you’re gone,
You’re with me every single day, believe me.Days I’ll remember all my life,
Days when you can’t see wrong from right.
You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you’d leave me,
But it’s all right,
Now I’m not frightened of this world, believe me.I wish today could be tomorrow,
The night is dark,
It just brings sorrow anyway.Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I’m thinking of the days,
I won’t forget a single day, believe me.Days I’ll remember all my life,
Days when you can’t see wrong from right.
You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you’d leave me,
But it’s all right,
Now I’m not frightened of this world, believe me.

Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I’m thinking of the days,
I won’t forget a single day, believe me.

I bless the light,
I bless the light that shines on you believe me.
And though you’re gone,
You’re with me every single day, believe me.

Days lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., ABKCO Music Inc.


A former work-colleague, Karl wrote this on FB: I worked with Helen in Waterstone’s Edinburgh back in the mid nineties. What a wonderful lady, very kind and warm plus the driest wit this side of the Sahara. I look back at my time with the first floor team with great fondness and I recall creasing up with laughter as Helen would oh so subtly put a rude customer in his or her place with a pithy one liner.


So….. this is a day to mourn, but it’s also a time to celebrate this lovely, warm, funny, intelligent lady whose sense of mischief brought a smile to many a face.


Some of Helen’s “pithy” observations:

 When she was going through her first sessions of chemotherapy, following radical surgery, on our way out of the Infirmary, a lovely and sincere Church of Scotland ministerial colleague bumped into us and said “We’re all praying for you”. (which was a marvellous thing to do). My dear wife, who hadn’t met this guy and hadn’t a clue who he was, simply replied, “How nice”


asking a friend how her son had done in his “Higher” exams, the lady replied, “He failed them all”. But added “He has passed his driving test though!”

herself: “How clever. Much more important”


after attending the first service, after we were married, at the church where I was a probationer assistant, the usual”know-it-all” member – in this case a Mrs Swanston – came up to her with that smug look of those who are beholden of the truth – and said “Well, what do you think of our Church of Scotland services?”

Helen who was VERY English and had a staunch Church of England mother replied, “a bit dull”





On the death of the Beloved            ( John O’Donohue )

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.



100 days – Day 36: Happiness

100 days – Day 36: Happiness


This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,     translation by Coleman Barks



  • Getty   good health and sunshine! 
  • dogs

 My Dogs!

  • innocence

IMGP0758New places (above: Valletta, Malta)


 the Beauty of Nature (photo- Crichton Gardens)

Listening to a favourite song
Looking at a beautiful work of art  (photo – Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence)

IMGP0754  Sunset (photo taken on Western Mediterranean Cruise
In Rome - at the Forum    A Loved One (Helen in Rome)
Yum                        The joy of having a Grandchild (Cora Strachan)
image        The Simple Things in Life

  • Companionship  (Helen and Sandy – Tobago, 1983)


  • Family (Richard and Cora)
  • 624_900PigeonPoint-tobago
  • Awe (Pigeon Point, Tobago)



100 days – Day 15


100 days – Day 15: old friends


Today, we say farewell to one of Helen’s dearest friends.  They were at school together.

Helen predeceased Lyn  by just under two years.  She was only 58 and Lyn had just turned 60.

Too young and so sad.

Both were “individuals” in their own way.  Both a wee bit off-the-wall.  Each of them caring and compassionate.

I treasure this message received in December 2012:


Hello Sandy, I was doing Christmas cards today and I came to trying to do yours and they all said things like ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Christmas’ and I know it won’t be for you.

Then one of your friends mentioned Helen’s name on Facebook and I have been crying since – I can hardly bear the thought of what you must be going through at this time and I miss her too so much. She was alway there even when we weren’t in touch for months (sometimes years) and I still can hear her voice.

Must be so much worse for you and I wish I could just give you a big hug.

Hope your boys and their families are ok and that you will be with them at Christmas. Sorry that I can’t convey what I am feeling for you but I do think about you lots and lots and obviously about Helen.

There are a couple of the places around here that always make me think about her which makes me glad that she did get down here to visit. She was quite outrageous in the Co-op and kept telling me she could do what she liked because she was the minister’s wife. We laughed SO much.


Somewhere, the two old friends are having a good chin-wag and laughing SO much




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