Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ear Wax

The RW disappeared tonight for an hour, off to a "Beauty Therapies" joint in Dumbarton that was having an Open Evening with canapes and coffee. Just the job to combat the Weightwatcher's meals. She came home with some delightful stories of the therapies being offered and the cost of each. (A small mortgage is needed for a pedicure, for example, and that's without the fish eating your toes.)

No the latest line, seemingly,  is to put candles in your ears and light them. Honest. You couldn't make this up. They are called Hopi candles, I'm told, and very therapeutic they are too, although walking about with a couple of lit candles in your lugs has me thinking about prehistoric daleks at best, and the need for men in white coats at worst.

Ever one to take advantage of a new phenomenon, we'll be branching out in St Aug's, (with hopey candles), in the near future and candles will be supplied for lugs to women at a far cheaper price than the ones advertised here. Unfortunately we don't do Lavender candles yet, but there should be a Basilica Brand out soon. Dumbarton may never be the same! Watch this space!

Monday, 24 October 2011


St Auggie's had one of its special days yesterday, when we try to cram everything in at once and all end up exhausted. It wasn't until the end of the day that I realised that the "parish photographer" was on holiday, and we have very few pics to show off to everyone.

Two baptisms, one adult, at the main service, certainly brought in the crowds, and there's something good about having to bring in more chairs before the service starts. Then the dreaded AGM which went smoothly, but always has me on edge, followed by preparations for our Big Event at night.

Friends of St Augustine's continue to amaze me by thinking up unthinkable events, and pulling off unforgettable evenings. Last night it was "Sing for your Fish Supper", and we even had a chip van in the car park taking orders for over 90 people desperate to clog up their arteries. This led to the church building where we were joined by around 30 other folk for the singing.

About six months ago, one of my little flock was putting on a "wee" show in the Denny Theatre for church funds, and was looking for unlikely folk who would dress up as nuns for a sort of Sister Act slot! It wasn't a case of "Can you sing?". Much more a "Do you want to sing?" So began the "Allsorts Choir". I call them the Dolly Mixtures!

It has grown and grown, and features members from children to old-timers from ten different churches in Dumbarton. You don't have to be a great singer, although so many of them are. You simply need to want to sing. Some of the choir, based at St Auggie's, have Alzheimers, but they remember every word and every step, and sing like linties! They feel great about being part of something again, get up in the morning with a song in their heart, and go to sleep feeling they have achieved something great. Their families are amazed and grateful for the transformation. And the "nuns" look fantastic! I'm hoping to get some footage on You Tube soon.

The Allsorts now have bookings well into 2012, and they have become local legends. I'm not joking when I say that when they become millionaires they must keep in mind their roots and where they came from. The AGM showed that we need the dough!

Another wee reflection on yesterday, though. I celebrated the Eucharist at Drumchapel, too, at 9.30am. There were about 9 of us, but the love, joy and warmth of that service was just as heartwarming as the shenanigans in Dumbarton at 11am with 120. It was a joy to be with them in their ramshackle scout hut, a place that emanates love and care. Our wee Pisckie Church certainly has diversity, and that's got to be celebrated and supported.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Grandmother Supreme

Finally, today, the pic that some have been waiting for. The RW with her granddaughter Isla...


Woe is me again. As a repeated offender of the overuse of the exclamation mark, I am suitably put in my place by the Benevolent Dictator for Life I am indeed chastened. I just can't help it! It's a dreadful habit I have, almost akin to addiction to that lovely exclamation mark. I use it perpetually, even when I know I shouldn't, and even as I type this, my fingers are twitching to shove it on to the end of every sentence....... !  Argh! Couldn't help myself! It even sits at the end of every sentence in every sermon I've ever preached.

After today, things are going to be different, because I'm embarking on a Twelve Step Programme to cure my addiction. Others can join me.

1. We admitted we were powerless over exclamation marks—that our lives had become
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity and stop us being obsessed by a line with a dot at the bottom.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives and our grammatical errors over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, and our overuse of exclamation marks.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
of our wrongs and promised that full stops will do us from now on.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character especially as far as exclamation marks are concerned at least.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings, including our use of these dreadful things
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed by using exclamation marks, and became willing to make
amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, especially the Benevolent Dictator, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we misused exclamation mark, promptly
admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with
God, as we understood Him, praying only for strength to use more periods
and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to
carry this message to other exclamation mark users, and to practice these principles in all our

Anniversary Waltz!

It seems quite incredible, but it's 10 years today that I was Instituted as Numpty-in-Charge of St Augustine's Dumbarton. On reflection, much has happened during that time, some good things, some hard things, some not so good, but such is ministry.

The church building has been restored to its original beauty, we've built a new Community Hall, worship has become a little bit more informal, and music has improved greatly thanks to a music group who can play just about anything!

We have lost many faithful members, but numbers still hold up, we are no longer augmented by the Diocese, and there have been so many happy occasions, from baptisms to weddings and other celebrations.

Friends of St Augustine's was reborn and is now responsible, not just as being a tremendous vehicle for mission and raising about £8000 every year, but as the instigator of many many unforgettable parties, productions, dinners and all the rest!

I've been blessed for ten years! However, could they continue to keep me in check for another ten?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Swanning around the Clyde

Today's walk was wonderful! There was little point in checking high tide times, because the park was already soaking and sodden, and the rain would have washed the mud from Archie's coat anyway.

However, we did meet the most beautiful cygnet on the River Clyde. So proud and just gorgeous paddling about in the rain. Very alone! Where were dad, mum, brothers and sisters? Not in sight anyway.

Of course, Archie had to spoil it all by heading into the water, but my feathered friend soon saw him on his way with incredible hisses and flapping of wings.

I had no idea my Golden Retriever could be so hastily subdued! He was out of the water like a shot!

Maybe I need to grow a set of wings?

Nae Nothing!

The wee Honda Jazz has been taken into the car hospital for repair, and quite unexpectedly, I've been given a brand new Ford Fiesta to play with meantime. Courtesy car! I'm not too sure about this, since I'm not that keen on driving about with "Courtesy Car" emblazoned down the side, or even "Arnold Clark Accident Repairs" on the back.

It's a sign that you are a numpty who has crashed his car and it's in for repair. OK. I am a numpty, but I'm not sure I want to tell the world! But there's worse.

The Ford Fiesta has certainly developed since I last drove one! Buttons everywhere! Gadgets beyond my ken. There is a button called "Phone" and a keypad attached.... can I just press it and phone someone? Who pays?

I'm frightened to look at it in case I scratch it, and there are ominous warnings that if I do scratch it I'll be in big trouble. There are other warnings too. Nae smoking, nae dugs, nae eating, and I'm still searching in the list for nae swearing. I'm frightened to sit in it in case one of the dug hairs comes off my coat and attaches itself to the pristine upholstery!

Can you imagine the embarrassment if I was to bump this one too?

So it's sitting neatly in my driveway, and it'll stay there until the RW comes back from Wales.The Dogmobile will do me till then!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Biting off More than you can Chew!

On reflection it was a pathetic sermon this morning. I guess challenging my congregation to oppose and rail against unfair taxation in the UK, and in their spare time fight the other injustices in our society made them feel more powerless than they felt before they came today! However, sometimes I get angry when the agenda that the Church adopts as being "so important", when it's not at all important to the poor and dispossessed lends me to violent outbursts of sermonic diarrhea!

There's only so much you can do, and it's OK that I got it all off my chest today, but it's not going to help anyone get through the next seven days. Get real Kenny!

I realised that this afternoon in a sermon preached by my Golden Retriever, Archie. Here he was in the Clyde, trying to get to grips with the biggest branch ever, and totally failing. He's better off chasing the sticks! The little ones are more easily managed!

So, instead of munching at my crowd to take the whole of society's injustices on at once, it might have been better to home in on the possible rather than the impossible!

It's amazing what we can achieve if we bite off little bits at a time! Today, I feel as if I'll stick to what I know best and start calling for more Treatment Centres for those suffering from addiction, and a sound investment in this from the Scottish Government. I hope I'll get support from my community.

We are losing another generation to drug misuse, and I don't understand why we haven't yet learned from our mistakes.

So, I've decided to chase a little stick, and go with that for now. Members of the Church who will go for other "little sticks", like gay marriage, are welcome to do so. In my community, hearts and souls are being torn apart by the tragedy of addiction and its consequences, and that's what we, as a parish, are dedicated to follow and address.

Otherwise my parish would be just pissing in the wind. The Church is good at that.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

She's Here - Isla!

Well, we have known she was a girl for a while, but Isla Isabella Thomas came into the world at 7lb 3 oz at 1.30am today.

I'm a step-grandparent, meaning I'm not old enough to be a grand-dad yet, although January looms large for me!

Isn't she just beautiful, and the best thing to come into a wet October day, with Wales being robbed in the rugby, Thistle being robbed in Kirkcaldy, and the dugs getting soaked in the Clyde!

Welcome, little one. You will be well loved and adored and, gratefully, you will be given the start that will be denied so many children of your age. Your parents and grandparents will surround you with all you need. Go for it, wee one! You can be a Superstar!

Dumbarton at its Best!

Pat Brown                                                     This is behind the Castle looking over to Levengrove Park 

Friday, 14 October 2011

In the Midst of Life.....

Yesterday was an amazing experience. In 33 years, I've never presided over a funeral with so many people present. We are talking 400+ here, not big but mega. It was an honour to be asked specially to conduct the ceremony.

Scott was a 25 year-old  lad, full of life, love, laughter and fun. Dumbarton's answer to Del Boy, he always had a new idea or a new business venture that was going to make him a millionaire. To begin to do him justice here would mean regurgitating a 20 minute eulogy, and even with that I had to leave about 75% of his story unspoken. He was a big lad who always went for everything 100%, but who had demons. A legion of them.

Being a 100% guy, Scotty was obviously sucked into the local drug culture here, and he gave that 100% too.

Another young life in the town, in our nation, claimed by drug-misuse, and that is tragic.

Sure, we laughed much yesterday about Scott's antics and business acumen, his determination to be a truly Ecumenical Celtic Supporter, and all the rest, but underneath was a tragic truth. That we had lost yet another youngster to addiction and it's consequences.

For years I've tried to be a voice, and I feel sometimes like a voice in the wilderness, for much much more money being invested in setting up more Treatment Centres in Scotland. We desperately need them. Instead we seem to be hell-bent on a policy of long-term methadone maintenance, which at best keeps folk comfortably numb, and at worst just helps top up the crap that's bought on the street. There is a solution, but it entails total abstention from mind-altering substances.

I'm proud that we boast two Narcotics Anonymous groups, (along with AA), in our Community Hall. NA is for winners, where young people themselves, who are managing to live drug-free lives, mentor and encourage others who want to live that way. Some of these folk even come to our church on Sundays. The fact that they've got there, despite the dearth of proper treatment options outwith the community, is a miracle in itself.

How much does the Church care? Well, it should care a lot, and would be a powerful political voice if it chose to be in this matter. However, all I've heard this last week from the Church is stuff about gay marriage, and some side issues that go along with that.

We wonder how young people don't go to church, and I wonder if it's because we are not engaging with the issues that they are engaged with, addiction, education, joblessness, poverty and all the rest.

In communities all over Scotland, meanwhile, we are losing young folk, not just from our churches, but from life itself. When the dust settles, us oldies will be proud that we have gay bishops and gay marriage, but we'll be missing a generation to celebrate that with us.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Excitement Abounds

The RW has waited a long time to be a grandmother! Contractions started today down in Welsh Wales! We await the outcome with bated breath, and our cheque books in a handy place!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Crash Bang!

The indignity of it! Having a bump in my new Honda Jazz in the teeming rain last night. Thankfully nobody was hurt, although I'm embarrassed by my stupidity as it was verily my fault entirely. My embarrassment was overtaken by the other driver's when he realised that the torrent of foul language was being aimed at a clergyperson, but I understand his frustration. Seemingly this was his sixth bump this year, and his car had just come back from the repair shop!

I expected a long drawn out business with insurance companies and quotes and long forms to be filled in, but step up to the mark Esure, who very quickly dealt with the claim in a very efficient manner by telephone this morning. Within 20 minutes my car was booked in for repair on Monday. They will collect my damaged car and deliver it when it's ready and I get a courtesy car to boot! Excellent service!

Monday, 10 October 2011


Far from being a day off, today has been a day of people telling me stories. The stories concern a larger-than-life  25 year-old whose funeral I will be conducting on Thursday. Stories of a young lad who had not long emerged from a Treatment Centre where he was addressing addiction issues and trying, like mad, to get his life sorted. It looked as if he was managing fine, and his sudden death was a tremendous shock to all who knew and loved him.

All so tragic so far, and a funeral that nobody is particularly looking forward to. However, especially at St. Aug's we deal with that sort of stuff and even manage to try to talk about redemption in the midst of it.

The young man died in Aviemore, far from home, where he was trying to make a new life for himself. My gripe is about the shocking way that the mother of this lad was treated by the constabulary up north. The identifying of the body was done in a way that no parent should be subjected to, and the mother herself, in interview, treated as if she were a drug misuser herself, or at best someone who was responsible for her son's lifestyle. I'm glad to say that even the cops in Dumbarton seem to be embarrassed by the way this was handled.

A police force is no use to us unless it can show compassion, especially in the face of tragedy. That's something that should be incorporated into police training if it's not already there. Whatever the circumstances, the grief of a mother should be dealt with in a way that she feels supported and affirmed. A policeman, especially from the higher ranks, should both know this and practice it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Saving a High Street!

The Save Dumbarton High Street campaign has been on the go for a while now, and in lots of ways it's a thankless task. High Streets up and down the country are in a state of decline, and Dumbarton is no different from anywhere else. High rates, and high rental costs means that operating from the High St becomes an expensive business, and shoppers are lured away to retail parks, often out-of-town, where car parking is easy, and the large supermarkets do big business.

The brilliant people who are working on the campaign to attract more investment, and new businesses to Dumbarton High Street are up against big players and huge retail giants, and it's a wee bit like David v Goliath, without the sensational biblical result. However, Pride in our Town Week is on the go, and we launched it today from St Augustine's with a big Craft Fair in the church building. It rained and rained.

Footfall on the High Street on Saturdays has been falling anyway, but despite plenty of advertising, rain reduces the footfall anyway. So we had plenty of stalls, offered free head, neck and shoulder massage, brilliant crafts, dedicated stall-holders, but fewer customers than we really needed. They were probably doing their shopping at ASDA or Morrisons.

St Augustine's are proud to be associated with the whole effort, but there's a wee saying about taking a horse to water! If the people of the town will not come into the High Street and shop locally, then inevitably there will, one day, be no High Street to shop in!

However, when you have folk who are as dedicated to turning things around as we have, then there is always hope. The solution, though, ultimately lies in the hands of those who live in these parts. There is the argument that, economically, they have no choice really, and the big boys will continue to sook up the very heart and soul of our towns.

We can't move St Auggie's to the Retail Park, so we need to work out new ways of being a Town Centre Church with a Town Centre Ministry. That can be an exciting prospect, and if there is a solution to the problem, then bet your boots that we will be part of it!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Blogging Again

Why would I want to start blogging again after having given it up on the RW's retirement? Well, I miss doing it, and I miss the discipline of keeping some sort of diary of what goes on Castle Greyskull, (aka The Rectory).

Not that my viewing figures were astronomical! Far from it, but I wasn't really doing it for other people anyway, but mostly for myself. Just keeping a wee journal of events, and being able to look back at them and laugh was always good therapy, and something I've come to miss. On bad days I was able to look back at the good ones, and on good days, looking back at the bleaker ones instilled a bit of gratitude into my soul!

So often in the past weeks things have happened that I've wanted to share, and Facebook doesn't always do it for me. (Well, it can be a bit bland and fails sometimes to capture the humour of a situation!) The rat that the cat brought in, and its ultimate demise, the opulence of the RW's Retirees Lunch, the joy of learning that I'll soon be a grandfather...... and a decent run of results for Partick Thistle Nil have all gone unreported!

I'll never win Blogger of the Year, far too dull and uncontroversial these days for that, but I'm not here to try to vie with the "Big Boys and Girls". Just a wee journal for others to chuckle away at, or not, as the case may be. Hey! I'm actually looking forward to a return!