Category Archives: Orkney
We are living in strange and unusual times. Life is not what it was and will probably never be the same again. COVID-19 has turned things upside down and we have had to adjust the way we do things. It has been a hectic week. We’ve been busy getting packed up for our journey to our new home in Saskatchewan, while making arrangements for our children, who will not be journeying with us, although our son is coming to Saskatchewan later in the summer.
Added to this was the sad news earlier this week that my Uncle Billy passed away. Today (Saturday) he was laid to rest in Orkney. I would have liked to have been there, but even if I lived there now, COVID restrictions would have meant that I couldn’t have anyway. Under normal circumstances, the church would have been packed out, as he touched so many lives and had been involved in so many aspects of community life.
Uncle Billy was a large part of my life and it is hard to put into words what he meant to me. Although we moved away from Orkney in 1994, he always stayed close in my thoughts. It was always special catching up with him on the occasional visits back ‘home’. He will be deeply missed by those who loved and knew him, but he leaves behind the legacy of a life well lived.
As well as being my uncle, Billy was my first boss at the Post Office, my bandmaster at the Salvation Army, a fellow Rangers fan, and many other things. He retired during my time at the Post Office, but that didn’t slow him down. He continued to be involved in many different things in the community. There are too many to mention, but some of them included a continuation of his life-long involvement with the Salvation Army, volunteering at the local MS hyperbaric chamber, sailing his model yacht, and continuing to play the Last Post at the local Armistice Day parade. He performed the latter for over 60 years. His dedication to local life was recognised when he was awarded the MBE, receiving this award from the Queen. He was also recognised by a motion put forward in the Scottish Parliament, in September 2009, by local MSP Liam McArthur, which read:
That the Parliament notes the decision by Billy Stanger MBE to step down as bandmaster of the Salvation Army in Orkney after 35 years in the role; acknowledges the unstinting service that he has given to the Salvation Army since he joined as an 11-year-old boy in 1943; welcomes the fact that Mr Stanger has made clear his intention to carry on playing in the army band; looks forward to Mr Stanger’s cornet playing inspiring crowds attending Armistice Day parades and other occasions for years to come, and expresses relief that the evening of music at the Salvation Army Hall in Kirkwall on Sunday 13 September 2009 far from represents the last post by Billy Stanger.
Retirement gave him more time to be involved in the lives of his family, who were the first love of his life. He and his wife, Isa, had five children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I could try and count them up, but I wouldn’t want to miss any out and get the number wrong. The top picture in this post is from their Ruby Wedding in the 1990s, before we left, and that was their family then. In the ensuing years it has grown a fair bit, many of them born since I left Orkney. Billy didn’t play favourites with his family and was able to share his love with them in equal amounts.
I have lots of special memories of Billy. One is from the second photo above, which was taken in Toronto in 1998. He and Isa, along with other family members, plus one friend who is an honorary aunt in the family, came over when Pamela and I were Commissioned and Ordained as Salvation Army Officers. We were touched by the fact that they all came over to share this special time with us. Another memory is from Glasgow in 1982, when Billy led the SA Kirkwall band playing Divine Communion at the morning meeting of the Scottish Congress. It was a proud moment for us all and it remains one of my favourite pieces to this day. Yet another memory is from Glasgow in April 1984, when Billy took my sister and I to Ibrox to see Rangers beat Celtic 1-0. Bobby Williamson scored the winner with a spectacular overhead kick and Jimmy Nicholl got sent off in what was his last game for the club. There are also lots of happy memories from working with him at the Post Office. He was a great boss to work with and was probably too lenient on many of us, especially considering how young and foolish we were at times.
Music was a big part of Billy’s life. As well as being involved in the musical sections at the SA, he was involved in a variety of community musical groups, including the local operatic society. In the early 1980s I played briefly with him in a brass quintet put together by John Jones, which was lots of fun. Recently, while packing up our stuff here I came across a CD my dad sent me from 2008, when Billy was the guest on a show on Radio Orkney, sharing some of his favourite music and the stories behind why he picked the particular ones he did. It is a great listen and just showed how eclectic his taste in music was. My only complaint is that the show was too short! I’m sure there was much more that he could have shared.
Above everything else, Billy was a great Christian example to us all. This was exemplified more in his actions than anything else. The way he lived his life backed up what he believed. Anyone who knew or met him could have no doubt that he had a deep faith. He loved sharing his witness through music, be it playing his cornet or singing in the songsters, male voice choir, or with anyone who would join him in song. He was as comfortable playing his cornet for royalty as he was playing on the streets of Kirkwall. It must have been difficult for him when he had to give up his playing later in life, but he passed on that love of banding to many of his family members, so that legacy still lives on.
Uncle Billy will be missed by many, but I can say without a doubt that his life was one that was well lived. We have sorrow over the fact that he is no longer on this earth with us, but we also rejoice in the fact that he is no longer in pain, as he has gone on to his heavenly reward.
It seems like forever since I posted anything here, but I think that it might be time to start doing so again. I’ll see how things go and if I can stay motivated enough.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week a different topic is posted inviting the participants to come up with a list of ten things to do with the topic.
This week’s topic is ‘Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About.’ The following are all books that I really enjoyed, but for some reason I failed to talk them up as much as other books.
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson. Physics was one of my favourite subjects in school, so much so that I almost went to university to study. However, my life took a different direction and the rest is history. This is a great little book that offers an understandable introduction to astrophysics. I really need to read more books like this.
- The Samurai – Shusaku Endo. This was the first Endo book I read. I had to write a review of it for an ethics course I took a long time ago. I found it hard to put down and it introduced me to part of Japanese history that I previously knew nothing about.
- The Stranger – Albert Camus. I bought this book at Bearly Used Books in Parry Sound on a trip home to Elliot Lake. Then I read it in the car in one sitting, as it wasn’t my turn to drive.
- How Soccer Explains the World – Franklin Foer. This is a great read that is about so much more than soccer. You don’t have to be a fan of the game to enjoy it. It truly is a fascinating read.
- Imperfect Harmony – Stacy Horn. I received this one from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and it was so much more than I expected it to be. It’s a book about music, community, history and so much more.
- The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – Allison Hoover Bartlett. Who knew that a book about someone who steals rare books because he loves them so much could be so engaging. I love books, but nowhere near as much as John Charles Gilkey. This is a great read, though.
- 1929: A Crisis That Shaped The Salvation Army’s Future – John Larsson. This is a fascinating look into events that are not spoken about too much. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m glad I gave it a go.
- Things As They Are – Guy Vanderhaeghe. Vanderhaeghe is a Canadian master storyteller, who doesn’t get the exposure or credit that he deserves. This collection of short stories is one of my favourites.
- In From the Cuithes – edited by Howie Firth. This eclectic collection of writing from Orkney, by a variety of writers, is one of my favourite books, but it’s one I really haven’t written much about. I should really give it a another read soon.
- The Search to Belong – Joseph R. Myers. It’s been a few years since I read this book. Although I don’t mention it very much, it really challenged my thinking on a number of things and is worth the read.
There were probably a lot of other books I could have added to this list, but these were the ones that jumped out at me as I perused my shelves. What are some of the books you have really enjoyed, but not talked about much?
It’s been a long time, but it’s time to take part in Top Ten Tuesday again.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week a different topic is posted inviting the participants to come up with a list of ten things to do with the topic.
This week’s topic is ‘Favourite Novellas/Short Stories’. I kind of adapted it a bit and decided to do my top ten favourite short story or essay collections.
- Night Shift – Stephen King. Of all the Stephen King story collections I’ve read this is probably my favourite, although it doesn’t contain my favourite short story of his, The Monkey. It’s hard to pick a favourite from this book, but it is probably between Graveyard Shift and Night Surf.
- Five by Endo – Shusaku Endo. This is a collection of five short stories by one of the most under-rated writers of the 20th century. They are all great, but Unzen stood out for me.
- Gristle: from Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat) – Moby , Miyun Park
- Winter Tales – George Mackay Brown. An excellent collection of wintry-themed stories from Orkney’s most prominent writer.
- The Penguin Book of Russian Short Stories – David Richards (editor). It’s been a few years since I read this collection. I used to keep it in the car, so that I had something to read whenever I was going somewhere or had to wait for something/someone. One of my favourite Russian short stories, The Nose by Nikolay Gogol, is included in this one.
- Love Your Crooked Neighbour: Thoughts on Breath, Bread, Breasts and Brokenness – Ron Ferguson. I really enjoyed this collection of sermons, articles, and a short story. It also has an Orkney connection, as the author was the minister of St Magnus Cathedral at the tie of its publication. He also wrote a great biography on George Mackay Brown, which is worth checking out.
- The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup – Matt Weiland , Sean Wilsey (Editor). This collection came out just before the 2006 World Cup and included 32 stories – one on each of the nations who participated that year. Each story has a different writer. Among them are Nick Hornby (England) and the USA (Dave Eggers).
- The Cat’s Pajamas – Ray Bradbury. I think that Ray Bradbury was one of the best short story writers of all time. I could’ve half-filled this list with collections of his that I’ve read, but I include this one as my favourite. Highlights of this collection include The House and A Careful Man Dies.
- Things As They Are – Guy Vanderhaeghe. I discovered this author, who is from Saskatchewan, when I lived in there about 20 years ago. My favourites here were King Walsh and Teacher.
- In from the Cuithes – Howie Firth (Editor). This is a great anthology of writing from Orkney. There are too many favourites in this one to single any out.
Today has been a day for remembering. My dad would have been 79 today, so I spent much of the day remembering him and what he meant to me. It’s just over a month since he passed away and the emotions of that and my recent journey home are still fresh in my mind. Today for me was about trying to remember some of the happier times and things that he enjoyed.
My dad enjoyed many things in life. Two things in particular that he liked were music and taking pictures. When I was in Orkney last month for my dad’s funeral my mum gave me his most recent camera and his iPod touch, both of which are pictured above. Both of these items were never far from his hand, especially his camera. He took lots of pictures, something that was very evident in the fact that we found dozens of HD cards when we were sorting through some of his things last month. Wherever he went he loved to take pictures of almost anything and everything as a record of where he’d been and what he’d seen. His love of music was quite varied, although he amassed a large collection of Salvation Army music on tape, vinyl, and CD. When our children were younger they were quite fascinated watching him listening to his music with his headphones on, because he would really get into it in a big way. When I got the iPod I was very curious to see what music dad had loaded onto it. There is a fair bit of SA band and songster music on it, but there is also a huge variety of other stuff too – Paul Simon, Boney M, and even a little U2! One of the albums I was replay happy to see there was one by The Household Troops Band of The Salvation Army, called ‘Blue Book Favourites’. SA Bandos will, of course, recognize what the ‘Blue Book’ is. Growing up in Orkney, our band played a lot of stuff from that book, and quite a few of them are on this album.
I started off today by heading out for an early walk before work. I took both the camera and iPod with me. It was a beautiful morning, so I took a lot of pictures and I listened to the ‘Blue Book Favourites’ as I walked along. It might seem a bit melodramatic to say that it was a very special time, but I don’t really care, because it really was. Some of the pieces I listened to were ‘Star Lake’, ‘The Pilgrim’s Prayer’, ‘Lloyd’, ‘Constant Trust’, and ‘Montreal Citadel’. Some of the pictures I took were of places that my dad had already taken pictures of when he visited here. It was a moving and meaningful start to the day for me.
During the rest of the day dad wasn’t far from my mind and I listened to more of the iPod music at work as well. Obviously I miss my dad a lot and probably always will. I learned a lot from his life and example and hope that I can continue that legacy as I endeavour to be the person that he encouraged me to be.
‘Bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts’ is hosted by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous. It’s just a round-up of bookish and other things from the previous week or so. Share a link there if you want to participate.
It’s hard to believe it’s May already, but not so hard to believe that I haven’t posted very much here in recent months. There are a variety of reasons for this, but I hope that I can do better at this in the months to come.
1. The above picture is the view from my mum’s house in Orkney. I spent a large part of April there due to the fact that my dad passed away in the first week of the month. He had been dealing with cancer for a number of years, but in late March was told that it was terminal. Thankfully his passing was very peaceful. I was just sorry that I didn’t make it there in time to see him one more time. I did have a great conversation with him on the phone about a week before his passing, talking about a number of things, including the state of Scottish football (soccer), Easter, along with a number of other things. He also, along with my mum, my sister and her husband, had a great visit with us here last October and was able to share in our daughter’s high school graduation. My visit to Orkney last month was one of mixed emotions, with plenty of tears, as well as laughter and memories shared. I was also able to catch up with many family members and friends whom I hadn’t seen for a while.
2. My reading has not been that great lately. I just haven’t really felt much like it. I never finished any books in April, so I’m well behind with my reading goals for this year. I have managed to get back to some reading again this week and I’m looking forward to finishing a few books this month.
3. One book I will definitely try to read soon is The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. When my dad visited in October he started reading my copy, but didn’t get it finished, so I bought him a copy to take home with him. We shared an enjoyment of reading Albom’s books. We came across his copy whenI visited last month. Unfortunately he didn’t get it finished, so I will read it and finish it for him now.
4. Last week was a bad week for a couple of my favourite Toronto sports teams. The Leafs lost game 7 of their first round match-up against the Bruins, and TFC heartbreakingly lost the final of the CONCACAF Champions League on penalties. On brighter note, Liverpool finished off Roma today, 7-6 on aggregate, to reach the final of the European Champions League. Their opponents there will be Real Madrid.
5. The fifth season of Father Brown is finally on Netflix, so I started binge-watching it this week. I’m still waiting for the third season of Better Call Saul to appear, as well as the third season of Fargo. I watched the first two seasons of Santa Clarita Diet, which was pretty good, but different. It certainly wouldn’t be for everyone.
6. It looks like this year is going to be a good year for movies. We already saw Black Panther, which was excellent and are now trying to work out seeing the Infinity War movie. Hopefully we’ll manage to work out something for this weekend. Other movies we’re looking forward to are Ant-Man and the Wasp, Solo, and the next Fantastic Beasts movie.
7. Or daughter also spent some time Scotland with me, once she hd completed her first year of university. This week she started a job at a local factory for the summer to make some money for her return to university in the fall. She seemed to have a good first year and is enjoying the break from studies, even though her summer job will be demanding physically.
WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted at Taking on a World of Words. Here is what you have to do to participate:
Answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments section the host page for others to look at.
The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
I have the following three books on the go at the moment:
- Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J.M. Nouwen. This is the second book for this year’s Renovaré Book Club. I’m only reading small portions each week, but it’s a good way to read Nouwen.
- Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. I borrowed this from the library and am reading it for one of my reading challenges.
- Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by C. Christopher Smith, John Pattison. I bought this one on Kobo a long time ago and never got beyond the introduction. Last week I listened to an interview with one of the authors about this book on the Renovaré podcast and was inspired to pick it up again.
I finished one book in the last week: Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson. It was a decent read and I enjoyed the many references to places I grew up with in Orkney. It had enough twists to keep it interesting and I just found out it’s part of a trilogy, so I may need to look for the other two books some time.
I’m still hoping to get to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust soon. It has been on my shelf for far too long a time.
It has been an unusual year so far and it still has over a month to go. We started off the year living in half a house, as we were still undergoing renovations. Finally, in mid-April we were able to do most of our unpacking, almost ten months after we got here. We still haven’t got any of our pictures up yet, but I’m working on it. Besides all of this, we also had a lot of visitors (family and friends) visit this year, which was great. We never had many visitors during our 14 years in Elliot Lake, but now that we are in St Marys we are more accessible. It’s always great catching up with family and friends, so we’re just thankful that the house was in more of a state of readiness by the time they all visited.
When we moved here last year I had hoped to blog more regularly, but with all that was happening and things we had to unexpectedly deal with, I just got out of the habit and just didn’t feel like it at the time. However, that has changed and I now feel in more of a better place to post more stuff here again. A lot of it will probably be book or movie related as I enjoy taking part in some of the memes that go around a number of the blogs that I follow. Plus reading and watching movies are two of my favourite things to do in my spare time, so it’s kind of natural for me to want to blog about them.
My reading did kind of suffer there for a while as well. There were times when I couldn’t focus or just had trouble remembering what I had just read. Thankfully I am getting back to enjoying reading again, but I won’t reach my target of 75 books for this year, although I will still probably be close to 50. Fifty is a fitting number for this year as well, because I turned 50 in April, which hardly seems possible, but is true nonetheless.
At 50 I think I’m in better shape than I was at 40, but I’m finding it harder to keep off the weight these days. Once all the rush of Christmas is past, Pamela and I are considering signing up for Forks Over Knives. If you are wondering what that’s about click on the link or watch their movie, which is available on Netflix.
Getting back to my reading, my habits have started to change again, although one thing that hasn’t changed is that I buy more books than I read. I’m seriously thinking of giving up my participation in The Classics Club as I haven’t been able to keep up with it. I also have found that I’ve not been enjoying some of the books as much as I expected to. I’ll make a decision on it soon. One unusual thing that has happened is that I have discovered that I enjoy the odd romantic novel. During the summer I received a free romance in a giveaway, read it, and discovered it was a good escape for me. I’ve read a few more since then and they haven’t been all that bad. It’s only a certain kind that I enjoy, mainly contemporary, inspired, suspense, and sci-fi. The other categories don’t really appeal that much to me at all. I’ve found that I can get a lot of what I like for free or cheap on the Kindle or Kobo apps, so that has given me enough to read. Also, on the reading front, I joined the Renovaré Book Club this year again after taking last year off. The four books chosen for this year look like great reads and I’m enjoying being a part of it again so far.
For my 50th birthday my family gave me a turntable, so I now have something to play my vinyl on again. I now have to work out how to get my collection of vinyl that is still in Orkney over here. Now I spend some of my spare time checking out thrift stores for records. I’ve found some good deals there so far. Also, there’s a great vinyl store in Stratford, which is only 20 minutes away.
One other thing that happened this year is that we have TV again. For the past few years we’ve been relying on Netflix, DVDs, and the internet for our occasional viewing, but a few months ago we discovered that we could get a good deal with Rogers for their basic TV and signed up for it. We had been with Bell for our internet and home phone, but their prices were getting ridiculous. Being fed up with this, we shopped around and discovered that Rogers offered phone, internet, and TV for less than the two services we had with Bell. So, we changed to Rogers and haven’t looked back. We also gained unlimited bandwidth with Rogers internet, so we don’t have to worry about going over our limit like we had to do with Bell. We’re still not watching much TV, but we are enjoying the on-demand feature, which is something new to us.
Well I think that’s enough catching up for now. Hopefully I’ll keep up more with the blogging now and make keeping this site up worthwhile.
Twenty-six years ago this week, on September 5, 1989 to be precise, I proposed to Pamela. I remember it was a Tuesday, my parents still hadn’t met her (they were on holiday), and I had a little accident with a Postvan that day as well (that’s another story). Thankfully, she said yes, and got to meet my parents a few weeks later. On the night we got engaged we visited my grandparents on Laverock Road to tell them the news, and Pamela took the above photo of me with them and Rupert.