A Trip on the North Train
Posted Friday 22 June 2012
Sutherland from the train
This week I had a trip to the North of the Diocese and for the first time the event occurred at an hour that allowed me to use the train. I was to preach at the memorial service for Mrs Margretta Hadfield, the widow of John Hadfield former Archdeacon of Caithness. I caught the train from Dingwall and settled back to wait for the coffee trolley, guess what, they don’t have one on the early train. The journey is spectacular and deposited me in Thurso in a better frame of mind than when I have had to drive. The train also stops at some amazing places as it zig zags across the country. We stopped at Alness, Invergordon, Fern, Tain, Ardgay, Culrain , Invershin ,Lairg ,Rogart, Golspie, Dunrobin, Brora, Helmsdale, Kildonan, Kinbrace, Forsdinard, Altnabreac, Scotscalder, Georgemas Junction and Finally Thurso. This was a total of three hours and nineteen minutes but it only cost £21.60 return, considerably cheaper than a tank of fuel. If only the train timetables were more flexible across the Northern Network I could make much more use of them.
I arrived in Thurso in a heatwave, yes I know what you in the South are thinking, but it is always sunny in the North! I was also very hungry so I sauntered up to the High Street in purple gear to buy a sausage roll and a bun at Johnston’s Bakery, as usual this caused comment, smiles and hellos. The service was good, the church was well filled and many conversations about the old days ensued.
Afterwards I sauntered back up to the station and caught the train South, I immediately fell asleep and woke as we slowed down at Helmsdale. I got up to get some papers from my bag and panicked, my bag was missing!! Now this was serious enough but I had taken the Old Gold Cope from the Cathedral and with it the Episcopal Morse. (This is a stunning gold plated fastening for the cope and in the middle there is a large cairngorm stone, traditionally this style of fastening is reserved for the Diocesan Bishop). I rushed to get the guard, what was I to do? The guard offered to fill in a report, I was just stunned, who on this line would walk off with someone’s bag, and then the guard remarked, “you do remember the train changed direction of travel at Georgemas Junction?” I had been asleep and there at the opposite end of the train, just where I had put it, my bag!! Foolish foolish bishop.
The following day I had a meeting with the Diocesan Mission Priests at which we discussed future developments across the diocese and looked at the difficulties we have with encouraging people to see mission in communities outside of their own as something worth supporting. That evening we also welcomed the first of the weekend Youth leaders. The annual training weekend for the Glenalmond Youth Weeks was to take place here at Arpafeelie and I had to keep out of the way, I think I did pretty well. To solve the problem of when we were available to chat I lit a fire in the garden ( we regularly have a campfire) and the leaders gradually headed across for the late evening chat. This actually fitted in with the meeting that Jane and I had been at earlier in the evening, this was the official launch of “Blethers” an NHS inspired project that we have been supporting which encourages people to sit down as a group and to talk about the issues that might be affecting them, their community or society in general.
On Saturday we drove over to Kilmuir for the 20th anniversary of the Coach House retreat centre, a fascinating exhibition and a wonderful afternoon tea looking out over the Moray Firth. The Coach House runs a full programme of events and also personal retreat programmes, detais can be found elsewhere on this website.
I celebrated Pentecost at St John’s Inverness, we then fed the youth leaders for the last time that weekend and as the day drew to a close I drove to the Station, Aidan was coming home for the week.