Never on a Sunday…a mere suggestion.
The Fatdog was unhappy.
It was morning…she didn’t recognise where she was…and what was that God-awful noise? She stood, tail drooping, at the gate waiting to be let back to the “The Tank”, at least it was familiar and would do as her “home” until her proper “home” could be found. Where had her home gone anyway?
To say The Fatdog was miserable was an understatement. She was fine going for walks at Glencoe and Balmacara on the trip up, but this morning she was most definitely out of sorts. FD and I made it about 50m down the track to the shore on our pre-breakfast walk when the sudden honking of recently arrived Greylag Geese made her turn tail and trot back towards the farm buildings, tail down. Fortunately The Fatdog’s early morning doldrums would soon evaporate with a visit to the beach.
Last night we had driven in the dark from the ferry at Tarbert in Harris, north to the B&B at Galson on the island of Lewis, seeing bugger all on the way…other than the car-counting sheep. Our accommodation was only a few miles from the far north west corner of Lewis, an area referred to on maps as the Butt of Lewis. While it was clear where Lewis ended (by the general absence of land thereafter) it was less clear where it began. I’ve yet to discover how the “islands” of Harris and Lewis are separated as they appear to form a single land mass, but I’ve no doubt someone will enlighten me.
Today (Sunday) we planned a visit to the nearby beach at EÒropaigh and from there a wander around the headland to the lighthouse. But first…it was time for breakfast!
B&B breakfasts tend to be entertaining with banter between guests a great source of local information. And so it proved on this first morning. One of our fellow guests, an Australian, had travelled to this remote spot from the other side of the world and had spent the previous evening in the company of his new found buddy, another Aussie, the chef/proprietor of a nearby restaurant. He thoroughly recommended the food, expertly cooked by the man from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. Personally I was not convinced that anyone from Wagga Wagga could be taken seriously on any level but the menu sounded good and so I was pretty hopeful.
Ah…but it was closed on Sundays.
No matter we had booked dinner at the B&B for tonight, we could go tomorrow (Monday) instead.
Ah, sorry…it was closed on Mondays too!
Monday night would be our last on Lewis before heading for the North Uist ferry on the Tuesday. Curses! Both J and I hate missing the chance of some decent food. The Monday jinx was to strike more than once.
But breakfast at a farmhouse B&B tends to dispel hunger for quite some time and so by 10.30 J, The Fatdog and I found ourselves in the car park at EÒropaigh ready for a stroll through the dunes to the beach….when a sign at the entrance to a local play park caught my eye.
Those of a religious disposition should consider reading no further…you have been warned!
Now that was a first. What did it mean? No playing in a play park? That is what I concluded having linked the use of the word “Sabbath” to the local brand of Presbyterianism and its perceived views on Sundays.
First it should be understood that the Western Isles are the stronghold of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. At the risk of offending as many people as possible I will give the uneducated view of the “Wee Frees” (or wee Wee Frees?) as portrayed in comedy situations for as long as I can remember.
Dour, stick thin, ministers spitting fire and brimstone, threatening hell and damnation to all sinners – which generally means everyone and especially you.
No fripperies, austere churches and similar lifestyles.
The avoidance of enjoyment…and especially the avoidance of enjoyment on a Sunday!
Incredibly they have massive attendances at church in Lewis which only goes to show that either the comedy script writers have got it wrong…or there are a lot of masochists on Lewis. Given the 3rd point above I would probably consider the masochism idea unlikely, given that going to church would mean enjoying oneself, if in a rather perverse sort of way.
I studied the sign again.
Hmm…was it meant to be a polite request or a form of psychological warfare attempting to impose specific sectarian values? Was it aimed at “reminding” locals…or was it aimed at tourists who shouldn’t be enjoying themselves on a Sunday either, but just didn’t know any better?
I’m certain that neither the Old nor the New Testaments hold specific references to the use of play parks or a Sunday and I’m not convinced that it was something that God had thought about when he handed over his original list of basic demands. It was such an unusual sign that I had to do a wee bit of research…didn’t I.
From the play park website it is clear the local group who raised the funding and who manage it have done a remarkable job. It is an excellent facility and it’s wonderful so see successful community action. I checked through the whole of the site – open all year it said. I checked the rules for use of the park and again saw no mention of a Sunday “ban”. The Fatdog was however exceedingly offended at the blatant species discrimination, dogs being the only form of life banned from its use.
Flicking through the site I discovered an impressive assembly of funding sources credited with providing support. Call me a cynic but I suspect any mention of specific requests to not use the park, purely on religious grounds, might have deterred potential sponsors. Maybe I was overreacting and the sign was just meant to mean “keep the noise down on a Sunday”. Then I found this Telegraph article .
I don’t believe it…first article and a reference to tying up swings in a play park on a Sunday! Ah…interesting. It’s written by a dissenting voice from within. Didn’t think that was allowed.
I understand the author was burned at the stake shortly afterwards.
And then I discovered the ridiculous in the Herald .
And the following on the more serious side…
I’m not quite sure what to say after all that. Having had no personal experience of the Wee Frees it’s difficult to formulate a clear view, though J recalls a friend of hers being chided by a Wee Free neighbour for hanging out her washing on a Sunday…and that was in our area of Central Scotland!
I do hope that, for sanity’s sake, these newspaper articles are gross exaggerations of fact. It would be quite disconcerting to think these beautiful remote islands are the hideaway of the Christian equivalent of the Taleban.
I continued to stare at the sign, my brain awash with the implications of its existence. This was a KEEP OUT (on Sundays) sign no matter how polite the wording had been. And it appeared to be an official sign. A red mist was descending.
My head was beginning to hurt with all this religious and moral debating and my tolerance of the deeply held views of others was quickly dissipating. I was winding myself up in a blaze of my own brand of atheistic fervour.
I needed to calm down…so I opened the gate and went for a seat on the swings.
Let me leave you today with the words of the late Dave Allen (the Irish comedian who lampooned the Catholic Church at every available opportunity)
“Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you.”
The goody-goody side of my conscience has forced me to compose a wee post script to this article.
Since compiling my diatribe against a whole Christian sect beginning with a sign, which was not in reality particularly offensive, I had a flashback to when I was young (and dinosaurs ruled the earth) and recalled my parents not allowing me out to play on Sundays after church…and they were extremely moderate Church of Scotland!
How soon we forget. 😳
And no….I’m bloody well not going to repent!
Next time I’ll take you all to the beach and then we’ll go for a wander around the Butt of Lewis. 😀