It’s Sunday evening, 9pm. Call the Midwife has finished. That means, in my house, the sacrosanct boundary is now passed and it can be the start of my working week.
terrible wonderful thing, being a blogger / freelance writer. To folk on the outside, it must seem really idyllic. You can work whenever you want and not when you don’t… but what this flexible self-employment means in reality is that you could be working 24/7. When normal people are enjoying a day off or are fast asleep in their beds, for example.
I no longer work Sundays and this came about because I had tangled myself up into feeling like I ‘should’ be working all the time. Although I wasn’t always being particularly productive, my work / life balance was completely out of whack.
I’m not particularly religious so the Sabbath issue doesn’t really exist for me but I do think there is a lot to be said for a quieter day, where the normal pressures of the rest of the week are dampened down and you can concentrate on the people who really matter — your family.
If I was an uber-mammy, I’m sure I would be giving Michael and James the best of my attention during the whole of the week but, back in the real world (mine, anyway), what I can do is make sure they get 100 per cent mammy time on a Sunday. No matter how much a job might be preying on my mind, I do not turn on my computer.
A typical Sunday now takes in a daunder in the Castle Grounds, with all the boys — canine, kiddie and husband — followed by a visit into the Castle cafe. Even in wet weather it’s good and you can see all the puddle evidence for yourself here!
Today was slightly different, in that we picked up my mother-in-law and took a drive over to Barvas to visit our Sean (I’m a stepmum) and his new son. My boys are delighted to be uncles. “I see Baby Leo! I see Baby Leo!” James was shouting on the way there.
They were a bit hyper after we arrived, though, skidding about on the laminate flooring in their socks — think Peter Kay doing the Family Weddings sketch and you’ve got the idea —so a walk on the beach was an inspired thought from himself.
I had never been on the Barvas machair before! Can you believe that?! It was lovely too. As we drove over the lumps and bumps, I saw some Oyster Catchers (such pretty, elegant birds) and then we tumbled out of the car and down the tiny dunes onto a very minimal, pebble shore.
It was enough, though, and the breakers were great. Lovely, long straight waves, with enough whoosh at the end to give the kids a good run for it.
I recognised the line of houses on the low hillside to my left from so many pictures and the light, breaking through the still-wintry sky, had that uniquely Hebridean quality to it. So luminous but transient and always strangely inspiring.
Michael enjoyed throwing stones in the sea and each time was rewarded with a shriek of delight from his brother, as well as a splash. And they spent ages playing ‘chase’ away from the waves.
It really is the simple things. Just as our Sunday outing the previous week, where they had been splashing and splotching around in the big puddles in the Castle Grounds, I noticed how happy they were to be playing out in this lovely natural environment and how much happier I was for being in the moment with them.
As is becoming routine, the outing was rounded off with a wee visit into the castle cafe, for coffee, juice and chocolate pennies. We’d timed it well as Neosa was doing a few tunes on his guitar, which added to the vibe.
Lewis being a small place, and people generally being creatures of habit, you often see the same folk out and about at certain times and I’ve really noticed that on Sunday at the castle cafe (a Starbucks-that-isn’t-really-a-Starbucks, being run by Natural Retreats).
I couldn’t help but be struck today by the idea that the Lewis Sabbath as it used to be – complete with the tied-up swings (I grew up in Stornoway in the 70s and 80s so I remember all that) — is long gone.
I’m planning to talk about the campaign for a trial opening of the swimming pool on a Sunday in a later blog post. But for the time being I will say that I don’t believe its opening would be ‘the thing’ that sinks the Lewis Sunday. Times have already changed.
I wouldn’t say the church is loosening its grip as such — not yet – but its fist is being prised open.
Now, on the Seventh Day in Stornoway, ferries sail and airplanes fly. That is of life-or-death importance. But at the other end of the spectrum, guitars are strummed and songs are being sung over a cuppa. You can pass the time together and it’s really rather lovely.
The peacefulness, quiet and togetherness that is a part of the traditional Lewis Sunday — an undeniably valuable part of our culture, regardless of your thoughts on worship — can surely remain, even if other elements change.
Of course all families will have different constraints and circumstances, but to a degree we can all shape it for ourselves, within our own boundaries. We can choose to continue to live it.