I’ll obviously continue to reflect on my two months on Iona over the coming days and weeks (and years?), but here are some further thoughts to be going on with:1. My last couple of days on the island are a bit of a blur (not linked to red wine, I hasten to add!) – I was conscious that I would be saying goodbye to lots of people who’d become very good friends and also of the need to visit places on the island for the “last time" before I departed. Even though it rained pretty hard in the afternoon, my final morning was a gloriously sunny one and, somewhat ironically, I decided to visit Port Ban (an idyllic, secluded beach just north of the Machair) which, incredibly, I’d NEVER previously visited in all my times on Iona. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL and, as you can see from the above photograph, it was easy to think I was in some tropical paradise (actually, it DID feel like paradise!).
2. Volunteers are encouraged to “sign up” and lead Morning Worship in the Abbey church (not as onerous as it sounds – we follow the simple, brief format outlined in the Community’s Worship Book). I’d taken a service a few weeks earlier but, a few days ago, agreed to take Tuesday morning’s service (it seemed appropriate as it was the last morning service I'd be attending). A little time later, it was casually mentioned that BBC Radio 4 would be on the island for three days with John Bell (writer, composer, musician, broadcaster, lecturer, former student-activist and all-round “icon” of the Iona Community – who, it seems, spends most of his time these days sharing his insights in various locations throughout the world) and that “if it was ok with everyone”, they might be recording some of our services in the Abbey church! It took me a little time to realise that “my” morning service might well be one of the “typical” services that they might be recording. Oh, my goodness - what HAD I got myself into?! As you might imagine, it was somewhat unnerving (an understatement!) to discover someone standing next to you during the service holding sound equipment! In addition, and (fortunately) unknown to me at the time, John Bell was also in the congregation – and later congratulated me on the service (being the man he is, I’m sure he’d have said this anyway, even if things had gone disastrously wrong!).
3. Volunteers also put together Leaving Cards for each departing volunteer. The covers of these are frequently entitled “Iona 2012” and contain an image of one of the large stone crosses. For mine, however, the cover simply contained the word “pink” (and its colour was pink too)… plus a “centre-fold” line of pink paper trousers (click here to see an image)! Clearly, people were much-amused by the sight of an old bloke like me wearing a pair of ancient and somewhat threadbare PINK cord trousers. Surely, this must constitute some form of discrimination!?
4. Leaving the island first thing yesterday was pretty emotional (Hannah, Wendy and Petr were also departing). Lots of available (ie. not working) volunteers and resident staff members turned up to wave goodbye to us from the jetty (click here for a pic) – and this followed a farewell drink in the Bar and a cake-eating session in Cul Shuna (“our” house) the night before (click here!)
5. I’m VERY conscious that I am in urgent need of a haircut and that my shoes desperately need some shoe polish!
6. I’d lost a little weight before going to Iona (long overdue, some would say!). Somewhat amazingly, given the regular consumption of jam scones at coffee time and a whole host of puddings, I’ve actually continued to lose a little more weight (and am probably a stone lighter than I was about a year ago). Is this down to not eating lots of cheese? Standing up all day working in the shop? Less snacking? I really don’t know… but this seems like very good news to me!
7. Perhaps the only real disappointment was not being able to meet up with great friends Gail+Ian Adams – who arrived on Iona yesterday, some 6 hours after I’d departed!
I think I’ve written about 25 blogposts during my time on Iona. Two of the other volunteers have also been writing blogs and I would highly recommend that you check them out (and they write much better than me!): Lee Ann and Dawn.Photo: me sitting on the beach at Port Ban.