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Remembering The Sabbath

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Sunday morning cloud breaks.

Here in Harris, we like to say that “life takes time”, a reminder to ourselves and each other that the island often works to the tick-tock of a different clock.

It’s not always easy at a busy distillery, where those often overused words ‘pride’ and ‘passion’ mean that everyone is always keen to give their all and get things done.

So, when our Friday evening storytelling got swept away in a sea of domestic animal drama, it became a handy motto to fall back on and help lessen the guilt of missing that weekly deadline.

The small but time-consuming drama of a little lost lamb.

The broken tooth of a croft cat meant a 45-mile dash north to the nearest vets on Friday afternoon and a four hour round trip by road to take care of things.

Then, upon our return, the rescue of an abandoned newborn lamb at a low-ebb took up the remaining hours of the working day.

So, here we are on Sunday, tapping out these words to the sound of singer Julie Fowlis as the spring sun cuts through a thin veil of cloud high above the Isle of Scalpay.

The cat who bit off more than he could chew.

Sundays here in the islands have traditionally been a day of rest, an opportunity to down tools and decompress from daily work demands.

Still known by many as the Sabbath, for many, it’s a day dedicated to the divine, and the car parks of the litany of small churches littered across the Outer Hebrides remain full even in 2022.

For others, it’s a more secular Sunday, and with few businesses open, most families have a rare opportunity to relax and spend some quality time together.

Peaceful Sunday skies at St Clements church at Rodel.

Times have changed certainly; as many kids who grew up here will testify, the Sundays of old could be far from fun.

The tales of playpark gates locked from Saturday until Monday, forbidden see-saws, and swings firmly secured, were all, for the most part, true.

Televisions were turned off, although the radio was often allowed on for a snippet of news but nothing more. Books and quiet board games were the limits of our allowed leisure activities.

Quiet roads, at least between church services.

Things are very different today. Ferries sail, planes fly, and few folks will bat an eye if you’re found hanging out your washing on the seventh day, which was a serious sin once upon a time.

But, even now, island visitors will still struggle to fill their petrol tanks or find a place to have a bite to eat. As every local knows, pre-planning is the key to keeping fed and watered at the week’s end.

And there’s something rather special about an island Sunday...

Washing hung out on sunny Sundays, a more common sight than in times gone by.

It’s hard to put one’s finger on, a sort of quiet calm which descends, a palpable sense of peace in this special place, and that the world of work can wait for just a little longer.

Today on a walk with the dog, we spot the lost lamb reunited with the missing mother, and the cat is happily sleeping off his dental drama in the heather behind the house.

Tomorrow will inevitably come as the world keeps turning. But, for now, it’s worth remembering the Sabbath and the best of island respites it can still bring.

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