Oskar’s First Birthday

4th July is a great day to start writing a diary. Today is Oskar’s first birthday. Oskar is (as far as we know) the only baby born at Elshieshields for at least 100 years. Oskar lives with his mum and dad in the Lodge. He is already a seasoned traveller: he went to Poland for his christening and now returning there for summer holidays.

What world will this friendly laughing little chap, with his big round blue eyes, grow up into? He will most likely be bi-lingual, a child of Europe and the UK, a living bridge for the future!

Looking back over the last month, what a marvellous time of early summer it was – the slow and glorious blossoming of roses, wild flowers, intense birdsong and, when the cloud lifts, those magical, luminescent evenings when the light seems to hold the darkness at bay – the ‘white nights’ which Scotland shares with all northern Europe. And yet at the same time we are witnessing the descent of our country into narrow factionalism and political impasse.

Doesn’t the healthy growth of people – and of nations – involve interaction with others, and an ever widening understanding of the Other and Others ? Isn’t that the way we become stronger and more mature? After all we live on a tiny speck of matter whirling in a vast and unknown universe. Isn’t it simply common sense to realise that we are interdependent on each other and we must join hands to save and nurture our little planet?

At the end of June we held a sparkling concert here in the Barn: pianists Peter Cowdrey and Kate Durran with singer Robert Lind performed in aid of the Moffat Children’s Choir. After a glass or two of Prosecco, the Rector of Moffat Academy spoke movingly of how the children in the choir learn to love music and how to cooperate with each other. It’s what they do together that produces the results, he said.

The evidence for this we saw in a film of the short opera ‘The Death of Captain Hook’ (composed by Peter Cowdrey with words by Hamish Robinson commissioned for Moat Brae, Dumfries’s Peter Pan house). ‘And the boys began to sing,’ we heard the choir, ‘A song for the end of strife, Such as we now sing!’

Happy birthday Oskar and many happy returns to you in a world of song and butterflies and hands outstretched in friendship!

P.S. Books which have gripped me this month include:
Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador, 2019) – the account of how butterflies, rare birds, lichens and plants returned to an east Sussex estate which was handed over to nature;
Spirit of Fire by Ursula King (Orbis Books, 2019) – a life of the great Christian visionary, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who as an expert palaeontologist, saw the glory of God in the evolution of the astounding natural world we live in.

To find out more about the Moffat Childrens’ Choir: Go to their Facebook page here.

Ann Shukman has been the keeper of Elshieshields for the last 20 years. She is truly grateful to be spending her later years in such a beautiful place with many kind friends around .