seeing for miles and years

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The morning after some of us ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon (one of the best runs I’ve ever had – it was well fun), we headed to Victoria Coach Station and ten hours of travel up to Scotland. When we arrived in Edinburgh, it was already after sunset, since the sun sets so early these days. We weren’t there for holiday this time, but to work with a couple of the Church of Scotland parishes in the southeast of the city.

We spent our days knocking on doors and inviting the parishes to the arts and sports evenings that we held in some of the local churches. We also played a fair few games of football against the youth of Gilmerton, Moredun and Gracemount, not all of which we lost (actually, thanks to Sergio, our Brazilian weapon, we won quite a bit). I spent my time getting to know the people of the parish, from a mum of five who came to all of our activities to a woman who bakes cakes for the food pantry that is set up in one of the churches, but she dreams of moving out of her high rise flat and starting up a bakery.

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The landscape of Scotland is breathtaking, but it’s always the people who steal my heart. For a week, they invited us into their lives, showing up through the cold, dark evenings to spill out into the churchyards as they smoked fags and told us stories, from making us proper haggis (it was delicious) to sharing so many barbecues with us. Cammy, the minister that was our host, shared his heart for the area, and we felt like it was ours. We knocked on doors and wound down lanes and pet dogs and played with children and fell in love (or at least, I did).

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The weekend found us all on Calton Hill, gazing over the city together. It’s incredible to watch history and dreams collide in one place. Something about Calton Hill encourages you to spill dreams you’ve held close to the vest.

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On a more humourous note, I also woke everyone up with bagpipe music every morning, so every time we found a bagpiper across the city, we stopped to make videos. Flower of Scotland has a new meaning for me now – it reminds me of dancing round a room as the girls hid in their sleeping bags giggling.

So anyway, I’m not sure when we’ll next trek to Scotland, but I am so thankful for these brave ones that came with me this time. And I’m grateful for the people of Moredun, Gilmerton and Gracemount, because they were gregarious and joyful and thoughtful and open, and the week that we spent there was a treasure.

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