Monthly Archives: January 2011

Article in FREE Magazine


I got my hands on a hard copy of the latest edition of the FREE magazine (a youth magazine published by the Free Church) which includes an article that Flora (my friend who I went to Italy with) and I wrote about a camp we were at in 2002. It has notoriously been known as the ‘Oswestry Sick Camp’ because we were in a place called Oswestry on borders between England and Wales for the camp, and at least half the camp became sick with a vomiting bug! Lovely, eh?! Well, it turned out to be one of the best camps we ever attended- even as Flora’s first camp, it didn’t put her off, we went back the following years! 2010 saw the 50th anniversary of Free Church Youth Camps and we wrote of our experience as part of the memories and celebration. (There’s a celebratory Camps tea towel available to buy if anybody is interested! Just let me know.) Thought I’d share our combined effort with you all in case you can’t get a copy. It will bring some smiles anyway, but beware, it may change your appreciation of sticky toffee pudding forever more!

Oswestry ‘Sick Camp’ 2002: entitled ‘Don’t blame the Sticky Toffee Pudding’ by FREE

After years of attending Free Church Youth Camps, one extraordinary year stands out for us. How could ending up in a Welsh hospital with half of your camp not stick in your memory?! The Oswestry ‘Sick-Camp’ in 2002 was not exactly the camp we all anticipated.

None of us could quite believe it when a wave of winter vomiting virus (not food poisoning as many were led to believe) hit the camp during the second night. About half of the campers and leaders suffered from the, shall we say, less than attractive, never-ending vomiting. Our lucky friend Eilidh was the first one to make a scene, and introduce us to what would almost ruin our holiday. We were happily wolfing down our dinner when, drama queen that she is, all of a sudden she jumped to her feet and bolted out of the room, clutching her mouth. Cruel though it may seem, we thought nothing of it: trust Eilidh to disagree with camp food (how could anyone disagree with camp food?!)! Slightly concerned, though mostly unperturbed, we calmly shared her Sticky Toffee Pudding between us.

It wasn’t until a few hours later that I (Flora) began to suspect something terrible was afoot.  Some more people had been sick, but I just attributed it to the chip-eating competitions at dinnertime.  However, by about half-past ten I myself was beginning to feel distinctly queasy. Peigi was next to flee to the sink, and was shortly followed by yours truly – you realise this is the expurgated version, sparing you the stomach-churning details. The next couple of hours saw the sickness spread to half the camp. The rumour of ambulances and flashing lights in the distance brought some helpful distraction. That is, until we were summoned to the meeting room. The paramedics were there to examine us!

The deliberation felt like it took hours. Were we ill enough to go to hospital? The fact that we were in the midst of a youth camp of around 40 young people, with no parents; and another camp in the building next door, clinched it. They decided to admit the worst cases into hospital. It was not a pleasant drive in the Ambulance minibus, which positively crawled the eighteen long, nauseous miles to Wrexham Maelor Hospital. On arrival, there were more not so pleasant surprises. ‘Mind the blood there…someone’s been stabbed…’ was one comment that made us wonder where on earth were we going?! We were given injections to stop the vomiting and ease the pain, before we were wheeled into the hastily evacuated Bright Ward. A lot of the following six hours are a blur to us, but there are some hilarious memories that stand out, all the more hilarious in light of high-temperature induced hallucination! Each camper and leader experienced mind-boggling cross-examinations about ourselves- not so fun or easy when you can’t think straight and all you want to do is sleep. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to spell your name when you have a high temperature! The endless night passed into early Sunday, with the Wrexham staff diligently watching the temperatures of their charges and keeping them hydrated with the most foul-tasting concoction of sugar and salt.

On Monday, after a very long time in bed, we began to feel better, and were longing to move about. Once the nausea retreats everything changes.  Personality comes to life again; activity can resume. Thus we discovered just how much fun isolation can be, when a group of children and youthful leaders have a ward to themselves, with free meals and nurses to wait on them.  We discovered the sliding properties of hospital blankets combined with shiny floors, and had great fun with our ‘danger of infection’ stickers, (we still have ours!).  After a day of fun and games, we were finally kicked out.

Because it was such a severe bug, the medical experts were expecting a second wave to hit the camp, affecting those who hadn’t caught it the first time round. But we did what we could at the Quinta Centre, with separate dorms, toilets and showers for those ‘infected’. And everybody prayed. To the amazement of the doctors, no second wave hit during the rest of our time in Oswestry. The week passed by, albeit a little subdued, with the planned activities. The incident might have been expected to completely ruin Camp, but, surprisingly enough, it didn’t.  For those of us who had been in hospital, the sickness meant we were freed from all chores for the rest of the week! We left on the Thursday, a day earlier than planned, in order to allow for the decontamination of the Quinta before the next group arrived.

What an eventful week! But what a great time we had. We’ve never known a camp family to grow so close in so short a time, and the reality of God’s presence was so special throughout the week. Those of us who had spent so long in such close proximity to one another became much closer than would otherwise have been the case (an unexpected ‘bonding’ experience) and we got to keep our hospital wristbands as ‘souvenirs’. Our week at camp taught us many life and faith lessons, and, perhaps we can now empathise more readily with others in the grip of sickness.

Many thanks are due to the leaders who kept us afloat, the medical staff at Wrexham Hospital, and to all the folk back home who prayed. This review is a reminder to all of how great God is. We had such an amazing week, but I (Peigi) hope it doesn’t happen again! Now, as a camp leader, I appreciate the dread of such a nightmare scenario. However, blessing upon blessing was poured upon us, and the good memories have proved to be far more enduring than the quickly forgotten nausea.

By Flora Imrie and Peigi MacLeod 2009-10


Appreciation _ quote


Appreciation: Having eyes to see what we have been given

The gentle touch of a friend. The surprise birthday party. An exhilarating mountain climb. A wonderful meal. A quiet walk. A stimulating conversation. The sheer audacity of autumn colours. A mother’s care. A mellow sunset. A lover’s passion. A moment of solitude. A gripping book. An inspiration. Appropriate timing in doing good. A sense of God’s presence. Mad hilarity with friends. A stimulating project. Receiving an unexpected gift.

Worship. Play. Prayer. Silence. Work. Love. Peace. Friendship. Family.

As we allow our minds to wander over the many facets of our lives, we cannot but help to be amazed. Here and there are the marks of love, the signs of goodness, the indications of grace. Here and there are the gifts of compassion, the fruit of service, the signs of hope, the blessings undeserved.

Henri Nouwen gently reminds us that ‘every time we experience real

goodness or gentleness we know it is a gift.’. He is right.

Appreciation cannot be an occasional afterthought. It is a way of life in which the present is celebrated, the giver thanked and where we live with a sense of amazement that so much has been placed in such undeserving hands.

Charles Ringma

next chapter


So, skipping forward to the end of the book for a sneak peek- I make it back to Scotland in one piece in the middle of a busy week and try to find an opportunity to continue the Italian blog saga and not leave folk hanging (I know there will have been lost sleep over our Italian adventures 😉 ).
Chapter 2:
Giorno! (Greetings!) We had another mission for Sunday morning, to find the church Flora had shortlisted for a first visit. According to our map reading skills, it didn’t seem to be all that far away from the residence, and we were right, proving that females CAN read maps gentlemen. The International Church of Torino (see for further investigation) is only a 10min walk along from the residence and we had a lovely morning service with the diverse congregation there. The pastor is from Wales and his wife is from Glasgow- Flora will be well looked after! There are many nationalities represented, including Italian (fancy that! They offer simultaneous translation form English, the language used for the service etc) and a number of Americans. Definitely recommend the church if you happen to visit Torino. (Torino is the Italian for Turin, connected to ‘il toro’ the Italian for ‘bull’, which also, surprisingly enough, happens to be the city’s emblem.)

After church we went to meet up with Greg for some company in our exploration of Turin, and some much required food. We didn’t take any food with us, and because it was so foggy when we arrived we couldn’t look for any shops to buy food. We had to survive on the croissant pastries, fruit juice and Ritz crackers from the vending machine at reception on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Thank goodness I had Euro change with me! To my astonishment, the coffee from the vending machine was also very tasty, unlike UK vending machine coffee!! But then Italy and coffee go together like bread and jam! Café espresso was definitely one of my highlights of the trip! So, we scoffed a scrumptious lasagne with Greg, and I had a ‘real’ orange juice fix-I miss Spanish orange juice so much! Other juice just taste like paint stripper in comparison! It was a bit chilly, clear skies and sun (am I making you Scots jealous yet?!) but as long as you wrapped up, perfect for wandering around Turin’s grand streets and covered walkways. Turin is in the north of Italy, in the shadow of the Alps. It was lovely looking down a street framing snow-capped mountains in the distance. It is also quite a big-name shopping city, with lots of money obviously around. I lost count of how may fur-coat-clad women we walked past that day. We didn’t buy anything fancy though, just yummy doughnuts and big sandwich-thingies for our dinner that night. Greg came back for a visit and a yarn, with interesting tales of cockroaches and his attempts at extermination. I don’t think the roaches quite knew what hit them when a chemist moved into their abode!

So, another day past. I’ll skip to one event of Monday and leave the rest until the next opportune moment. I found out that I could indeed remain in my room at the residence, and that it would cost me 35 euros/night. All’s well that ends well! (and even better with no cockroach encounters for me in the night!)
ciao ciao ciao

update_out of the ordinary


I have been rather terrible in ‘blogging’ since september (was that really 4 months ago?!!!) I’ve been busy with the normal routine at Uni, plus extras with wedding organising. I was able to get a nice 3-4 week break at home over Christmas, filled with the usual intentions of getting lots of Uni work done, especcially as I am writing my dissertation this year. The problem is that most of my good intentions remain just that! I’ve been back at classes for a week now and thankfully getting back into routine, except that on Saturday, I all of a sudden found myself in Italy!!!

My friend Flora is on her final Masters year at Aberdeen University studying Chemistry and for this her last semester, she had a placement, which ended up being at a university in Torino (Turin) , Italy, doing something with chemistry and synthetic-bio-materials (thats all I can explain about it!!). As this was going to be her first trip abroad, ever, lasting a min of three months, and nobody else was able to go out with her, I’m accompanying her on her maiden voyage. We flew out on Saturday 15th Jan, and I’ll be heading back on Wednesday,  hopefully leaving a slightly settled Flora. Our travelling was hitch-free. Valentina, a woman who is going to be working with Flora at the University, met us at the airport. We were so thankful for this, especially asTurin was shrouded in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. It would have been so difficult for us foreingers to negotiate!  Her father drove because of the fog, and it was difficult enough for him and their TomTom!

Things got slightly more interesting when we arrived at Flora’s accomodation. Valentina came to help translate which made things a lot easier for us, even though the staff seem to have varying degrees of English., probably to aid with all the foreing students at the residnece. We are not unique! Flora had booked space at one of the University’s student residences, and had said I should be able to just kip on her Flora. But she never got around to actually e-mailing and asking if that was okay- it isn’t. “Absolutely not” in the words of the guy at reception, for security purposes. Yikes!

Quick texts to see if Greg, a guy from Flora’s class at Aberdeen who is also on placement in Turin, to see if I could kip at his flat. And the residence staff investigating whether they could get a room for me in this ’emergency’. I should explain that the residence offers long and short term accomodation. Thankfully, they managed to find and prepare a room for me, but they would be unable to tell me how much it would cost until Monday, when there office hours opened and higher levels of staff were available. They gave me a estimate of maybe 35 euros a night. More expensive than an average hostel, but cheaper than a hotel thankfully. We’ve also since discovered that Greg has a problem with cockroaches in his flat, so definitely more pleasant than kipping on his floor!!!!

The staff were very helpful, but I guess they’d rather make some money out of me than see me go elsewhere! My room is pleasant enough, en-suite shower, a bed (!!) furniture for a student’s room, and a common room/kitchen for the floor. But Flora’s is a palace! The residence was originally part of the Torino Winter Paraolymipcs in 2006, so they’re recently new (although I’m not sure they’ll last more than another decade by the looks of things!) and tend to have a disabled aspect tp it. Flora has an ‘apartment’ all to herself (she’s special as she’s staying for a  long time and they want to keep her happy to get her money 😉 ) She has a big bedroom, living room/kitchen, and bathroom with shower. Its a proper disabled bathroom- I’ve never sat on such an awkward, mountain-like toilet! I’ll appreciate the average variety at home so much more from now on!!!

So, I’ve bombarded you all with enough info for now, and I need to get off Flora’s computer so she can do some officail stuff. Flora’s internet at her apartment should be working soon, so I’ll share the next chapter in a bit. We’re settling in and safe and well and getting by even with our lack of Italian. I keep speaking Spanish in my attempts to communicate!!!

So, two days to go, ciao for now