Notes from Fr Mark of Pluscarden
I am looking after Brother Cyprian of Kristo Buase, a monk in temporary vows, who is here at Pluscarden for a while. As I did not receive much warning, I had no time to prepare and I now find that there are all sorts of minor practical matters that have to be taken care of. Often a few moments thought would have brought them to mind, but I have not thought of them and they suddenly appear and have to be dealt with. My famous memory does not help. It is not the forgetting that is wearing: when I forget, I forget. However I keep on remembering again before forgetting again. I forget and remember again dozens of times in the day, often when I can do nothing about it.
Last week was dominated by the story of the medicines. In West Africa hypertension is common and Br Cyprian suffers from it. He left all his medicines behind and did not know what they were. We had to get him registered temporarily at the medical centre and then we had to get him to see a doctor. In the meantime we got in touch with Ghana to find out what had been prescribed but they did not know! On Monday Br Cyprian saw a doctor who gave him the wrong prescription to begin with. Then a copy of his Ghanaian prescription arrived from Kristo Buase, sent by Whatsapp. Then the surgery phoned to say the prescription their doctor had issued was wrong. We had to go in on Wednesday to get the right prescription and a new set of application forms for full registration with the medical centre; Br Cyprian had left the first set with the doctor he saw, but completely blank. By Friday he had one of the drugs he needed and appointments for a clinic to be tested for his high blood pressure so he could get the other two. That day he also put in his application to be fully registered with the surgery. With a bit of luck things will get straightened out.
In the meantime I am trying to get one or two things started. Although I intend to put up a notice in the novitiate laying out the planned meetings for the week, I have, in fact, been going from day to day while I work things out. There are always things to be taken into consideration like the veg squad and dies nons and solemnities. Today, being Christ the King is a solemnity.
I have also been getting in touch with people for other things. I have made the first steps in getting music lessons and in getting him into a class for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). For the ESOL there are forms to be filled in and assessments to be undergone. The classes don't start until January if he is Intermediate 4, but not until August if he is Intermediate 5 or higher – if I have understood it right.
There were dies nons that week. By tradition the seniors take their dies non on Thursday and the juniors and those working with them on Friday. This meant I took my day off on Friday, though I spent the day taking Br Cyprian out in a car. We began with a misunderstanding which meant me standing in the cloister waiting for him and him standing outside in the cold half way down the drive waiting for me. We didn't go far or do very much. The first thing we had to do was to hand in the forms to apply for registration at the surgery. It was empty with no crowds of patients waiting for a doctor and only clerical staff visible. We passed over the forms and left.
As Br Cyprian had never seen the sea, we went to Lossiemouth, the nearest place where we could see it. It was a cold day with a white frost that remained all day in those places hidden from the sun. I had to assure Br Cyprian that he needed a jumper over his colourful, Ghanaian, going out on a day off type shirt. Yet, sitting on their boards in the sea off the beach at Lossiemouth, there were three or four surfers in neoprene suits waiting for waves to curl into the shore. I had the video camera with me and could only hold it for a few minutes, so cold was it, yet they were out there in the sea waiting for the perfect wave. When they did ride an occasional wave, they seemed to fall off as often as they rode the breaker to the shore. As this was Lossiemouth the waves were not as big as at Santa Monica, Hawai or even Cape Coast.
We ate lunch in a restaurant. Afterwards we walked up to the harbour. Nothing was moving. Most of the boats we saw were yachts in the marina bit, though there seemed to be a couple of small fishing boats and another working boat which looked as though it was some sort of private marine research vessel. The fishing boats seemed to be using hooks and lines going out from bobbin like things set in patterns around the deck and wheelhouse.
After this we left Lossiemouth and moved along the coast to Burghead. Again it was quiet, but we could see over the Moray Firth from the headland and down into the harbour from the side of the fort. While we were there, a fishing boat set out from the harbour to Br Cyprian's delight, for he had never seen a boat putting out to sea in his life.
We went from there to Sueno's Stone in Forres. Driving west from Lossiemouth to Burghead and then from Burghead to Forres on a November afternoon was dazzling. Despite sunglasses and the sun-visor down, there were moments when I was effectively blinded by the sun almost horizontally in front of me. It was time to go home, so we went home.