January 2023

Alistair Halden 1929 – 2022

We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Fearnan resident Alistair Halden, just before Christmas.

Alistair came to live in Fearnan in 1994, when he and Joyce retired from long and successful careers in education. Alistair was an excellent and much respected teacher, an accomplished (and apparently very competitive!) tennis and table tennis player, and a prize-winning poet.  He won a national prize for his poem Letter of Resignation, and this prompted a written, published, accolade from none other than the author Ian Rankin.

Alistair and Joyce around the time they moved to Fearnan

Alistair had asked for his poem A Highland Testimony to be read at the Service of Thanksgiving and we’re pleased to be able to reproduce it here.

A Highland Testimony

We had our ritual too. Down the long glen,
While startled curlews cried on ebb-tide sands,
We would all walk, our Bibles in our hands,
And winter sunshine turned to rain.

The crisp cutting edge of our dark suits
Served as a weekly penance. We, in turn,
Would kick some chuckies into a ditch or burn,
And scuff the polish on our Sunday boots.

The church bell spread its iron news abroad,
Dull through the trees or clear across the bay.
With quickened step we hastened on our way.
And so we entered in the house of God.

Thus went the ritual of that far-off day.
The creak of bell and bell-rope clanged and jarred.
The psalms were dignified. The pews were hard.
The rain was soft. The lowering skies were grey.

Grey too the tenour of our world today.
The death of humanism, sick and sad.
And I could wish that once again we had
That child’s acceptance of the Christian way.

Faith of my fathers. If it came again,
I would not change a moment of my youth,
The grey kirk and the straight unflinching truth,
Clean as the stones at the burn-side in the glen.

Back in 2014, just after the FVA Blog had started, we spoke to Alistair and Joyce about their time in Fearnan and they talked about what had attracted them to the village and why they had so much enjoyed living here. You can read the article here: Talking about Fearnan

Perhaps the Blog Editor could be allowed a personal recollection of Alistair, as he was a teacher at the school I attended, Marr College.

Not surprisingly, the paths of a lowly 1st Year pupil and the Head of the English Department did not cross very much during the brief year or so when our time overlapped at Marr.  However, during his oration in Fortingall Church, it was mentioned that the 7-year-old Alistair had harboured an ambition to be a comedian – and suddenly a memory surfaced of a long-ago school concert at which Alistair (Mr Halden to us then) performed a comic piano recital to the delight of the whole school.

Our thoughts and condolences go to Joyce and the family, and we would like to share this happy photo of Alistair and Joyce, taken at the installation of the memorial stone in the Cow Park in 2019.

Alistair and Joyce May 2019

If you were unable to attend, there is a video of Alistair’s Service of Thanksgiving on https://vimeo.com/788467590

Hair Ice

Before Christmas, several local people reported finding Hair Ice on Drummond Hill – something that is not often seen.

According to the Met Office, the conditions required for the formation of hair ice are extremely specific, hence the relative scarcity of sightings.

To form, moist rotting wood from a broadleaf tree is required with the presence of moist air and a temperature slightly below 0 °C. It is generally confined to latitudes between 45°N and 55°N.

In 2015 the scientists Hofmann, Mätzler and Preuß determined the exact cause of the hair ice phenomenon, linking its formation to the presence of a specific fungus called Exidiopsis effusa.

They discovered that the presence of the fungus led to a process called ‘ice segregation’. When water present in the wood freezes it creates a barrier that traps liquid between the ice and the pores of the wood. This creates a suction force which pushes water out of the pores to the edge of the ice surface where it freezes and extends outwards. As this repeats, it pushes a thin ‘hair’ of ice out of the wood which is around 0.01 mm in diameter.

It is believed that an inhibitor present in the fungus allows the strands of ice to stabilise allowing the formation of this beautiful phenomena and allows the hair ice to keep its shape often for several hours.

Events and Dates

At the beginning of December, we held the first Mulled Wine and Mince Pies for 3 years – an enjoyable and social event and, thanks to the generosity of those attending, we made a good start to the fund to replace the village noticeboards.

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies

Here are some more dates for your diary. You will notice that we are not doing a Pudding Night this year, but fear not – it will return next year. Instead, we have slotted in a PopUp Café on Pancake Day in February and a pre-Easter Afternoon Tea in March.

Tuesday 21st Feb – Pancake Pop Up Café in the Hall at 10.30am

Saturday 25th March – Easter(-ish) Afternoon Tea in the Hall at 3pm

Tuesday 25th April – Pop Up Café in the Hall at 10.30am

Saturday 1st April – The FVA 2022-23 AGM will be held in the Hall at 4pm.

Also, The Big Shed have intimated that their AGM will be held on the 6th February in person at 7pm in the Big Shed.

Fearnan Book Club

Linda and Lesley write:

In December the Fearnan Book Club reviewed Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published in 1936.

It is a socially critical novel by George Orwell, an important 20th century writer. It is set in 1930s London, a world the author inhabited.

The main theme is Gordon Comstock’s romantic ambition to defy worship of the money-god and status, and the dismal life that results.

This text led to an animated discussion at the club meeting and, at times, differing opinions about society at that time. Comparisons were made with society and poverty today. We acknowledged that it was well written with clever phrases, excellent descriptions and clear images. However, many of us found it dreary, irritating and depressing to read as Gordon Comstock wallowed in his misery and pulled down those around him. He appeared selfish, self-centred and indulgent. We struggled to feel empathy for the characters and wondered why they supported Gordon financially and emotionally when in return they received no gratitude. He was both principled and pig-headed, behaving in a pompous way with disparaging comments about, and to, other characters. We had to remind ourselves that it was a novel of its time, and many attitudes and language would be unacceptable today.

Also at our December session, we reflected on the books we’d read throughout the year and voted for our favourite. There was no overwhelming favourite but The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak was just one vote ahead of Mrs. Bensons Beetle by Rachel Joyce. 

We also enjoyed playing Book Title Dingbats some of which were very challenging (click the link for an explanation if needed).

An appropriate choice for our festive reading was a book of short stories, Murder Under the Christmas Tree by Cecil Gayford.

It is a collection of Ten Classic Crime Stories, written by a wide range of classic and modern authors. It provided an opportunity to compare and contrast authors and perhaps experience writing by a new author. 

And Finally……..

A special thanks to Alistair Grier who provided the photo for the banner heading on this edition of the Blog.

Please note that the copyright for all photos on this Blog lies with the person who took them and the copyright for all text lies with the person who wrote it.

About Fearnan Village Association

Fearnan Village Association was formed in 2007 to provide a means through which those who live in the village can come together to discuss and respond to issues of importance to the village, particularly those that will have an impact on our quality of life. We also organise social events, such as the very popular Pudding Night in February, Strawberry TeaZ in July, and other events and coffee mornings throughout the year.
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