12th December, 2011

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man's hat. Remember that? We just hosted a performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", narrated by Ian Smith. It was  an amazing performance - each character brought to life through actions and voices and Ian's own drawings projected onto the screen as he spoke. One of the most poignant parts, which I had not noticed before, is when Bob Cratchet's son is reading from the Bible - and Jesus called a child and made him stand in front of them... (and said, "unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven") and then Scrooge realises that he should value the lives of others, especially the child Tiny Tim, and become more like the child he had been before he grew into an avaricious and twisted old man. It was a wonderful reminder that the little baby Jesus we celebrate at Christmas grew up to die to save us from meanness of spirit and to transform us by grace to become as generous and loving as Father God. Ian asked for donations to the Tiny Tim Fund to raise money for the Centre's proposed improvements to our disabled facilities, so that we can make a difference to the Tiny Tims of this world. He has also just published his first novel, " Dancer at the Feast" and all proceeds of that sale are also going to the Centre. Thank you Ian. You can  see Ian's performance on DVD, available here. We appreciate all the efforts people are making to raise money to improve our facilities so we can help change people's lives. If you would like a fundraising pack please phone or email us. Have a very happy Christmas and every blessing for the New Year.

23rd November, 2011

Well, we had great fun with the Tamil  youth group, who were here while Iain was away at the Assembly handing out  fundraising packs. (Have you got yours?) They sang lustily, made wonderful curries which they invited us to share, and had lots of fun & games. There was a serious side too, with talks from a guest speaker and one of the young people became a Christian. The leader asked if he could be baptised here, as it is their custom to baptise people as soon as possible. Hasty attempts were made to arrange it, almost foiled by poor mobile reception, and finally he was baptised in the church baptistry on Saturday morning. Pitlochry Baptist Pastor David shared their lunchtime curry in celebration.

The church has been keeping the Centre busy recently with some big occasions: yesterday was a Tearfund supper with Daudi, an inspired individual from Uganda, last Friday was a lunch club meal for about 40 with Caroline as a speaker who's been doing literacy work in Chad, before that there was the shoebox appeal evening when the church got together to eat and then pack the shoeboxes.

Our usual community groups  have continued to meet this month, with Highway (adults with learning difficulties) coming twice for craft evenings to make products to sell for Christmas. They're also preparing to make a programme for Heartland, our local radio station.

As November nears its end the weather is getting cold now but the Centre is nice and cosy when the heating's on - in fact someotimes we even have to turn it down, as the radiators get warmer quicker now & blast out heat much better than before. Now I whinge about the draught from the front door when I'm in the outer office, but that's going to be solved soon too as a new double glazed front door is going to be fitted in January. I recently wrote a post installation report on the boiler project and discovered when the figures were calculated that we're saving an incredible amount of energy compared with before (better insulation, a more efficient system and some energy is free solar energy - although not a huge amount this year with the overcast summer we've had), and the wood pellets are cheaper than gas was, so we're making substantial financial savings too.  This is really good news as we try to make sure the Centre is paying its way and a solid investment for people giving money to our 40th anniversary appeal.

We linked up recently with a group called ROCK UK who do fundraising adventure challenges, some just a physical challenge in amazing locations, others are linked with charity projects where you spend time helping children, communities or the environment abroad. Go to our fundraising page to find out more. Pitlochry is a great place for adventure challenges too. You know how you're always looking for something different to give young (or young at heart) adults for Christmas - something better than a mobile phone or new computer game, so how about giving a  fundraising adventure challenge in Pitlochry as a Christmas gift. See here for more.

27th October, 2011

The autumn colours have been wonderful inspite of a largely wet but warmer than ususal autumn. The Enchanted Forest is nearly finished and Perthshire Amber just about to start. There is also a wildlife festival this autumn with lots of fascinating guided walks (2 on funghi recently!) and help seeing the local birds and beasts. It's great living here. We don't need to travel to benefit from all these events. I really enjoyed this year's enchanted forest, in a different venue this time with the twist of being able to view the whole thing from a high viewpoint as well as walk through it. Actually Pitlochry's not that far from most places in Scotland (1h30 - 2h by car) and we're on the main London to Inverness train line and bus route, so it's easy to get here.You should come and visit.

We're feeling very international just now as a couple of weekends ago we had mostly African ladies from the 7th day Adventist church (the folks in the flat really loved their singing) and today a group from the Tamil (South India & Sri Lanka) church in Glasgow is arriving.

Last week I was at a fundraising training event. It was really good to meet professional fundraisers & see how committed they wre to their causes ranging from Historic Scotland to the Archie Foundation (sick kids). The main speaker used to work for the Aberlour Trust (Children with Autism) and had a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Hopefully it will help the Centre as we fundraise for our 40th anniversary project and as we fundraise for our subsidy fund. We're very grateful to the Soutar Trust for their donation of £2000 for our subsidy fund this week, which will help many less able or less advantaged people to have a life-changing conference or holiday here.

23rd September, 2011

It's definitely getting colder now and some of the trees are beginning to turn, although scientists say it's a false autumn and the real one has yet to come... The Centre is cosy though, with the wood pellet boiler proving its worth as the temperature drops. We've just had our electricity and gas meters read, so it will be interesting to compare costs with last year when they come in. The other energy saving measure we have planned for this year is to get our single glazing double glazed. Plans are well underway and hopefully it will be done by the end of October. We recently introduced recycling bins in our public areas and they are proving a success, so the process of making the Centre a greener place is well underway.

For the past 2 weeks we've had Graham & Aggie staying with us. Aggie is in a wheelchair so for a 2 week holiday Iain has given them 2 rooms in the chalet (one to sleep and one for a living room) and a fridge, so it can serve as more of an apartment for them. We have a self-catering apartment upstairs, but Aggie can't manage the stairs and now needs disabled washing facilities, so upstairs is no longer suitable for them. This flexibility means that not only can we cater for Aggie's needs, but also effectively we have had 2 apartments being used throughout the 2 weeks as well as residential groups in at both weekends. During the week community groups continue to meet regularly with the new computer training classes already started. It's really good to see the place so well used.

I went to a funding clinic this week to think about how we can raise the money for all the alterations we are planning. While we wait for the results from a funding search they're doing for us, we are having a visit from disability access specialists to make sure we include as many features as we can to make the rennovations as accessible as possible by today's standards. It will be really good when the chalet is properly converted to a disabled self-catering apartment, but at least we're flexible enough at present to be able to offer a half-way measure while we wait.

5th September, 2011

September already. Just been to a wonderful baptism in the loch yesterday, where the sun shone brilliantly.  To see the pictures just go to www.pitlochrybaptistchurch.co.uk. Glynnis our secretary is away on holiday & we're missing her. B&B has stopped officially til the October holidays. Amaia returned safely to Bilbao and sends her love and all the students who have helped us over the summer have returned to school or university - some just starting uni this year, so it will be a great adventure for them. The lunch club visit went well and then we had a quiet week. This week it's ME sufferers. Helen, local therapeutic & sports massage is coming again this year to ease their sore muscles and Allan, a local enthusiast for Scottish clan history re-enactment, is coming to do a show and tell. We're really pleased to get this support from our local community, which helps tailor the ME week to their needs. The Highland games are on this weekend in Pitlochry and we have a young people's pipe band from Eire staying here for the competition. It's great to be part of what's going on in the community and this event is always a big day. My favourite part is when all the pipebands march down the main street together. Well worth seeing. We've got another council of management meeting this week. We're gearing up for a big splash of fundraising in October to be launched at the Baptist Assembly, and it's incredible how much organising needs to be done. We're raising money specifically for the structural improvements over the next few years - better accessibility to better serve - and will hopefully soon be ready to submit the plans for planning permission.

19th August, 2011

Hello again. Just to encourage you to take a look at our facebook site. Just click on the link to the left of this page. I've at last put up pictures of our open day. (I'm afraid the video didn't work out). So much has happened since then, it's hard to believe it was even this year... Coming towards the end of the summer, the schools are back and B&B will stop soon. We've had quite a few French people over the last week - the whole country goes on holiday in August, and some Germans and Italians as well. It was great to see a few of our B&B visitors getting a warm welcome at church on Sunday too, including a Japanese couple on honeymoon. Groups are already due to arrive. We have a lunch club for the elderly next week. It's great they get the chance to go away together and they're already booked for the Scottish night at the town hall - a firm favourite.

8th August, 2011

Woops - a whole month has gone by with no blog - sorry. So let's catch up... Amaia has arrived and is settled into Pitlochry. She's made friends with the young students who have joined us as housekeepers over the summer and has enjoyed chatting to (very surprised) Spanish guests when they came to stay. She also helped out when the People's Bible came to Pitlochry and is currently helping with the children's holiday club at the church. Nothing like getting stuck in!

B&B is in full swing and although it started out slow it has picked up nicely. We've actually had a couple of groups coming for B&B this year - a Korean school group and a hen party from Morningside Baptist Church. We also had a group from L'Arche - a charity for adults with learning difficulties. They really enjoyed their couple of days away and part of what made their holiday a success was the accessibility of the Centre accommodation and the welcome they received here. Last night a group of scouts staying at the scout hut popped in for showers as well and a family of one of their leaders stayed in the flat overnight. They were so pleased at the contrast between what we have here and the hard wooden floor and tiny kitchen of the scout hut.

As mentioned earlier the church next door is running their annual children's holiday club called "Rockstar". To see how it's going, go to www.pitlochrybaptistchurch.co.uk. For us it means the photocopier is in constant use, their IT man is busy putting their daily news sheet and video summary together in the reception lounge and some of our helpers are busy helping out next door as well.

At the same time the Atholl Craft Fair is on. They have an impressive array of pictures and crafts for sale, displayed in the dining room and on the reception walls, with a constant stream of visitors having a wee wander up and down the stalls.

Our latest news is that we have now registered with Paypal for email invoicing. This means that people now have the option of paying by card. You book by phone in the usual way, and if you prefer to pay by card the office will send you a Paypal invoice by email and you just click the pay button on the email. So simple! This should make paying deposits easier for a lot of people, and more accessible for those who have never heard of cheques!

24th June, 2011

Today we've just waved goodbye to the folks from Arbroath Town Mission. This is a group of elderly guests, one of them in a  wheelchair, others a bit unsteady on their feet, who are part of a church run lunch club in Arbroath. They come to the Centre every year for a wee break and enjoy the freedom of a half board service, which lets them get out every day on a trip or a wander, all accessible from the Centre (they bring their own minibus) and come back to a nice hot meal and a blether in the evening.

It's good to have a mid week residential group. Community groups can still run regardless, as they don't use the same space at the same time and it all works very well. We've had groups in for the last 3 weekends as well. One of them is an inner city church group who we support through our subsidy fund. They came on a self-catering basis and it was lovely to meet them on the Friday evening with the fantastic aroma of a good Glasgow curry wafting through, cooked by Bangladeshi group members who had arrived earlier to prepare their meal.  Makes you feel really international and at home at the same time. This was a family group, lively with children and babies. The weekend before it was a youth group. Our accommodation is flexible enough to suit everyone & they all seem happy with their stay.

Soon we will be starting B&B. We had hoped to have a Brazilian girl with us for that, but her visa wasn't going to be ready in time, so now we're starting out with some of our local students staying overnight to look after guests and then we have a Spanish girl called Amaia coming as a summer volunteer, who will live in. Revenue from B&B in the summer and the self catering flat helps us to subsidise community groups and groups with low income as we help people to grow and find release through conferences, workshops and holidays, so if you're thinking of a trip to the Highlands, why not come and stay here. You'll have a great time and you'll be helping others.

It may not be much of a summer so far, but it's still worth coming to Pitlochry. The Festival Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, still doing the stay 6 days and see 6 plays summer routine. It's also a really nice place to go for a coffee, and there's an art gallery there too. Locally made Stuart Tower ice cream has to be tasted to be believed, but the multitude of flavours is amazing. all made with milk straight off the farm. Local adventure firm Nae Limitz has just opened Scotland's first bungee jump over the river Garry - quite a sight - and I expect quite an experience if you're brave enough. The Watermill bookshop in Aberfeldy (20 mins away) has a range of books and music you would normally expect to see in a city, with an excellent children's section and lots of local lore and mountain guides. It too has a very upmarket art gallery and a pleasant cafe for a cappuccino or homemade cake.  And there are plenty of water sctivities to go on, whether it's canoeing or whitewater rafting, fishing or gorge walking, where you'll get wet anyway. So you may as well make the best of it and enjoy Scotland here this summer.

20th May, 2011

What a busy 3 weeks we've had! We've had 2 major events in that time as well as the usual bookings and it's been all go. First of all we had the 2 open days. We hadn't a clue how many people were going to turn up, because even though we'd put out loads of publicity, very few people had indicated they would come. However on the first day, which was for the churches and included a display about our future plans for growth, we had 17 locals, and then about 50 retired Baptist ministers who were visiting for the day anyway had a look round the display in the evening. This fulfilled the criteria of raising awareness of both the Centre and biofuels in churches from around Scotland and as prayer points go up on this website and are distributed to other Baptist organisations we hope people will be praying for us, especially on our Prayer Day on 12th June. On the second open day it rained cats and dogs and so we had a select few again, but they included 3 local businesses who are thinking seriously of installing biofuel heating, people from major funders CARES & LEADER, who were both pleased and impressed with what we've done, and our English as a Second Language class, who not only asked good questions, but took the vocabulary from their boiler tour and used it for a lesson afterwards. The plant stall was laden and made a good sum of money and the guy from the Energy Savings Trust stall was kept busy giving out advice and gadgets. So a good day in spite of the weather. We're putting together a video based on the open days, so if you're really sad you missed them, you'll still be able to get a taste of what happened, hopefully out in the next 3 weeks. And if you'd like a boiler tour, just let us know and we'll arrange it for you.

The second major event was Etape Caledonia, an international cycle event based in Pitlochry. Over 4000 cyclists actually rode the course this year. Cyclists ride an 81 mile route, all raising money for Macmillan Cancer Care, and some for other charities as well. Some are racing to cover the course in the fastest time, which was faster this year than ever before. Some are completing a personal challenge to do the course within the 6 hours allowed. We even had local couple Alastair and Emily McCartney riding to raise money for the Centre. If you wish to sponsor them please email us at admin@athollcentre.org.uk. Highs and lows: A young couple, who met at the event last year, got married at the start line at  6am and were allowed to ride off first, there were tacks on the road for a second year initiating another police investigation, and one cyclist had a serious accident. So how is the Centre involved? Well, from the beginning we have been chosen as the event headquarters, so the police, fire and ambulance co-ordinators are based here, all the equipment and supplies are stored here, and the motorcycle marshalls all stay over at the Centre, so they can be away by 5 am on the day to be in place before the race starts. On the Saturday and the Sunday we are toilets, showers and tea & coffee suppliers for the marquees set up in the carpark next door, and on the Saturday we also have the massage people helping any cyclist who wishes to tune up their muscles before the race. It's a pretty full on event and Iain even stayed at the Centre overnight on Saturday to ensure everything was in place on time.

So it's back to normal now, a bit of a relief, truth be told. We've got a methodist group in this morning on holiday in Pitlochry. They've come especially to look at our Christian bookstall & have their morning coffee and chat while they browse. There's an idea!

27th April, 2011

Ok, it's a bit late to say it, but Happy Easter anyway. I can't believe it's been a whole month since I last wrote. How time flies when you're having fun ... well it definitely flies, that's for sure. Since I last wrote we've had 3 groups in at weekends and a couple of families staying in the self catering flat for their Easter holidays. The weekend with UFM was particularly busy with over 80 people as day visitors on the Saturday and several people staying for the whole conference from Friday to Sunday. Many had booked B & B in town well in advance thinking the Centre rooms would be all taken, so unfortunately for us we still had rooms to spare. It's a lesson in co-ordination for next year. However they all ate here and were ecstatic about the food. We also had a Healthy Living Day last Thursday supported by Perth & Kinross voluntary services, inviting the general public for taster sessions of massage, Tai Chi etc. and over Thurs night/Fri morning a Duke of Edinburgh mixed ability group. One girl was in a wheelchair and stayed overnights till Sunday while the others camped. Then from the Friday a family group of 24 celebrating an 85th birthday. It feels as if it's been non-stop.

 Preparation for the open days is coming along, with adverts out on email to all our contacts and through the BU, and posters on all the public noticeboards in Pitlochry. We even had an interview for Heartland radio, our local radio station, which was broadcast on Sunday and will be repeated next week.  The Climate Challenge Fund have agreed to man a stall  on the 10th to give tips on going green and the forestry commission have just sent an  interesting looking parcel which I've still to open. Still lots to do, but it's looking good, so don't forget to come: Thurs 5th May from 2 - 4pm and Tues 10th from 10.30 - 3.30.

28th March, 2011

Hooray! The boiler and solar panels are finally functioning. Scottish Baptist ministers' wives were the first group to enjoy our new eco heating system and that week the church (which is connected into the heating system) was so warm people were taking their coats and jumpers off - after freezing the previous week because the electric fires had tripped the circuit and gone off and the free standing gas fires had suddenly run out of gas. The contrast certainly was appreciated. When they're on the place is really cosy... just need to get on top of programming the  boiler clock ! (We were nearly caught out by the time change this weekend & Iain had to dash down again on Saturday night having just got home from work at 9.30 pm to set the clock forward an hour so there would be heating & hot water first thing on Sunday). It's quite a job to claim the grants, which are paid out after the contractors have been paid - lots of paperwork, but that's all on target, and while we're waiting for that money to come in, an interest free loan from Perth & Kinross has to be paid back. Fortunately when we told them our circumstances they offered to hold onto our cheque until one of our donors has paid in full.  Isn't that great! There's going to be 2 open days in May: May 5th will be a Friends of the Centre Open Day and all the weekend user groups and Centre supporters are warmly invited to that. May 10th will be a Community Open Day with the emphasis on showcasing the Centre and the new heating system to the locals.

 This weekend we had URC ladies fellowship. They had Bible study & talks while their husbands went out for hillwalks. They enjoyed their stay so much they've booked up for the next 2 years. This week is the last week of the Youth Cafe (run by Perth & Kinross Council) before the holidays. So much work has beeen put into it, but there are still only a few youngsters attending. It would be really good to see it take off properly. Adult education is in full flow and seemed to be able to work around the disruption caused by the boiler installation without any problems, and we've got Madcaps in tonight - a local music and drama society who do a lot of fundraising performances as well as having a good time together.  So it's business as usual in a cosy and greener Centre.

2nd March, 2011

Well, Simeon has gone home and we're all missing him. Aww! He made a brilliant tourist guide for a Pitlochry walk from the Centre to Moulin, with a wee spiel about all the sights on the way. He spent ages reading up on it all and then used publisher to make it.

The boiler's now installed, and it is on course to be operational in the next few days. We're now waiting for a wood pellet hopper to arrive and get set up before it can have its maiden run. The solar panels are up and connected too. Can't wait.

We had deacons from Dundee Central in last weekend. They raved about the food - especially Iain's porridge! - and seemed to have a profitable time here. Some hadn't been to the Centre for a few years and were really surprised  and pleased at all the changes we've made. Prior to them it was the SU young leaders' training, who were a self catering group. Largely due to Iain's good management, no-one has had cause to complain about the heating during the changeover of the boilers. He's been running about setting up electric heaters and portable gas fires to make sure every room being used is cosy, especially during the cold weather.

The sun is out now and it is actually 10 degrees today - something that cheers us all up.

15th February, 2011

We have a young man from France with us for 3 weeks. Simeon is studying tourism in Biarritz and asked to come here for a placement. One of the things he has been doing is making a bilingual tour guide for a walk round the sights of Pitlochry, but he's also been helping out with guests, preparing rooms, serving meals and showing people where to go. It's been interesting to see the kind of things he's expected to learn and sharing our experiences with him.

One notable experience is the boiler changeover. Work has started to install our new woodpellet boiler, to be followed by solar panels. Unfortunately delays have meant that it is happening when residential guests are coming at the weekends and community groups during the week. Iain has had his work cut out securing enough heaters to keep the place warm in the interim (and making sure we don't fry our circuits in the process.) and the plumber is installing a temporary immerser in the new cylinders so we don't go without hot water while the changeover is taking place. It's beginning to take shape now & we're very grateful Hugh is on board to supervise the work. We hope to have the new boiler in and working by the end of next week.
We had the Salvation Army Youth Choir in over this last weekend training with a professional voice coach and they sounded wonderful. Highways support group for local adults with learning difficulties met on Saturday morning too. They are looking for volunteers to help members be part of their local community, so if you live in or near Aberfeldy, Pitlochry or Dunkeld and are interested please get in touch.

31st January, 2011

We had a very good write up in Connect, the Scottish Baptist magazine this month, so we're hoping to generate lots of interest through that. Our newest innovation is a voucher scheme, giving discounts for return visits: £1 off for B&B, £10 off for the flat & £50 off for large groups. Please take a look and see how you or your group could benefit in the future.

Our first residential group of the year arrives tomorrow for a 3 day training course, so it feels good to get going on that side of things again.

Simeon has just arrived from France to spend 3 weeks with us doing a placement for his tourism college course. He & Chris are getting on like a house on fire as Chris shows him the housekeeping ropes.He's already taken part in a worship jam at Pitlochry Baptist & has been earmarked for a football session. Nothing like chucking him in at the deep end!

A team will be coming to remove the old boilers next Monday. The new one is due to arrive in the country this Friday (it's coming from Austria). So it's all go. The main thing is trying to ensure we have sufficient resources to get alternative heat and hot water for groups while the changeover is taking place. It's a shame it has been delayed for so long or we could have had it installed at a quieter period, but c'est la vie, as they say.

18th January, 2011

Great News - our building warrant has finally been granted. (The hold up was that the frame for the solar panels needed an engineer's certificate) Now we can order the solar panels too and real progress can be made. The boiler is on order and the boiler house has had a good clear out. There's a meeting this afternoon to co-ordinate all the work.

The last couple of months we've been working on publicity for the year to come. The Centre is now on Facebook. See what you think. We made up a leaflet for the Landmark catalogue which goes out to every school in Scotland and we've just received the balance of the print run - an extra thousand - to send out to other schools & children's groups.

We've just updated our price list. Take a look at the new pick & mix menu & see if there is anything that would suit you or a group you know this year.

It's good to welcome back our day groups  which have started up again.

7th January, 2011

Happy New year to you all. Christmas was a quiet period for us, especially with the snowy weather, which resulted in some cancelled bookings, but the flat was being used all December and into the New Year. In fact quite a few people have booked it recently for personal retreats coming up this year - well, Pitlochry is a beautiful & inspiring place to take time out to take stock after all - so if you want to book please do so well in advance. It's getting quite popular you know! The freezing weather  gave us some frozen pipes but our friendly plumber was very good at  fixing it even though it was Christmas Eve. Iain had to keep an eagle eye on the system throughout the holidays, meaning he never had a day away from the Centre. Christmas was a time for "thank you"s so Iain was invited to a prize giving at Pitlochry Festival Theatre for the adult literacy group and the Centre staff got together with volunteers for a Christmas meal. It was a time for pressure as we realised that time was running short to get the boiler project into its installation phase & many urgent phonecalls were made to push it along.We will shortly be placing our order for the new boiler (at last) and hope everything goes smoothly from now on. Hugh Henderson is now on board to project supervise & we're very grateful for his help & advice. It has also been a time for coughs and colds, some spending their Christmas holidays feeling distinctly under the weather, but we're back now and raring to go. We start the New Year with some  freshly revamped chairs for the upstairs lounge thanks to a local upholsterer. We're really grateful to have so much local loyalty within the community & as local day groups start up again we get the chance to play our part again in serving our community.