My Father’s Daughter

Today I was sad. Unexpectedly sad.

It’s Father’s Day. Dad died 8 years ago … so there have been other Father’s Days … but this one has caught me by surprise.

Grief is like that … sometimes you can anticipate the difficult days and plan for them … but other days the rug just gets pulled from under your feet and you find yourself free falling without a safety net. Trying to grab something that will break your fall … but finding nothing in your grasp that holds.

‘Special days’ often pass me by … Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, Father’s Day, New Year’s Eve … days which are marked as ‘special‘ on the pre-printed calendar that hangs on the wall. Days where we feel we ‘should‘ do something.

For some, these are days of great anticipation … eager expectation … with invitations offered to gather together for celebrations to be shared.

For me … living and working in a hotel … these ‘special’ days were ones where we worked whilst they played!

It was all about making their ‘special’ day … special. And we, in return, would collapse in an exhausted, but satisfied, heap … the months of preparation had paid off … the day had gone well … customers were happy … and would hopefully choose us for their next ‘special’ day.

Even years after I had moved away from home, these remained days for other people … there would be no point in phoning home until late into the night … when the celebrations were done and the parties were over … naps on the sofa had been taken … and late night dinners eaten. The conversations would be tired, exhausted and centred around those other people’s special day.

Marking these ‘special’ days, for our own use, wasn’t really a thing. Apart from Christmas … we shut the doors of the hotel every year and did Christmas for us! [We did also pretty much take over the whole hotel for our wedding … but that’s a different story!]

What then, is this strange sadness I feel this year … this Father’s Day? This unfamiliar … uncomfortable … unwelcome feeling.

I am not my father’s daughter … in the card sending, telephone calling, way that I used to be. That’s not new a new feeling … that has become familiar … some years I have even bought myself a Father’s Day present as a “Yes, I miss him terribly, but I can still celebrate him” kind of thing!

The hotel is closed in lockdown … so this year there are no celebrations, for other people, being hosted there.

Our church building is closed in lockdown … there are no gatherings … no understanding, exchanged, glances … no hugs between those who share the pain of loss … no church family meal for me to cook to distract myself with.

Today I can still observe other people’s marking of this ‘special’ day on the calendar … celebrating dads that are alive … remembering dads who aren’t … dads themselves celebrating being dads … families ‘gathering’ in group chats … and somewhere in the mix of all of that space to be mindful of those who had absent or abusive dads.

It is also Father’s Day in my house … and a great dad lives here … but it feels like ‘not my party’ to organise … but there is a pull in me to do that … or a need to do that … to want to step in … to make it mine … to want it to look like what I think it should look like. But it isn’t mine to host and I shouldn’t try.

So, today, I feel like I am free falling … without an identity to grasp, or a distraction to hold, that would help break my fall.

This year, for the first time ever, this is a really painful place … without the familiar tools to ground myself.

This year, perhaps I am like a bird who has had its wings clipped and hasn’t been able to glide the same way through shifting air currents.

Photo: SarahLou Photography

Free fall is unfamiliar … uncomfortable … unexpected … and my eyes keep ‘leaking’ where I don’t want them to. Yet I know it is normal!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Perhaps also a time to free fall and a time to glide!

The Sound of Silence



I know little of one but, perhaps, too much of the other. I haven’t decided if they are one and the same thing – they sound like they might be … but yet they look very different.

Both are rooted in fear … ignorance … division … oppression … war.

We will deny that we hold racism, or bigotry, as a life value … but look closer, dig down, and we might be surprised by what we find in the secret, hidden and silent places.

Racism is all across our news feeds just now. Opinions are polarised. Voices shout loudly. Anger brews. Violence erupts. On both sides of the divide.

And then there is the sound of silence. And that silence is being called to account.

My story stands in silence … in the space ‘in between’.

Not in the space between Black and White … but in the space between Catholic and Protestant.

Photo © CAIN 

As a family we stood in the in between. We owned a hotel that employed, and served, both Catholic and Protestant alike. In Northern Ireland. In the 70s … in the 80s … during ‘The Troubles’. That was not a normal thing in a divided, segregated community.

My father was a Protestant – and was fiercely proud to call himself that. But, beyond that label, he was a Peacemaker. He was one who stood in between and bridged the gap. He taught us, his daughters, to do the same.

Staff lived with us as family – Catholics and Protestants together – at a time where fear and hatred of each other lived just down the road. There were things we didn’t say. Questions we didn’t ask. Thoughts we didn’t share. Opinions we didn’t voice.

There was a sound of silence … and we spoke it loudly.

People talking without speaking.’
‘But my words, like silent raindrops fell. And echoed in the wells of silence

Silence didn’t rock the boat. Silence didn’t cause hurt and offence. Silence didn’t cause fear and suspicion. Silence didn’t cause anger and hatred.

I learnt that silence was good. Silence was safe. Silent was who I became.

But that spoken silence did not keep us safe. Our actions spoke louder than our words … as they always do! Our actions, as Peacemakers, made us a target.

Being a Peacemaker is not silent … it is not safe. It irritates … hurts … offends. It stirs up fear … suspicion … anger … hatred.

Being a Peacemaker meant that my father got to collect blown up body parts from the electricity pylons that he climbed. Meant there were roads that he could not drive down. Meant that there were roadblocks that he knew he needed to drive through FAST if he wanted to get home alive. Meant he got shot after. [He downed a very large whiskey when he got home that night – faster that I had ever seen one downed before … or since!]

Being Peacemakers meant that we lived with bomb scares as a norm – not just the norm of them being in the towns where we lived … but the reality of having a bomb on our doorstep … primed and ready.

Being Peacemkers meant that there were times where we were followed home to make sure that we got home. Times where the police stopped me as I approached a bridge patrol, greeted me by name and let me know that I was later crossing than I should have been and dad was expecting me home! Times on Sunday evenings when I couldn’t record the Top Ten because of a radio signal blocker around the hotel. And a very bizarre time when I learnt that we’d had the SAS living in our roof space for a while!

These things were not normal … but they were our normal.

So, today, as I hear silence being called to account in the media, and in our conversations, I have some understanding of why many may be silent in the face of bigotry … or racism.

They may, like me, have learnt that silence feels safe.

But perhaps we can all stretch beyond our spoken silences and allow our actions to speak the louder story – as they always do!

Being a Peacemaker is not safe, but it is brave!

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Blog cover photo: Liam Johnston



A space where I am being unpicked and repurposed.

Shona – a craftswoman. #ShonaMasonMakes

A woven garment and an unpicked dress. Repurposed. In/Complete.

Shona, a recent conversation about being unpicked and repurposed took me to your Facebook post about your new In/Complete boxy jumper … and as I talked I realised that God was very much catching my thought attention! Here’s where that took me! Nicola 💚


The bias binding … an old dress that could have easily been thrown out as of no more use – it had served its time – was worn out … BUT …. with a skilful eye to detail … the Craftswoman unpicks and repurposes it to be the perfect finishing detail on a new garment for a new season.

Like a flourish that completes, perfects, enhances and finishes the new.

That new garment itself is woven by the same skilled Craftswoman … time … effort … energy … creativity … taking the yarns from other skilled people … people skilled in their craft … a collaboration of talent … one relying on the other … none of them knowing what the end of the journey for this yarn would be .. but taking time over the formative stage.

The yarn becomes cloth .. the cloth is cut … the beginning of the final form starts to come together …. but, even here, the garment in its finished form is still unseen … unknown … incomplete …

… although it is seen, known and complete in part … it is not yet what it will finally become … even in the Craftswoman’s eye!

The cloth and the binding come together and are joined by the woollen sleeves of a single yarn – a contrast of textures and colour.

The garment is complete … yet In/Complete …

… the Craftswoman’s original intention was for it to have a big sweeping turtle neck … but something shifted and changed within her and her thoughts changed and the garment became Complete in it’s finished form …

… BUT … the Craftswoman is not yet finished!

She will go on to craft a loose cowl … a separate piece that can added or removed as the seasons shift … making the garment more flexible and more adaptable than perhaps was ever her intent … or even in her wildest imagination for what might become of that yarn when she first saw it … held it … began to dream for what it might be.

Then it will be complete … perhaps for a season … perhaps for ever … perhaps in time it will again be unpicked and repurposed … but for now … it is In/Complete.

And so I am reminded of Father … “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him” …

… and I am struck that the clay had became marred … even in the expert potter’s hand … BUT … he unpicked and repurposed it … as seemed best to him …. and I wonder … what became of that pot … what was its final form in that season … did it become something else in a different season … what was its In/Complete journey?

I also am In/Complete. Being unpicked. Being skilfully repurposed.