Friday, July 3, 2009

Blessing Blackburn ~ Installment 4

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Note: Please click on image to see slide show with more photos in a larger size at your own pace

Friday, 7/3/09
2:15 pm in Brooklyn, New York

Following our Wednesday visit to the West Lothian Local History Library, we returned to the Happy Valley and to our conversation with Alison, who met us there in a semi-quiet corner of the pub. Refreshed by cold diet Cokes on this warm Blackburn day, we continued to dream a bit with Alison about ways for fans who love Susan to demonstrate their love to her village, too. We showed her some of the concrete ideas that people are willing to offer to Blackburn. Of course, we are all going to buy Susan’s CDs and DVDs and eagerly await her appearances, but because Susan has extraordinarily inspired so many of us, we want to do something extra, too. So Blackburn is a focus of our good will.

We asked Alison if we might attend the evening meeting of the Blackburn Community Council, not to say much but just to be there as visible representatives of these ideas for blessing Blackburn. We did not want to disrupt the agenda, so Alison suggested that we arrive about 45 minutes after the start of the Council meeting. She noted that useful meetings of that sort never need to last more than two hours, and we agreed!

We also asked Alison how she had gotten so involved in Blackburn community issues, to the point of being Chairman of the Blackburn Community Council. She didn’t really know how that had happened! Early on, she had been involved with a tenants’ group, then one issue after another, and often several at once. But of course she gave credit to many other community workers in various organizations that seek to benefit Blackburn residents. We were privileged to meet Alison and to encourage her and the other public servants in the village. Blackburn has had hard times, too many times, but always there has been a community spirit that keeps them together, striving for something better despite the obstacles.

After Alison left, we spent a few more minutes talking with our pubster pals. Jackie telephoned a taxi company that we had seen around town, arranging for our early morning departure to Edinburgh Airport. The cost would be twenty-five pounds, and we realized that we had approximately enough UK money left, but not enough for “just in case” expenses. Del especially dislikes being caught without cash (ewwww, shame!), and although we had exchanged some more dollars for pounds at the Blackburn Post Office earlier in the day (at a better rate than at JFK), we decided also to try the ATM on our way for a bite to eat before the meeting.

In suspense, we wondered if our little debit card would be rejected in the same way that Simon’s credit card had been denied after his expensive meal with Piers recently. “The greatest moment of my life,” Piers had said. “Now what’ll we do,” we might have said – except that the ATM neatly accepted our card and pin number, then quickly dispensed pounds while debiting dollars. And forever in our bank statement will be the record of cash received at an ATM in Blackburn, West Lothian.

Just across the small mall from the ATM was the Scotmid co-operative grocery store, which allows anyone – even Americans – to shop there. We knew that Susan was a lifelong customer, and in addition to finding something for our dinner we thought it would be fun to see what sorts of American products might be on the shelves. In other words, would it be total culture shock for Susan to visit the USA, or would she at least have had the opportunity to get accustomed to some of our products? I’m sure she won’t be in American grocery stores often, not even with Simon’s credit card, but we can dream, can’t we?

Several major American name brands were represented at the Scotmid, including a particular favorite of my husband’s – Del Monte. We cruised the aisles and took some photos, and finally a manager asked what I was doing. When I explained that we were Susan’s fans from America, looking for American products, he said he thought it was something like that and cheerfully turned away. I was careful to examine the cat food selection, because you know how finicky cats can be, especially when taking private jets to stay in five-star hotels in world-class cities.

For our last meal in Blackburn, we settled on a packaged egg and cress sandwich, potato chips, a heavy malt pastry, a diet Coke, some wrapped chocolate eggs and a small bag of Smarties. It was the American junk food experience, in Scotland. Well, we knew there would be some wholesome meals on the flight the next day, so this was our moment. We ate once more in the small mall, and said final farewells to our new friend, the security guard who was constantly on duty to keep kids and perhaps others in line.

The Council meeting was held in the large community centre in which the Support Our Susan parties took place, a few hundred yards behind the small mall. The man at the desk was expecting us, and guided us to one of the classrooms at the end of a hallway. The Council members had already considered some of what we had discussed with Alison, and graciously gave us an opportunity to explain a bit more and to answer questions. They were very appreciative and properly deliberative. We all wanted to make sure that the people closest to these matters would welcome any next steps that might be taken. We left the Blessing Blackburn portfolio of fan messages with them, and departed hoping they could finish their meeting within the ideal two hours. Again, we were so thankful for the quality of people and leaders in Blackburn, Susan’s home village.

Back in our room for our last night at the Happy Valley Hotel, we mostly packed and then I prepared another batch of photos and a few paragraphs for my blog – anticipating that the next wi-fi availability for thousands of miles would be at Edinburgh Airport. In the morning, the taxi arrived as scheduled and it was bye bye Blackburn – until we meet again.

What did we really learn in Blackburn? What are some of the results? I want to spend a little more time meditating, and even praying, about that. I also want to give a few things an opportunity to develop more fully before saying much more. Please come back for my next Blessing Blackburn blog entry in the next day or two! In the meantime, why not start planning your own trip to Blackburn? May you be blessed and be a blessing!


  1. Oh Leslie I WILL be back for the next installment!! Loved this! Your descriptions are so vivid Feel like I'm right there with you. Really I can't thank you and Del enough for sharing your journey with all of us! Kaye

  2. As good as ever, and even funnier. I like the cat food commentary.... GBY-DC-ARILY

  3. Leslie,

    How do you do it? You remember every important detail. I love the way you interject Susan's little sayings every chance you get. You've made us fall more in love with Blackburn. It certainly was everything I thought and so much more.

    Thanks for all your hard work You are so gifted in writing. and "that's not an advert", it's a fact.

    God Bless you and of course Blacburn.

  4. Leslie,

    We've been following your blog here at NBC in London. We're wondering what you're up to now? Are you trying to plan a tour of Blackburn? Please email me as soon as you receive this to update me on your progress. We're very interested.

    - Adrienne
    NBC London Bureau Intern