What’s in a name?

I never liked my own name when I was growing up. Other friends’ names seemed much ‘cooler’ and less old fashioned. I knew Rachel was a name in the Bible and that didn’t help. I wished I had a name like Mandy, Sally or even Jackie and worst of all I didn’t even have a middle name. I guess my parents ran out of ideas by the time they got to number five! So upset by this omission, I gave myself a middle name and for a few years I was ‘Rachel Mandy Reay’ – if anyone asked. To cap it all one teenage boyfriend told me my surname didn’t have enough syllables to be respectable. His was Buchanan!

Giving out or choosing names is a big responsibility. As I grew up Rachel didn’t seem such a bad name – I got used to it. Over the years I have puzzled over names for pets, followed by the joy of picking names for our own children. This was even more complicated as the names had to be agreed by two of us and they mustn’t include names of former boyfriends or girlfriends…

One thing I’ve never done until recently is give a name to a house. All our homes had numbers, although the last one also had a name. It was called ‘The White House’ – not because it had large pillars or an American flag but because it was painted white. But after we’d sandblasted the paint back down to red bricks the name didn’t fit anymore, so we just stuck with the number.

This Spring after a long search we bought a new home in Devon. It’s not a new house, but it’s new to us. It isn’t even a house really – it’s a barn. After several weeks of trailing back and forth and working on the garden and setting up the furnishings, we often referred to it as ‘the Barn’ and we could have simply called it that. But we wanted to invest a little more of ourselves, our hopes, dreams and history into this home, which we hope will be a place to welcome friends and family and even strangers.

We had several evenings of brainstorming names and batting them around for views from the family. ‘Farmer’s Den’ was ruled out early on and so were many popular ‘seaview’ options. After all it is a barn so we decided that should be in the name. We talked about our dreams and what was at the heart of all the journeys we’ve been on so far as a couple and as a family. We love wild places and wild activities, we like space and freedom and we love God. When the name was first mentioned it was so obvious, we knew it was right. Wild Goose Barn was chosen.

Why Wild Goose Barn? Here’s a bit of thinking behind the name, with thanks to a diligent researcher Simon Farmer.

Wild geese are inspiring birds. They can live to 30 years or more. They travel huge distances in migration and are often seen in ‘V’ formation. Geese are flocking birds reflecting a sense of community. This is something we’ve been enjoying in this special part of Devon with the local village, the church and the friendship in the Dolphin Inn. It was here we met a friendly agricultural engineer who came to help us with our ageing mower, while others passed on tips about the best wild swimming spots and generally made us feel at home.

When a Goose flies, its wings create ‘uplift’ for the bird following. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock actually adds 71% greater flying range than if a bird was on its own. Whenever a Goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and so quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the Goose immediately in front. When the lead Goose gets tired it rotates back into the formation and another Goose flies at the point position. Finally, while geese fly in formation they make quite a noise sometimes as they honk from behind. This isn’t just a random noise but these sounds are their way of encouraging those up front to keep going and keep up their speed.

Devon has wild geese passing through and shortly after choosing the name we spotted a flock of geese flying in formation one evening. We watched as they changed course and flew directly overhead to continue their journey towards the sea into the setting sun. It was almost as if they were giving us a fly past of approval.

In the old days domesticated geese would have been kept around the barn. The Greylag is the ancestor of most domesticated geese. It is the largest and bulkiest of the wild geese native to UK and Europe.
‘Greylag’ either means “grey-legged” or “grey-laggard”, that is late, last or slow to migrate, or in other words, a loiterer or as we like to think just plain ‘laid back’.

Living near the sea, we’ve become accustomed to a deep sense of rhythm, especially the daily ebb and flow of the tide. And in the surrounding countryside the changing seasons are a part of life too, as farmers plough the fields, scatter seeds and gather the harvest. Migrating birds, nesting swallows all lead to this same sense of rhythm.

The Wild Goose is a symbol going back to Celtic times. In 500 AD the Celts developed a strong sense of spiritual rhythm living by the sea in places like Lindisfarne on Holy Island in Northumberland, Iona in the western isles of Scotland, parts of Wales, Ireland and the South West. And it was here in Iona and then Lindisfarne that Christianity first came to the British Isles. The Wild Goose in Celtic Christianity is traditionally aligned to the Holy Spirit although it can’t actually be proved. It is said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 8). In Celtic tradition unlike the dove of peace, the wild goose fired up the mind and soul with song and dance and reveries of beauty. The Wild Goose is all about a spirit of adventure.

We hope Wild Goose Barn will live up to its name and be a place for coming together while offering a base for exploration and adventure. We’d like everyone who stays to receive a renewal of inner strength or ‘uplift’ as they gather with friends and family for adventures along our beautiful wild coastline.
To find out more or if you want to book a stay click here.


4 Mugs and a mix-up

If you’ve ever fallen out with someone over something pretty insignificant, you may sympathise with my weekend and smile.

The love of my life has been away a bit lately. Nothing unusual. It just means that there isn’t always time to fill him in on the little details of the previous week. Scanning through a bank statement he wondered about a larger than average amount spent at Laura Ashley. The largest item had turned out to be unsuitable and would be returned, but the other four I was very pleased with.
“I bought some mugs.” I announced.
“Mugs? For £18…?”
Yes, the four mugs did cost £18 in total, but they were in fact half price and had a further 20 per cent off in the sale. Why couldn’t he see they were a bargain?
“But we don’t need any more mugs…”
How can anyone have too may mugs? It was a lost cause – I thought. And these were particularly pretty ones. It wasn’t a decision I was going to regret, but we weren’t going to agree. Not that evening!

The weekend in Devon sped on and what with gardening, window cleaning and a swim in the sea. The mugs had almost been forgotten. We enjoyed a trip to the Dolphin pub and a take away fish and chips with our lovely new neighbours. Still, the mugs kept getting a little mention here and there.
“It would be good to buy a new x… but we can’t now because you’ve spent all the money on mugs…” You know the score.

The morning we were due to leave and just as the final bit of hoovering was being completed ready for our first holiday guests, the door slammed and someone emerged with a very dark look. Surely no mugs had been involved? Whatever it was – the news looked bleak.

The water meter for our house, which is on the main road two fields away, had been checked and it seemed either there was a leak or we were using an incredible amount of water. The lone private water pipe hidden beneath the field of wheat beside the barn suddenly seemed threatening. If it had sprung a leak there would be no way to fix it until after the harvest… What if there was no water for our guests? How would they find the leak? Would our insurance cover us? What if it happened again?  How much would it cost?
The journey home was grim. We were both convinced the previous reading two months earlier had been in the 500s, although we didn’t have it with us. The new one registered more than 700 and we felt sure we were clocking up a phenomenal reading. That amount of water was going to be very expensive. We might as well have been filling a swimming pool. Neither of us could see a happy outcome. I didn’t even mention the mugs.

A few hours later we arrived back home and began to unpack. As I reloaded the fridge a joyous face emerged round the kitchen door waving a piece of paper. He’d found the water bill with the last reading at 700 and something! Amazing! What a relief. Time for gin and tonics all round. Neither of us could believe how we’d got in such a mix up over our figures and convinced ourselves of the worst. Everything was looking rosy.

Finally it was time to show off the new mugs… after all what’s £18 between friends?

Sometimes all we need is a little perspective!