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.

Scars with a story

I am scarred, bruised and a little bit achy today. It’s been caused by a combination of activities on boats and bikes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Were you one of those children whose knees were always bleeding or scabbed? I was. I also remember standing by the sink on numerous occasions and that awful sting when someone tries to dab them with a paper towel. Most people grow out of this. But my legs and arms chart a tale of adventures over the years, which have included a long white scar on my arm from being caught on the anchor chain of a yacht, an angry red mark on my shin from a mini cycling accident and more recently another deep scar on the other shin from tripping on ancient stone steps in Cyprus.

There have been a lot of these kinds of incidents over the years. The most memorable or dramatic from my childhood was on a cycling expedition in Kent with my brother and some friends. We were hurtling down narrow winding lanes, screaming with excitement, when suddenly a Tjunction appeared in front of us and my breaks failed to stop me. I flew off the bike and wound up with my chin impaled on a barbed wire fence and quite a lot of blood around. After being lifted off the fence, dusted down and told to ‘man-up’, I cycled slowly home and went to find my mother at the bottom of the garden. She was doing something with vegetables and I was looking for sympathy and shock. I told her the dramatic tale. She chuckled, barely glanced at my rapidly healing chin, and said it didn’t look too bad. This must be where I get my sympathetic maternal approach.

Last weekend I tested out my sailing skills in a little dinghy, which turned out to be great fun but very slippery. After sliding around in the bottom of the boat as I tried to tack the bruises were accumulating and then on a rather unplanned speedy arrival at the shore I tried to jump out neatly and grab the boat before it hit the side. After slipping on the mud and rocks as I slid out and spectacularly failing to stop the boat, I found both my knees were bleeding when I stumbled ashore.

IMG_2488

Yesterday two of us cycled round the path on the edge of the island. It was bumpy and very narrow at places – there was even a section a bit like a velodrome where we had to cycle fast to stay upright on a concrete bank which sloped away to the water. I thought like an Olympian, looked straight ahead and kept peddling fast. I hadn’t fallen off for several miles until we reached a gate by a marina where we had to push the bikes for a few metres. After inspecting the boats for sale I got back on as the gravel path widened and within a few seconds the wheels skidded from beneath me and I was lying on the ground with the bike on top of me. My cycle buddy was standing a few feet away holding his bike and laughing. “I saw the gravel and decided to get off,” he said… More matching scars and scrapes on my shins to join the bruises and scabs on my knees.

Now what shall I do today to make my arms blend in… mowing the lawn or cutting trees?

IMG_2396