Sunday, 18 December 2011

Making Memories

So we are in almost full on Christmas mode. Even Head of House has begun to join in a little. Fruit of Womb One is back from York - although we have haven't seen that much of him so far. Places to go, people to see etc. Strictly has finished and with it - It Takes Two so I have no excuse now not to drag my bottom off the settee and actually get on with some work in the evenings.
I continue to harp on and on about Christmas being another time to make memories with family and friends. If you are arty farty and organised you can scrapbook or embroider scenes from your hearth. I am none of these things unfortunately so we had to look at other ways to build memories. For us it happened by accident. When our kids were little, we bought them a copy of the DVD of Father Christmas. We all loved it, we sang together at the end. We all debated the controversy because you got to see Father Christmas' lovely, biteable cartoon bottom. Then, when Christmas was over - we packed it away with the decorations so no one could watch it until next Christmas. Over the years we have added other films. There's Scrooged. It's just nasty enough to be funny, Karen Allen was never more beautiful and there is a brilliant frying pan smack in the face moment. However, the best version of A Christmas Carol is without doubt the Muppet Version. It has lines that rival the best of Dickens - "Light the Lamp: Not the Rat!" and it is undoubtedly Michael Caine's finest cinematic hour. Forget Hannah and her Sisters and Cider House Rules. This was the role that should have delivered the Oscar. We have been known to sing along to this as well which frightens guests who haven't seen it coming but there you are. There's also The Bishop's Wife. Cary Grant as an ice skating angel and David Niven as a downtrodden vicar. Perfect. Very difficult to get hold of. Ours is a Korean version. We have to take the sub-titles off. (They are Korean by the way not English) There's also Miracle on 34th Street. Unusually, we prefer the new version because the little girl is lovely and I personally DO believe that Richard Attenborough is Kris Kringle. Still - you pays your money and you takes your choice. So you get the idea. All the DVDs go back into the decoration box after Christmas so there is no cheating until next year. Then, every Christmas, we sit and watch them together. Not all in one go you understand.
So this way we create memories and I don't have to crochet or anything. Obviously, the offspring are a bit bigger now than when we first started doing this and it can get a bit more difficult to fit everything in but it works for us.

On a completely different note , for lots of complicated reasons, Head of House and myself did an Anglican Carol Service this year. They certainly give good choir - that's a fact but I prefer things a little more raucous myself - just a bit.

So, on that note, that's it for a couple of weeks.Next Sunday will be Christmas Day and I'll be up to my pants in gravy, custard and Nana so you are on your own.

Have a brilliant Christmas. Indeed a super-duper Christmas.
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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Decs



Yep, have given in and they are up. Christmas is a time for re-meeting old friends. By that I mean decorations. You can just see our huge gold cherub which hangs in a dreamy Christmassy way from the ceiling. We love it. Not everyone does. Sample conversation with my mother.
Mum: Who bought you that? (Points at Angel)
HOH: We did.
Mum: Oh. (Pauses to reflect) Do you like it?

Anyway - wouldn't do for us all to like the same thing - as they say up north. Lots going on in the run up to Christmas but very little of it of interest to you I would think. Still have two weeks of work to go although I keep thinking it is only one so keep getting rude awakening jolt when I look properly at the calendar.

Am writing this while Head of House is repairing my attempt at putting up decorations yesterday while he was at work. I try to help with decking the halls etc. but inevitably HOH has to come home and do them properly. He attempts to make them right in a kind way as surreptitiously as possible but it is quite difficult to get a step-ladder out without me noticing. (Some would say that the fact that I DIDN'T actually get a step ladder out is the reason why the decorations need sorting out. You may have a point)

Fruit of Womb Two has been out on her own and bought her dress for church Christmas Do. She has done this without my advice or input this year, because apparently, last year when I helped her to choose it, she went out feeling like she looked a bit old. Wounding.

Tried to go and see Woody Allen Film this week but COULDN'T GET IN BECAUSE IT WAS FULL! I would just like to say that Head of House and I have stuck with Woody Allen through thick and thin - sometimes against our better judgement i.e. "Soon-Yi-gate". We saw The Curse of the Jade Scorpion don't you know (which I quite enjoyed actually) and, although we didn't make it totally to the end of Match Point, we did at least try. Now all these fairweather jonnies re-attach themselves because this film is supposedly a return to form. Well good manners would suggest that you get to the back of the queue. This is just not acceptable.

Fruit of Womb One is returning on Friday. This is very very lovely obviously and only slightly complicated by the fact that he originally said he was coming home on Saturday and we have selfishly arranged for friends to come round. Actually this won't make a difference because he won't be home until the early hours. If you are reading this boy - be warned - me and your dad are gettting seriously in the mood for hugs and kissy lips for you!!!

So why am I boring you with all this trivia? Let me explain with a story. A moth and a woodlouse were walking along the road. Suddenly, they see a beautiful bright light in the sky in the far distance.
"Let's go and see what it is!" says the woodlouse.
"Nah." relies the moth. "I've got so much to do. Washing, cleaning, working. You go and I'll follow."
But the moth never did get round to following and many days later he met the woodlouse as he returned.
"Well" the moth asked. "How was it?"
"It was am-az-ing!" replied the woodlouse. "I have never seen anything like it! The light we saw was a bright star and under the star was a stable. In the stable was a baby surrounded by shepherds, who were saying that the baby was going to be the saviour of the world. And I saw angels singing and praising God. It was truly awesome."
The moth was bitterly disappointed. He would have loved to see such a sight. And now whenever you see a moth you notice that it flies desperately towards any light that it sees - just in case it gets to see the baby Jesus.
True Story. Scientfic actually. OK, even if it isn't wholly true the sentiment is important - don't let day to day happenings good or bad take you eyes off the prize and the meaning of this spectacular season. Have a great week.
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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ceremonies

I am writing this with a head full of cotton wool which is how I normally feel after a migraine that would fell a horse so please excuse any extra incoherence. It's been an "interesting" weekend and just wanted to share a couple of bits with you - do what you will with them.
Went to see a wedding on Saturday. Working in a church has meant that I have been to a lot of weddings as I think I have said before but I have to tell you that Saturday was one of the loveliest. There are a lot of things that Christians don't do well. No time or inclination to give you a list here but when Christians do a wedding well - they really do it well. A Christmas wedding with evergreen on the pews and a huge twinkling Christmas tree in the corner, AND we got to sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." which was lovely. Everyone sang with gusto as well which is usually confined to Christian weddings because everyone knows the tunes. (I went to wedding where we sang - barely -  "We plough the fields and scatter." I thought it was because we were in Wales and close to the land and all that but apparently not. It was because the bride and groom had thought that we would all be singing Whitney Houston songs and when they were forced to pick a hymn, that was the only one they knew.)
Anyway - back to the lovely wedding. I don't know if it was because the bride and groom are dancers and all their friends were there but the whole congregation was scoring very high on the beauty-ness-ometer. As Head of House put it "There is a lot of lusciousness in here today" which was very true. I love the West Country sometimes - lots of men with longer hair than their girlfriends and yet - somehow, down here it works. Then the bride walks in and she hasn't come dressed as meringue - she has come in beautiful vintage and looks stunning. She is followed by her bridesmaids who, as my grandad would have said, were "total Bobby Dazzlers" I liked the fact that both parents stood to give her away. I liked the way the groom looked suspiciously at us all when we were supposed to let everyone know if we could think of a reason why they shouldn't be married and I LOVED how, when they had kissed after the ceremony he grabbed hold of the bride and hugged her in a spontaneous flash of joy that she was actually his. The whole thing thrilled the living daylights out of me. The bride is actually the daughter of some friends of ours who have been very kind to us as we have been our most wobbly as we moved churches. We were so pleased to see them have such a lovely day.
On a slightly different note, I have spent a content hour this afternoon sobbing gently. Our church put together an hour for people to remember those they had lost. Especially as Christmas is approaching like a runaway train and it can be very difficult for those who have lost someone. I sat quietly and thought about my bro and how much I missed him. As we had arrived, we had been given beautiful long stemmed white roses which we were invited to put on the huge cross at the front of the church and then to light a candle. It was lovely. The sermon was a bit deep for me to be honest and I found my thoughts wandering to the story I heard on "Rev" of all places this week about Heaven,
There were some little bugs who lived underwater. One day one of the bugs crawled up a branch and out of the water. There he was surprised to see that he turned into a beautiful dragon-fly who soared into the sky with a freedom he had never known before. He was so happy he wanted to go back and tell his friends how wonderful life was out of the water but when he tried to get to them, he found that he couldn't reach them and get back under the water. This made him sad, until he realised that one day they too would crawl up the branch and join him and experience heaven with him,
Of course - I can't give you chapter and verse on that one but it feels right to me. And now having spent that hour with God thinking on these things, I guess I am ready to start Christmas. Tree is being bought tomorrow so all systems go.
Just wanted to leave you with the hymn we sang. For anyone who struggles with Christmas.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Worried?

Bah humbug! I think Christmas is great. I have a few personal reasons for getting a bit emotional when it is here but I love the idea that this is the day (Note the use of the word "day" not month or epoch) when we celebrate the beginning of the adventure. Christ with us. Love it. But for goodness sake it is still only November. I have started shopping and planning (despite presence of Head of House tutting loudly at Elton John played in the shops for umpteenth time) and I think that's ok too, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. It hasn't started yet. Doesn't it cheapen it a bit lengthening Christmas to six weeks? I know I'm proabably on my own but I'm still at the stage where I'm making a list, I'm checking it twice and then I'M GETTING ON WITH SOMETHING ELSE. Sooo many other things happening before then - mock exams, craft fayre, wedding to watch, meetings to attend, Fruit of Womb Two's weekend away, good Woody Allen at the Arts Centre,decorating to do etc. etc. None of these Christmas related and, for me, none of them to be sidelined because Christmas is only a month away. And when they are done there will be Return of Fruit of Womb One, end of school term, food shop and food prep, visit of relatives, Work Christmas Do,  Carol Service, excetera, excetera - (said in Yul Brynner voice) all to be enjoyed as part of the general festivities. Like I said, I love it, all in good time.
While I am moaning though, has anyone else found it difficult to find decent Nativity Christmas Cards to send? It's like we are Puritans or something and are not allowed to represent the image of the Lord. Your choice is Leonardo de Vinci like oil painting or a card done by Mexican children for charity who are at least catching a bit of what Christmas is about. However - try getting one from M & S or Paperchase. Fat chance.

Rant over. This is what I wanted to talk about.This is Lucy. Lucy is our dog. She used to be my brother's dog and now she lives with us. For the past twelve months she has lived here quite happily. At least, we think she is happy. She eats, she runs, she plays and, given the opportunity, she chews expensive trainers. She only has two clouds on her otherwise idyllic doggy horizon. One is our other dog Morecambe. He didn't ask for her, doesn't want her and to be quite frank, wouldn't miss her, were she to win the doggy lottery and move to the Bahamas. Lucy has dealt with her rejection issues very successfully and shows her contempt by eating from Morecambe's bowl, lying in his cage, pinching the best spot on the settee and giving him fleas. (Dealt with now - never again - nightmare!)
Her other problem is - her nerves. Or Fear. Lucy is a very jumpy dog. I have no  idea where she gets it from. She has never been beaten. Occasionally she has been yelled at. (see trainers/chewing/expensive above) But that's the most that has ever happened. Lucy, however, is like a grainy black and white film of a World War 1 veteran suffering from shell shock. A tiny hand movement to scratch an itchy nose can send her scuttling from her chair in fright as if she was about to get the back of my hand (as we say up North) Lucy jumps at the noise a margarine top makes when it is snapped off the tub. She even jumps at the little noise made by an early morning slightly pumpy bottom as someone moves around the kitchen putting the kettle on. (Or so I have been told) Too much detail there - sorry.
You get the idea though. Lucy has a good doggy life to live  here. She lives in a family that loves her (well except for Morecambe). We have open fires, long walks, comfy cushions and people who really like her (except for Morecambe) and still she spends each day scared.
I have to tell you, I can really identify with her. I know what I know what I know and yet, every day I stuggle not to fear. I disappoint myself with it. When I was ill a good few years back I promised myself that I would never be scared of rubbish stuff again. You think that when really scary stuff happens, it will make you immune to worry but it hasn't. Daft stuff - What will people say if I do that? Is that idea any good? What if I try that and it's a disaster?  If I am not careful it can cripple me. I don't try new things. I don't call people in case they are thinking "What does she want now?" (They don't seem to be thinking that at all by the way) I can lose all sense of perpective if I'm not careful.
The cure? Well it's a work in progress as you will have guessed but this is the place I keep coming back to.

Isaiah 41:8
 'You're my servant, serving on my side. I've picked you. I haven't dropped you.' Don't panic. I'm with you. There's no need to fear for I'm your God. I'll give you strength. I'll help you. I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.

Very rough translation for my purposes -  "Man up!  You are not on your own. Do what needs to be done and see what you can achieve. You don't need to provide the strength - God does that. You'll only regret it if you don't"

Realise that Greek scholars will be spinning in graves now (at least those that are dead) but have to tell you - it works for me.


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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Bigger Picture Thinking

No! This is good! Honest! Come back! I understand that for some of you who attended any youth meetings in the eighties, the title of this blog will have brought you out in a cold sweat. I too attended those meetings and they are etched in my mind like a Terrible Thing sold from the Terrible Thing Sale at the Terrible Thing Shop (to paraphrase Blackadder)
These were the days when people leading from the platform thought it was the height of Spirit Filled Worship to turn to complete strangers and yell "MY CUP RUNNETH OVER TODAY SISTER!" (It wasn't) Or that we would all be released by turning to the person next to us and giving them a back-rub (We weren't) or that turning up with no sermon prepared would give the Spirit room to move amongst us. (It didn't)
These were nervous times for me because my then boyfriend who was one day going to be blessed enough to become Head of House would often feel that some of the more outlandish suggestions from the front merited an answer from the congregation. (A loud answer) I can feel the prickles of embarassment up and down my neck as I am typing. I know I am a miserable sort but I am happy in my misery and to be fair - I was never the most enthusiastic youth leader.
Anyway - to get back to bigger picture thinking. Have a look at the photo at the top. Darn purdy ain't it? (Puts hands on hips in manner of dancer from Oklahoma) Lovely sweet photo of a squirrel in our park. La la la. However, if I knew how to work the camera properly and was able to pan out and take a photo of the bigger picture (see what I did there?) you would be able to see that this photo should be re-titled. "The Smell of Fear". Because at the bottom of this tree two Jack Russells are snarling, barking and trying to climb up and reach said squrrel and tear it limb from limb. In fact, if it weren't for Head of House doing sterling work by continually dragging them away - I am convinced that they would have worked out how to give each other a leg up to reach the poor thing.
Bigger picture thinking. Accepting that not everything is exactly as it seems at first. That person who really gets on your nerves by behaving so appallingly - is there a possibility that there is something going on in their life that you know nothing about? Something that means they can just about keep their head above water enough to funtion and not much else? That person with the  dodgy lifestyle choices who is never going to get on the front cover of "Really Good Lovely Christian People" magazine. Maybe she was making even worse lifestyle choices a year ago and is, in fact making real progress. That person who seems to go out of their way to make your life a misery? Maybe so miserable in their own skin and consumed with jealousy because they feel you are so comfortable in yours. (Believe it or not) I think you probably get the idea.
If I said now that it took me a long time to come round to the idea that its not all about me and how I perceive things, then if you listened closely you would be able to hear angels laughing snorty laughs because Heaven knows very well that I am nowhere near that level of self awareness. But, in the spirit of
Matthew 7:12
So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..

If you want people's understanding of your bigger picture even if you can't say what it is, then we have to try and think that others may have an unseen bigger picture as well and act accordingly. It may mean not being judgemental. It may mean counting to ten and smiling. It may mean keeping my your big trap shut as they say in the Royal Family. Kindness - that's the key.
I would just like to point out that no furry animals were harmed during the production of this blog. In fact, after several hours of specialist squirrel counselling, we were able to prize its little claws off the tree one by one and we are expecting it to come down by Christmas. Probably.

I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to "rejoice" as much as by anything else - C. S. Lewis
Have a rejoicy week everyone. (I think you will find it IS a real word actually.)
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Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Normal Week


If you have come here for spiritual support, this is probably not the week. Sorry. Ever have one of those weeks when you check that you are not a week's holiday missing? It has been a week severely lacking in glittering celebrity moments and more than once I have found myself thinking "I bet Liberace never had to live like this." I think we've all been there.
This week fruit of Womb Two set off for school on Tuesday only for me to receive a call from the school nurse about an hour later. "She doesn't feel well and she says she feels sick. Actually she is a strange colour." I'm at work with no transport but it's ok because I can phone her dad. Except HE HASN'T TURNED HIS MOBILE ON - AGAIN. Head of House doesn't really like mobile phones - that's ok. Far be it from me to lecture anyone about living in this century rather than one where people people wear crinolines, play the piano as their only entertainment and Colin Firth dives into pools. He is entitled to his foibles. We all are. EXCEPT WHEN IT INCONVENIENCES ME! So, after using my Hiawatha-like skills to track him down, he collects the girl and she clearly isn't well. Apparently, we later find out that half the population of the school is evacuating their lunches and the school nurse is getting a bit wobbly with it all.  About this time I begin to feel a bit head-achy and nauseous. It's going to be a long week.
Trip to see The Cloonster in Ides of March is derailed for this week at least. Ah well. Head of House has been on nights all week which is a bit weird. I have this fantasy of going to bed alone in posh PJs with hot chocolate (don't know why - don't really like it) and a copy of Shakespeare. In reality, I am woken at 2.30am as mobile buzzes. (Email from Next  2.30am- what is that about?) I have taken mobile upstairs for extra alarm insurance in case mine doesn't work. When I wake up - I momentarily think that, as I always expected would one day happen, I am being attacked by giant spider which is sitting on my face. Turns out to be the Georgette Heyer Murder Mystery I was reading when I fell asleep.As I said. A Normal but somehow Long week.
Fruit of Womb One is settling in  in York. I have to tell you that usually I ask permission to share things my kids do with you as it's only fair I think. However- he's not here so "le titty - i'll est tough" as they sometimes say in France. So the church he is going to in York is St Michael Le Belfry. Very famous, Spirit led, student friendly church. One of the things it is most famous for is being so close to York Minster - about five yards away. All I'll say is that two of them couldn't find it - after having visited once already.  York Minster. I'm fairly certain you can see it from space!! Young people eh?
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Sunday, 6 November 2011

God's Invisibles


Autumn is a bit spectacular here at the moment. Warm and sunny. I have given in and started making a Christmas List. A bit. Not pressies - just all the stuff I have to do. Few more visitors than we are used to this year. Looking forward to it but I have to bear in mind that the takeaway won't be open if I have cooking disasters so must plan ahead (for once). Head of House is looking at Master Plan to make dining table bigger by putting battons on big piece of wood to put over our table. He can be a bit strange when he's been on nights.
I have no idea what is behind this. Maybe too much Cadbury's Wholenut but I have been thinking about Uncle George. When I first became a Christian, Uncle George was one of the first Christians I met. He wasn't really anyone's uncle. I don't think he had much in the way of family but everyone called him Uncle George. In the olden days, when you first became a Christian it was practically compulsory to be route marched into the children's work at church and told to help. I remember I was fifteen and instructed to be a teacher in "Sunshine Corner" (You young Christians these days - you don't know you are born I am telling you) For those of you who are not well versed in the ways of "Sunshine Corner" let me explain. Well I can't really. I have a vague memory of about twenty smallish children as I led them around a pile of chairs telling them about the Battle of Jerico. I do remember that, at the appointed time, we shouted for all the children to bang drums and tambourines and blow into their recorders as loudly as they could. At this point my friend pulled on a string attached to a chair in the middle of the pile and - well - the walls came tumbling down as they say. It was a lot more spectacular than we had imagined to be honest but I don't think any children were actually hospitalised. I'm almost certain about that. Probably. Don't try it at home.
Uncle George played the accordian for Sunshine Corner. Sing along now

"Sunshine Corner - oh its jolly fine.
It's for children under ninety nine
All are welcome - seats are given free.
Lichfield(Insert name of any place in the whole world!) Sunshine Corner is the place for me"

Simpler times....
So George would come to Sunshine Corner every Tuesday evening. He would be wearing a suit that had seen better days - his half mast pants a-flapping as he rushed in. His shirt would be a bit grubby and when you are fifteen and too cool for school - you barely gave someone like George a second thought. Yet George never missed. He was totally reliable, even though, to be honest, he didn't like children that much. When it came to our National Conference every year George would give people free lifts to Minehead in his Reliant Robin. Driving wasn't a particular strong point as I remember. They used to say that George had never been in an accident but that he had seen hundreds! But, if George said he would be there, he would be there. I think we all thought he was a bit odd. Not sinister odd, just George. The truth is that a lot of what happened in church could not have happened without him. But I don't think I ever saw him up front in church or leading anything. He just got on with it because he loved God. He was as invisible as wallpaper.
I was also reminded of another story that CS Lewis tells. If you are a CS Lewis expert and I haven't got this right, please accept my apologies in advance.
A man dies and goes to heaven. As he is being shown around by an angel. (And on your left is St Paul's mansion. You are welcome of course but call first - he can get very busy of an evening. That sort of thing) Suddenly they have to step back as a procession is coming towards them. The man can see that the lady in the procession must be a woman of great honour as the angels are making a great fuss of her. He bows his head in respect as she passes but can't resist winking one eye open to see who this great lady is. To his surprise he sees that he recognises her. Not as a great prophet or miracle worker but as a lady from his own church that he barely knew. She was, as he remarked to the angel, not a particularly important person. Why was she being honoured so?
The angel shrugged with some impatience and explained.
"You forget, God's standards are not the same as the world's standards. He measures things completely differently. She may not have torn up any trees in your judgement. Never got on the telly, never spoke at a conference, never sang on X Factor. Yet she lived a quiet life of kindness, servanthood and faithfulness. God will never overlook such things."
Sometimes, when Bette Midler is singing "From a Distance" and is bellowing
"GOD IS WATCHING! GOD IS WATCHING US FROM A DISTANCE!"
it can seem a little intimitating I know.
However, if you are feeling a little small, a little bit ignored as you go about your life and as you do your best. It can be a comfort to realise that God watches. He appreciates and He doesn't miss anything - not like the rest of us do sometimes. So be thou comforted as it proabably says in some translation somewhere. Have a biscuit and a cup of tea and a laugh at Kitty (as it almost certainly doesn't say in ANY translation) You are loved and appreciated.

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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wet

Blimey - I'm not saying it's been raining a lot round here but some bloke with a big boat is trying to coax Morecambe and Lucy on board. It's been half term all week here so daughter has been able to snuggle down every morning while shouting vague promises about finishing her essay on "The Crucible" under her door. We, as the breadwinners have been forced out into the rain every morning  - in my case only to find that the Community Transport users of Plymouth have looked out of the window and decided - "I don't think so thank you" - phoned us up, cancelled and gone back to their one bar fire, Flog It! and a nice cup of tea - as any sensible person would.
There was one particularly memorable morning when I had to walk the hounds before work. It was like God was tipping out celestial buckets over us and, you may not have realised this but it is a physical impossibility to walk two lunatic jacks while carrying a brolly and two poo bags. (The thing is, you can't hold the poo bags in the lead hand because they get tangled so you have to hold them in the brolly hand which means they are right under your nose and I am usually a bit delicate  for that kind of smell first thing)This meant some kind of hat was called for. So, creeping into daughter's room (not too quietly, why should she get all the lie ins?) I pinch a beret. I slam it on and launch myself into walk.
One of the many distressing things that happens when you get older is that you begin to look more and more ridiculous in young people's clothes. In this beret - daughter looks like something Johnny Depp would be chasing. I look like someone he would be chasing off his property. I don't suppose the parka hood pulled over it helped. Oh well, at least I kept my hair dry. It doesn't really matter what I look like as long as I am warm as my Auntie Vera used to say. I can't believe I just wrote that - she was a lady who had a drawer full of rain hats! I promised myself this would never happen to me!
My monthly magazine arrived today and it is the Christmas one. It has caused me to reflect how different my life (i.e. a REAL life) is from their target audience. Or maybe it's just me.
  1.  I read that Vintage is again very hot this year, especially when it comes to coats. This is good for me as it means that I can get last year's coat out of the cupboard under the stairs and after a bit of a brush down I will be hot to trot fashion wise.
  2. Eye make up will be smokey again so we will be needing new grey and black tones, mascara that can actually give me 4-D lashes and some shimmering highlighter to offset the greys. Excellent. In response to this, I will be giving my eyeliner (free with daughter's magazine - think it was called "Smack" or something) a bit of a sharpen.
  3. It's time to look at Christmas fashion. There was a nice article on dresses for the Christmas party and a smart casual look so "you can shine as brightly as any decoration" on Christmas Day. I may well need to shell out on some big knickers to wear under my faithful LBD. As for Christmas Day, trust me, the combination of a steamy kitchen, a mother examining the stuffing for onions - she can't do onions (Mum- it HAS got onions - it's very difficult to make without - you said you would do without stuffing - I KNOW it's not quite the same!) and various teenagers and dogs etc will make me quite shiny enough thank you.
  4. Christmas table decorations will be very natural and green this year. This may well mean another raid on the local graveyard to steal consecrated ivy. Is it wrong to steal from God's Garden? Does it not let us off that we are celebrating something lovely? I can't see God minding - he loves me.
Just remember sooo much of this stuff is nonsense. I love my magazine - it has nice stories and photos of celebrities buying wine gums but real people don't live like this. Do not let these people who are trying to sell things steal a second of your time making you worry that you are falling short of their ideal. (Breaking news - they are not kept awake by the fact that you and I may be a bit wrinkly, they are not really worried about you. They are, however thrilled skinny by the thought that you will put a £140 skin cream on your credit card) Real life is a gift - however messy. You should be dancin' - yeh. (apologies - Gibb Brothers)
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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Taking your time




Thanks very much to all those who have enquired about Eldest Fruit of Womb and his status in York. All seems to be settling down well now after a somewhat shaky start. Without going into details - just a few questions have to be asked I think about the drinking culture in Freshers' Week. Eldest FOW is no teetotaller but he found it all a bit full on.
However, it is much better now and he is especially enjoying the cut and thrust of political debate. I am hoping, however, that as study progresses debate will become more sophisticated. As far as I could make out, the last "debate" descended into something which more or less ended up with Eldest FOW shouting "Step Outside Posh Boy!" But I can't be sure. I wasn't there.
As for us who have been left here - the dogs keep looking out for him as you can see and Head of House and my good self feel a bit like one of those zombies you see on the telly who are dragging themselves around the place having an arm or a leg pulled off. Something is missing if you know what I mean. FOW 2 is missing the general jolliness of home life with a sibling but, I think, is secretly also enjoying watching the X Factor abuse free.
I think this is something that cannot be rushed. It's an important part of life and we can't expect to move to the next stage in life like the great Tommy Cooper - (Just like That! - I'm wasted here - I tell you)
I work full time and I'm a mum and a wife and a daughter and a Christian and a friend and a dog owner and, (if the mood takes me), a home maker as well as a writer and a walker and a reader and a film fan and a football fan (not so much today - 1-6? Are you on drugs?) Like you I suppose, I am always up for a short cut. Something to help me fit everything in but sometimes, things of quality need time - whether it's embroidering the Bayeux Tapestry or sitting and listening to a chum's problem.
Much as I would sometimes like to, I have learnt that I cannot short-cut my way through life if I want to create anything of value. Multi tasking is ok if you are talking about doing supermarket shopping while chatting to a mate about Nancy Del Whatsit in Strictly. It's not so good if you are talking about praying for something and only being able to fit any time alone with God when you are having a wee. Serious adjustments maybe called for there.
Much as I love doing this blog, I also know that in ten years time, it will probably be just static or something. If I want something more permanent, I have to find the time to slow down and create it with care. Because when we create something whether its a book, or a friendship, a lifestyle or a cushion cover, we want it to be worth something. We want it to be lovely and to enrich the lives of those who come into contact with it.
This film clip bit at the end is getting a bit regular now. Don't expect it every week! But this does illustrate so well what I am trying to say. This cake is not what you would call made from scratch. I think even her mother would say it's not the most appetising thing ever. If you are a particular fan of this American TV cook, please don't be offended. Apparently, this lady is the American Queen of the shortcut. Hmm. Cake Anyone?

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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Never forgetting..

It's all a bit religious here at Hargreaves' Towers this week so don't say I didn't warn you. If you don't fancy it don't worry. It's not been the easiest week as you can imagine. I won't dwell too much on how it's been for us to send away the Fruit of Womb One - you can probably work that out for yourselves. How people go on who send their children off to war, I just don't know. I don't suppose it's much like Downton Abbey where the bloke with the see-through eyes seems to get every weekend off the trenches to come home and do a bit of singing. Actually, that's not very fair of me because I don't watch it. I've seen a bit but the adverts were doing my head in.
I have been thinking about the way we feel about our children. The way they are always in our thoughts and prayers. And then I was thinking that that is how we say God feels about us because he is our Father. But I don't think we act that way. I have to tell you that I spend too much time thinking that God will get bored of my continual moaning and lack of anything constructive to offer and that he will go and find someone more interesting. Billy Graham or Cliff or someone.
It's only when I think about how I feel about my own kids. How they are constantly in my thoughts, how all I have is theirs and how ridiculously proud I am of them. Then maybe - just maybe, I begin to get a flavour of how God feels about me. Not everyone can relate to this of course and people's relationships with loved ones don't always mirror what God would like it to. But sometimes we really need to get hold of how God feels about us and how we are never far from his thoughts.
Some time ago Head of House and myself were really needing an answer to prayer. We decided that we would fast one day a week until God answered. Nothing happened. Not a sausage. Then reading Bill Hybels book - "Too Busy Not to Pray" I noticed the way he approached his prayer. He said (to paraphrase) How insulted would you feel as a parent if, when your child asked you for something, they felt that they had to go away and punish themselves in some way to get your attention?  Either you are on his heart or you are not. We have to get on board with the fact that God is constantly attentive, constantly in touch and constantly tender hearted towards us. We may struggle with this, either because of our life experience or perhaps in some weird way because we feel it diminishes God but what we feel about it isn't so important. It's how God is. We can enjoy it and respond to this offer of undeserved favour or we can get the flagellator and the barbed wire knickers out  and make ourselves suffer in an attempt to curry God's favour. (N.B this is not having a go at fasting - just at fasting as a way of repositioning ourselves as "worthy" Christians - Don't write in)
It is a constant struggle for me to get past what God gives me and what I have actually deserved. Sometimes circumstances make us all feel that God has taken a package tour to someone more deserving where he can commune with someone who has managed to move mountains and harvest white fields and all that sort of thing. Trouble is God says otherwise.

Isaiah 49:14-16



 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
   the Lord has forgotten me.”

 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
   and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
   I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
   your walls are ever before me


I just wanted to show you something about rembering. This is Christian the lion. Christian was bought by two blokes from harrods of all places in the 60s. Obvs he became too big and was returned to Africa. When the chaps went back to see him the following scene took place. If you have tears - prepare to shed them...
There is something about care and love that creates even the most unlikely bonds.
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Monday, 10 October 2011

Last supper - itis


Some will look at this and say that they can understand why Fruit of Womb One wants to get away. It's just that he was going and Head of the House felt that he should feel the love!
Anyway. He's gone now. All grown up and saving China. (from Mulan in case you are confused) We got back last night after 750 miles of travel, one teenager and his assorted accoutrements having been left in York. Feels weird, as we expected it to but we are all in denial and expecting him home from his holidays any day now. A friend texted me and reminded me that our roles change and we have to roll with it. (A great quote as long as you don't get the spelling of roles/rolls wrong. then it somehow becomes about baking - which is frankly unhelpful)
Haven't been in his room yet (Despite his sister informing him that we have taken the first steps on the road to turning it into a monkey sanctuary.) I have also resisted the urge to phone the uni because his radiator isn't working. I know it's for him to do now. However, I will just say that here's hoping that when fees are trebled next year, funds are made available for a radiator bleed key. I should think they can afford that then shouldn't you?
Short blog as have been feeling a little off colour. Someone suggested it was because I have been emotionally wrung out. I feel it may have more to do with that Chinese takeaway. One day at a time Sweet Jesus - as the country singers say.

Ecclesiastes 3

There's a Right Time for Everything
 1 There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

 2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
   A right time to plant and another to reap,
   A right time to kill and another to heal,
   A right time to destroy and another to construct,
   A right time to cry and another to laugh,
   A right time to lament and another to cheer,
   A right time to make love and another to abstain,
   A right time to embrace and another to part,
   A right time to search and another to count your losses,
   A right time to hold on and another to let go,
   A right time to rip out and another to mend,
   A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
   A right time to love and another to hate,
   A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Big Ones, Small Ones...



...some as big as yer 'ead!

It's October and that means it's Spider City in our back garden. I think it's the combination of a mild climate, lots of shrubs to spin webs off and that fact that all spiders have a contract out on my life. You can go on as long as you like about how wonderful they are and how many flies they eat and that they are a great part of God's creation-yeh right. Just imagine one on your face sucking the blood out of your eyes. That's what I think they secretly all want to do and you can't prove otherwise can you? Thought not. Just in case there are any spiders reading this. When it gets a bit colder and you are considering moving indoors - remember there is an hysterical woman in here with a rolled up newspaper. You may want to consider next door instead.

It's been a busy week with more to come next week so everything is a bit random again. Have just bought fitted sheets for eldest son's university bed only to receive an email telling me he had been allocated a 6' 3" bed. Hurrah!! I keep thinking of things he will need or might need or probably won't need but maybe should take anyway. (He thinks an iron comes into the last category)

Been out and about quite a lot for me. Last weekend we went to see "Earthquakes in London". We felt it was important to support the National as they were visiting Plymouth  - oh and we had free tickets. I have to tell you though - absolutely no idea. Could not fathom what was going on. We tried really hard because we were with people who get theatre and have professional involvement in the arts but really. I was completely lost. Something to do with the environment and a hospital in heaven I think and the Government and then an annoying girl got her ning-nangs out for no discernible reason as far as I could see. Then everybody on stage danced to Coldplay - which was nice. That was it really. Then we all went back to our friends for a nice cup of tea and pizza. I don't like pizza so I had a box of chocolates. That was my favourite bit.

Also went to see "Tinker Tailor" at the cinema. Absolutely outstanding. really. I held off seeing it because I loved the TV series so much and I had read the book and didn't quite know what else could be done with it. It was excellent though. Gary Oldman is a real screen presence. It's a bit more brutal than the TV series and a bit gayer. Otherwise, I felt that all the original intrigue was in place. Excellent. Am going back with Fruit of Womb Two next week. I know she only wants to see Benedict Cumberbatch as a bottle blond again which is fine by me but I would just like to have another look at the stuff I missed. Am I the only saddo who does this?

Also out at Church Communications Team meeting. (You are lucky I found time to fit you in) All I'll say is that even after thirty years of Christianity, the way Christians seem to enjoy jumping on people's heads when they are only doing their best still makes me catch my breath. You know the kind of thing. Someone designs something (Not me I hasten to add - NOT a strong point) Someone doesn't like it. Perfectly fine - everyone is entitled to their opinion. Then though, they carry on moaning and whinging like someone has removed John's Gospel! Important things are happening you know. Really, you can move on from this. Before we all die of boredom. Rant over. Thank you. (I can now hear God saying in my head "And of course-you are a model of patience when YOU don't like something" - but I'm ignoring him. I know he loves me really)

 Have also found time in the last couple of weeks to master Skype. Well I say "master" - I had to be talked through it like a child by a tech savvy friend. Still I am now confident that I can stalk eldest Fruit Of Womb when he goes away.

So that's it for this week. Have to go. We have things to plan. Do you think he will need a sieve? What about a grater? If you enjoyed any of this drivel, please comment and let me know. On a serious note. Remember that no crisis is so bad that you don't have time for a rousing chorus of Flag Hippo!!!!!! Take it away Tim!


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Sunday, 25 September 2011

A year later..



So it was year yesterday since my brother died. I've been a bit more wobbly about it than I expected to be really. I don't normally do anniversaries very well - good or bad. Firstly, I just don't remember things well. To be honest, I'm never that keen on putting aside a special day to remember anyone. I sort of think that if you are resonably sensitive and in touch with the person then everyday things will bring them to mind and then you respond accordingly. For instance, I came across this on t'Internet



This was from a programme called "An Audience with Victoria Wood" All those years ago, it was the first chance we had to see a Victoria Wood stand-up and Dave and I were big fans. Trouble was, we were due to go out that night. So, we set the video. Our new video. Checked it twice, gave it a start time of ten minutes early and a finish of ten minutes late, like you used to do in those days - just to make sure and off we went.
When we got back, we got a brew, sat down to watch the programme and were devastated when after about 15 minutes it stopped. It didn't seem to have recorded. Dave started fiddling with the wires and the connection and I shouted Mum in case she had noticed any problems.
When she came in she greeted us with the news that she thought that there was something wrong with the recorder. Well we knew that but why was she so sure?
"Well, " she explained " When I came in it was making a sort of whirring noise and I didn't like the sound of that so I unplugged it."
"Mum! It's making a noise because its recording! The little wheels go round on the tape see??!"
Unrepentant and unimpressed she said. "Well no-one told me. It's your own fault."
We never let her forget it and for years after that whenever we had set anything to record we would shout
"Mum, I've set the video. It will make a noise. Do not switch off, evacuate the house or call the emergency services ok?"
I guess you had to be there but it's the little memories like these that are the fabric of our relationships. It's often the little joys and the sorrows that we miss when people are gone. Like most people who have lost someone, I am grateful for the shared times and then I'm angry that, this side of heaven there won't be any more. We grew up together. We had plenty of differences, all of which we sorted because we loved each other and we had such a deep rooted life history. Not that we came to agree on everything because we didn't. It didn't seem to matter somehow. Not when the will was there to make it work. Not when you could remember laughing together at your Mum and her aversion to technology together - after you had got over the urge to kill her.
So now I move on. Not to forget but because life is too precious not to.

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Life in the Lifeboat

Apologies for the lack of a blog last week. Complicated and boring reasons. Life continues here at Hargreaves Towers as usual in case you were wondering. I have spent a very thoughtful week though what with one thing and another. I know that's not like me but there you are. We went to a wedding yesterday. It was very nice although I barely knew a soul there (significant other half's work mate) People took pity on me and chatted and the like. The bride look lovely although the main picture I will take away from the day is the way she and the bridal party went speeding down the aisle like Usain Bolt. People were pressing their camera phones like billy-o trying desperately to get a bit of a photo as she whizzed past.
When you go to church every week, you forget how intimidating it can be. Childhood memories of miserable crows singing equally miserable songs may be strong in people's minds as well as what may be termed as "brushes" with Christians. Some people may have tried to attend church and not found a warm welcome or found the essential message delivered in a way that was so difficult that they gave up. All of these things have happened to people I know.
I can see things from the other side as well. People with problems become Christians. We find a home and a secure place with God in a church. This may be something that we have never known. We become settled with our friends and the people that love us. When new people come in, we don't always find the time or the inclination to talk to them because we are still dealing with our own things or just enjoying our friends' company. The trouble is that we are in the lifeboat and many of these people are not.
I am one of the few people in the world who has not seen Titanic. I know this puts me in a minority of about ten. Still, I know people who have never seen Star Wars and I, to my shame, can quote paragraphs of dialogue from it. (Original version. No CGI and Solo shot first by the way.) The only Titanic film I have ever seen was "A Night to Remember." It's not that different I imagine - it doesn't end well. My lasting memory of it is people trying to get onto lifeboats and people who were on pushing them away because they were frightened it would capsize. It was portrayed as cowardly and mean (in a very British, black and white kind of way) which of course it was. I don't think it's very different to what we do when we don't welcome people into our communities properly.
It should be easy for people to come in to be with us. We should be evolving strategies and creatively thinking of light and open ways for people to come and ask the questions that they need to ask. There should be places for people to go and people for them to see. We shouldn't wait for them to make the first move.
When I had known my significant other half for a little while - he rang up to ask me out. When I wasn't there, he left a message with my Mum along the lines of "If she fancies a night out - tell her to give me a call." I did call because I was mad for him but it didn't make it right and I have made him pay for it on and off for the last twenty years! We are supposed to do the inviting. We are suppsed to show it as irresistible which it is. It's our job to be holding out the oar for people to get hold of - not smacking them on the head with it until they go away.
So at the end of a very thoughtful week for me. I leave you with a thoughtful video. If you are one of the two people on the planet not to have seen this. I warn you. Prepare to have your brain mashed by a song that won't go away!

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Monday, 5 September 2011

The Power of Failure


Unless you have been living down a hole on the planet Zog, you will be aware that the exam results season has just drawn to a close. Male Fruit of Womb sorted his own results out this year - something about his entire future depending on it being done properly. To be quite honest, I could be quite insulted by this. No gratitude today's young people. OK so when I picked his GCSEs up - I did get a bit lost in the school - I'll give you that. And, embarrassingly, when I asked the way to the room where the results were I was actually standing in the doorway of the room in question. BUT, it was really badly signposted. And, I did get the results back safe and sound - eventually. Anyway, as I said he got his own results this year. (Hope you are keeping up - you will need to concentrate)  However, Fruit of Womb Two also had some results to collect this year. I will digress here actually if that's OK with you (There's not  lot you can do about it to be honest) I do need to say that in my day, there were CSEs, GCSEs and A levels. You took the first two then, two years later, if you so desired, you took A levels. Now people seem to be taking exams every twenty minutes or so. It's very difficult for your average parent to keep up.
So, with our offspring away, it fell to me to collect the Girl's exam results. The difference this time was that she would rather that I didn't. Because she had already taken a sort of double dog dare mock exam thingy in science as part of the multi layered exam life that teenagers live in. What you have to know about our Girl is that science doesn't exactly float her boat. She loves English and Media and Literature. She looks forward to the day when all her study life revolves around these subjects. You probably also need to know that in her Chemistry mock she was the not very proud possessor of a "U".
It was a shock - the U. She wasn't used to it. At this point she had a choice. She knew that she was never going to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry but did she want to be looking at the U letter when she opened the real exam results? So, she decided to do something about it. She gave up lunch hours to go to extra lessons. She went online to find out the answer to questions she didn't understand and she revised for England. At this point - I would love to tell you that she developed a deep passionate love for Chemistry and is, at this very moment, working with top people to develop a self tan product that doesn't need all the streaky bits rubbing off with a loofah. But that would be a lie. She went into the exam as well prepared as she could be and came out of it feeling a bit better than she did the last time but questions about how well she thought she had done were answered with an non committal "Haven't the foggiest"
As results day approached there were lots of conversations like this
Moi   If you are away, please leave a letter for me to pick up your results.
Her   No need. I don't need to know.
Moi   Yes you do. It's your future. It's important
Her   Not if Daniel Radcliffe comes and whisks me away.
Moi   Unlikely. Do the letter.
Her   (Warming to her subject) Or I get a place at RADA
Moi   Even more unlikely, you haven't applied. I've done the letter. Sign it if you want to live.

The day went without a hitch. (Well I did arrive two hours early and I did get lost in the school - a bit) And I opened the letter and sitting there was a luscious A* in Chemistry.
You probably know this but maybe you need to hear it. It really isn't the failure. It's what you do with it. Do you resolve never to have another go in case you faff it up or do you grab your underpants with both hands, pull them up and give sorting it everything you have? Christians serve the God of the Second Chance. There is always a way back. Sometimes you have to work your way through stuff to get it right. But, the feeling you get when you open the envelope with the right result after it had all gone wrong is the best feeling in the world.


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Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holiday Blogging

It's the last Bank Holiday of the year before Christmas. Head of House is ministering to the needy in hospital. (They are paying him double time for it) Offspring are still recovering from sleeping in tents for a week so are both in bed. Big treat to get up early and spend decadent hour perusing favourite sites on T'Internet before the day gets going. Have just spent happy hour on moneysaving expert My favourite bits are the old style saving forums. They are running something at the moment called "Preparing for Winter" There are people out there stocking up on candles, pyjamas and slippers, Lemsip etc. They are sewing insulating blinds for the bottom of the stairs and the windows, they are making jams and chutneys and generally being proper home makers. I am hanging my head in shame. It is a good idea. The last couple of winters in Devon have been shockers. When we first moved here two snowflakes within twenty minutes would mean a Spotlight special with Justin Lee in a bobby hat and scarf on a motorway bridge keeping an eye out for the coming apocalypse. Now, we are aware that it could actually get quite cold out there. Still, it is quite difficult to believe when you have had your first cup of coffee happily sitting on the garden tool box in the sunshine, reflecting on how much your "cut and come" lettuce actually "cut and came" this year. Still I will try. Will make a list. Will check it twice and will get all squirrely. Soon. Very soon.
Love it when kids come back from youth weeks away. Friendships have been strengthened, laughing has been done until snot has come down people's noses, relationships with God have been refreshed, squirty cream has been sprayed, fancy dress monkey costumes have been trashed. Like a sort of psychedelic heaven. This is only really what we old people used to call Fellowship. (with knobs on I know) The basic principle is the same. Getting together. Sharing. Strengthening. Praying. Learning. Eating Fish Eyes. (Alright, so the last one isn't particularly Biblical) You cannot overstate its importance.
Friends are telling me that when son leaves for uni, he will need his own kettle, toaster, microwave etc. Doesn't that just mean eight sets of each appliance in the kitchen? Why, when the website has reams of information on Viking raids into the city of York, how to join the Comedy Club and the opening times of the Nurse's station - is there nothing actually helpful? I have been assured that this will be setting the tone for the next three years. Ah well, his problem, not mine.
Lastly, you know I love a tip - Don't sleep in a wet vest - that kind of thing. I also love a bit of thrift. I do think you can take it too far. From a Marks and Spencer book - "1000 handy household hints"
"Toddlers Pants. Discarded nappies can be turned into useful towelling pants for toddlers. Use two nappies per toddler."
I'm not sure that this isn't a false economy. You might save £1.99 on a pair of toddler shorts but how much would you need to pay out on the therapy for the poor child in later years?
Anyway. Off to get some housework done before French and Saunders come on the radio. Then I have to fit in "I was a Male war Bride". (Cary Grant - in drag. Talk about your inappropriate crushes.) Still, like to make it look as if I have been busy when Head of House gets in from work.
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Sunday, 21 August 2011

The examiner..



...he say yes!!!
So A level results day came and all was well. Very well in fact and now number one son's move to York is close to becoming a reality. And now it's all systems go. Loans, bank accounts, accomodation. All the things you don't like to plan ahead for, just in case. So we are off and running. Sort of. This week they are away at camp so they are pitching their tents in Dorset along with about 70 other young people. (Youth workers are one of God's greatest gifts to the world.) So that has left son's aged parents in charge of booking important accomodation things on the INTERNET. Arrrrgh! No pressure. Just hope we manage to book him accomodation at the right university. There is only one York in England-yes?
We are about to experience a week without offspring. I love my kids but there is a lot to be said for a week with a quarter of the usual amount of ironing, food prepared on the last minute or not at all if we just feel like a butty and no "Under Age and Pregnant"or Rage Against the Machine. Can't say I won't be glad to see the return of the strange smelling suitcases but this is rather nice.
I'm sorry this is a bit late this week but Morecambe decided that he would like to sleep with his head on the laptop so I left him to it. No - I have no idea either but if there is one important lesson that life has taught me - it's that you don't step on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don't mess about with Morecambe. (or something like that).
Actually there is another lesson that is absolutely, completely non negotiable. Be kind to strangers. There should be Country and Western songs written about it - there probably are. I don't mean kind in the sense that you give them your PIN number or get into their car to have a look at their puppies. I mean just kind. Case in point. This morning while dragging my sorry carcass to work I noticed an older lady making conversation with two lads who were obviously employed to sort out the front garden. No big deal - she just asked a couple of questions about carnations, that sort of thing. then off she trots. As she walks three paces away they look at each other and laugh - at her. I'm almost certain that she must have heard them. A little bit of you dies inside. Heartrendingly, their radio was playing Otis Redding singing "Try a Little Tenderness". You know, they could have been the only people she spoke to all day. What if it was your Mum or mine? Or in a few years me or you? The challenge is to live life with a level of awareness of the impact we have on those around us. There's pressure to live life under the pressures of family, friends, wrinkles, hair dye, dust balls under the bed, Vidic being unsettled at Old Trafford, a flabby belly and the million and one other things that compete for my attention. And yet the are nano seconds and sometimes that's all they are when I can make the choice to be a force for good, for nice, for gentleness. That's the challenge.

 
New King James Version Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ah well..



...that was the quickest fortnight ever known in the history of man but there you are. Lovely holiday now over. Other members of the family are removing sharp instruments from any room I am in. Not so much about going back to work (obviously I'm VERY keen on that) no, I always get quite wistful at the end of a holiday about the passage of time. I think it's only when you slow down that you notice how quickly the year is going. We were walking the hounds in the park last week and noticed that the leaves were falling. It's only August for goodness sake! Anyway it's no good shaking your fist at trees - it makes no difference to them and people look at you in a quizzical way before moving on as quickly as they can manage without actually running.
We were in London for some of the break as those of you who had been paying attention will know. We didn't see any rioting. We stayed in Kensington and they seemed to keep it to a minimum there. We did hear a lot of police cars the first night but to be honest, we thought it was just a case of "bright lights - big city". Well we live in Devon, and it can be a big night on Spotlight news if a sheep gets stuck on a railway line.  So, apart from some disruption to the Tube, we saw nothing. On the holiday front, highlights included "Warhorse". It's difficult to explain why it is so good. It's a play about horses.. er in the war which are realised using puppets and it involves a lot of folk singing and "interesting" West Country accents. I know it doesn't sound promising but ten minutes in you forgot the horses were puppets and it swept you along. Quite brutal in places. I had to fight the desire to run on to the stage and cut the bloomin' horse free from the barbed wire myself at one point but certainly a night to remember. We also spent a day at Camden which is quite scary but excellent. Also, quite possibly the worst meal of my life eaten at Garfunkel's. Not expecting the moon from there as you will apppreciate but waiter seemed to have trained at the Fawlty Towers School of Service. Actually witheld the tip, which I have never done and enjoyed doing it too. Small victory but somehow, pleasing.
We also rescued the dogs from the kennels when we got back (or the kennels from the dogs depending on your point of view) It was quite tense picking them up because we had neglected to mention that they don't get on terribly well in a confined space and we had told them that they would be fine in the same pen. Look its 10% off if they share and we're not made of money. Anyway, they were both alive when we got there so we paid and ran for it. Lucy, unfortunately for her, had a problem with her anal glands which involved a trip to the vets, rubber gloves and a lot of wincing on her part (and on Head of House's part as well if I am honest) I didn't go. I don't do vets. I know, I know, what if Head of House said that but he doesn't so keep your nose out.
We returned to church this morning to watch a montage of scenes from the riots. The one with the Malaysian guy being robbed as he was injured is almost impossible to watch. Found myslef being challenged about my involvement and relevance in my society. Sometimes church is seen as a bit wishy washy but I know that churches in the riot areas were front row centre in supporting their local community. It's not terribly fashionable to give them any credit for it. I think, a bit like the England cricket team, who could only beat what was put in front of them, even if it was only a lack lustre India team. ( I sooo love Test Match Special on the radio - bit embarassing) In sort of the same way we can only grow and serve where we are planted. Not in the middle of a riot zone always. Devon was a bit short on riots (although apparently, there was a bit of a scuffle outside Poundland) but there are plenty of opportunities to serve here or anywhere really.
Finally, I draw your attention to the piece of equipment above spotted during a lovely stroll in the park. Apparently I am supposed to step up and down on it vigorously. Two comments.
1. Why would I want to?
2. No thank you.
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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sort of back



...but not quite. Am in the middle of lovely holiday thingy so will return with full update soon. However, in the light of recent events, I just wanted to share this with you.
Over the last few days I have watched events that have made me want to hang my head in shame - just as a member of the human race. To rob a man you were pretending to help, to drive a car deliberately to maim or to kill or just to have such a lack of connection to your local community that a local hairdresser is "rich" and therefore fair game - these are the things that have left a sense of hopelessness I think. I am sure that the whole thing is very complicated with many different layers and that the truth behind recent events takes a little bit from all the causes people have spoken about - hopelessness, disconnection, lack of parental authority, sense of entitlement, lack of moral direction, greed.
However, I just wanted to show you this. Last week we visited Westminster Hall. It's a 1000 year old building that has seen so many great (in the widest sense of the word) moments. It's the place where Charles the First was tried, where Winston Churchill lay in state and where Nelson Mandela addressed both political houses. It's also the site of Andy Hawthorne's recent keynote address at an MP's prayer breakfast. If you have despaired about the way forward and wondered if there is hope - look at this. It's inspiring and challenging. As usual, he is pin sharp and practical down to his finger nails. Watch and be encouraged and do something.


(Photo source BBC News)
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Sunday, 31 July 2011

'Tis only for a short while...



But I'm probably going to take a bit of  a break because I'm on my jolly holidays for a couple of weeks and have decided to keep deep thinking to a minimum for a bit. Am thinking of reading myself into a frenzy or getting myself super organised with the extra time. Or I may just lie down for a while. We are off to get our fix of the big city as well with a visit to London. (Cue long arguments about galleries versus other "less boring" forms of entertainment)
The weekend so far hasn't gone that well to be brutally honest - have managed to get sunburned which is against my religion and for goodness sake, it should be something I am mature enough to avoid at my time of life.
While we are away eldest Fruit of Womb turns eighteen. Was thinking how proud I am of him. (Proud in a good way not in a I'm prouder than a god and intend to take over the world - not that kind of thing obviously) No I was thinking about how clever he is and how hard he has worked. Also, its funny to see how different your children are to you and yet its still good. I see the way he has worked out his Christianity in a different way to us - his is shot through with social justice in a way that wouldn't have been encouraged when I was young (too worldly) and because of this, I think his generation may achieve more for God than other generations. He's also smart and funny and reminds me of his Dad and that is a very very "good thing". I expect we will hardly miss him at all when he leaves.
Speaking of achievements - John Stott passed away this week. To many he was the father of modern evangelism - a title he didn't seek just lived up to. Makes you feel you are playing at it. Even the Guardian gave him a good obit and its not a newspaper known for its pro-Christian opinions.
Just wanted to say thank you for those of you kind enough to comment on Facebook and here on the blog. You have no idea how encouraging it is.
So that's it for now. Don't forget me - I shall be back to pester you but until then - Hit it Cliff!
"We're all going on a....."
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Sunday, 24 July 2011

In through the nose..

..and out through the mouth. And breathe.

So listen. Its a week until my annual leave and when I look at my "to do before I go"  list at work it makes me come over all "fainting Victorian lady" but here I am anyway. Calming myself through the power of breathing and typing. This does not necessarily mean this will be particularly coherent so brace yourself.

Been a bit challenged on "kindness" this week. Those who know me at all know that I believe that kindness has a supernatural element in it. It's a Fruit of the Spirit and I have always thought that being kind released God to make great things happen in situations. Indeed I have seen this for myself. However, I have found out that kindness is not always welcome and is sometimes taken as a sign of weakness leading people to treat you badly. This was a bit of a shock to me. (I know. I need to get out more) but, thinking about it, I still believe that this is God's way - to be kind. So you have to just carry on with it, believing that it will make a difference in the end. Don't know why I'm moaning. Very nice lady kindly bought me a bunch of flowers to cheer me up.

Have spent happy morning at a car boot sale. I do like rummaging. Offspring Two came with us but she is a bit wary because some of the people there have several teeth missing and look as if they have been the subject of a Crimewatch reconstruction. Still, she brought Fleetwood Mac on vinyl home so she was happy, as was Head of House who returned with Motown vinyl and something to stick under hall rugs to stop them slipping. (Breaking News for Head of House. You were robbed. Carpet is still migrating under door and tripping up all comers. Sorry.) I like china. (Not so much the county - more the crockery) and came home with some Blue and White (anything that doesn't have people on it. I'm not so keen on Willow Pattern) for 20p. Bargain! I also got some old plates for BBQs on the beach. I hate paper plates on the beach. I keep dropping stuff and I think eating BBQed chicken off vintage plates is very civilised. (Fortunately for you, only I can hear everyone in the house laughing at me - so i will ignore them) I do like a bit of shabby chic which is one reason why people think our dog Lucy is called Cath Kidson. See photo above.

Spent some time reading a few blogs about diet. Some people are apparently re-thinking the macrobiotic approach as too extreme and are moving away from it. Now they are allowing themselves treats like hummus on brown bread etc. This may be a loosy-goosy approach to diets for these healthy people but it still makes my diet look like a wheelbarrow full of lard. How does anyone live without crisps and Cadbury's Wholenut? I mean, I'm not a fool. Its weekends only (Unless it's on offer at the Co-op) but surely everyone needs a treat? Working out what to eat and serve the family without killing them off is a nightmare. In case you didn't see it among all the proper news, drinking eight glasses of water a day is not only not particularly good for your skin, weight, brain etc as was formerly thought but it can actually kill you! The time to drink is when you are er.. thirsty. Who knew? How do you get young people who can put up a convincing argument that mushrooms are of the devil to eat healthily? Beats me. Head of House is off to get weekend fish and chips.

Too much news this week. Horrible stuff. Always a bit shocked to see people saying Amy Winehouse brought it on herself. Well, I suppose so but surely, there but for the Grace of God go any of us? Given a different set of circumstances - how many of us can be totally sure we wouldn't end up the same way?

PS Last week Fruit of Womb One spent approximately 15 seconds trying to set up Facebook page for me as a writer. Apparently, this is what people do and I can put stuff on there - writey sorts of things and maybe on Twitter. ( I am on Twitter but only to stalk Danny Baker and Steve Martin) Also if you "like" the page it is apparently easier to let you know about postings. (possibly) Anyway, he lost interest when "Have I Got Old News For You" came on but I don't know whether its worth finishing. Describing myself as a writer seems a bit over the top. Any thoughts? Will think about it and get back to you. Promise this will be more coherent and indeed spiritually helpful next time. Almost certainly.
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Sunday, 17 July 2011

If you've never made a mistake..


..then you've never tried.

As so often happens Tom Jones was right when he said "Its not unusual" and indeed it isn't unusual for me to have messed up. My motives were good. Time together as a family. So when free tickets were available for an evening out together, my interest was stirred as you can imagine. The event was "Cinema in the City" - a showing of Blade Runner outdoors at the Lido - Plymouth's beautiful old outdoor pool. This evening would combine culture, supporting a local event and a flippin' good film. What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot as it happens. Firstly the event was on the same night as a bbq the offspring wanted to attend. However, we weighed it up and as we spend at least three nights a week ferrying them to events all over Devon and as family evenings together may be more difficult to come by after October, we decided to issue a three line whip and insist that they come with us. This does mean, however, that the pressure is on to produce a fairly entertaining event, as they are missing something they would prefer to be at.
Things started to go wrong when the weather changed mid-week. "Changeable" was the phrase used by the man in the 1980s suit who does the weather. "Apocalyptic" may have been more accurate. Still, we wouldn't let a little thing like the weather put us off. So, we wrapped up and off we went. 8.30 it said on the tickets and we turned up a little earlier than that because we are northern and that's what people who have manners do. Trouble was, when we collected our blankets (maybe another ominous sign) the lady on the desk informed us that it would be kicking off at 9.30 (ish) Sorry? An hour and a half? Sitting a yard away from a not exactly mill pond like ocean? And it won't start until 9.30? I enquired at reception about the reasons for this but was told that it was an experiment and they weren't sure what time it would go dark enough to project. My feeling was that this is quite an exact science and the aforementioned weather man in 80's suit may have been able to help them with that one.
Still, we sat there for a while. Waiting. Although I knew that fingers were getting numb and tempers were getting short. I also realised that if the film was the director's cut - we could be there until the early hours. And then it started to rain. Reluctantly, I admitted that I had made a mistake and we left, returning home to warmth, a glass of wine and a Top of the Pops compilation.You can't win them all.
But the truth is that if you don't try, you will never know. If you don't put yourself out there and have a go, you might as well just curl up and not bother. I have a natural tendency towards invisibility. I hate to draw attention to myself. Sometimes this blog is almost painful for me because my default mode is keeping my head below the parapet. But you do have to have a go. You have to take what you are given and push it a bit. It may or may not go horribly wrong - who can tell? Things just might need adjusting a little for them to work next time. In the case of the outdoor film - a reasonably accurate start time would have helped me. Just give or take an hour or two - I'm not unreasonable. Sometimes, you may need to keep trying and build a higher skill level to make things work. Sometimes you may have to give up and admit it was a mistake. Would that be so bad? Isn't it worse to watch life slip away and never know how good it could have been?
Wiser people than me have said that life does not fall into your lap. It has to be lived. Jesus sometimes gets a bit of bad publicity for saying
 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Seems quite harsh. But if you read the whole story, it is an observation rather than a curse. Those who risk may fail but those who don't try never get the chance to succeed. Succeeding could be quite nice I think.

Sometimes failure brings its own joys too. Maybe not for Blake Bergstrom though but bless him for allowing it go out there.

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