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.

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.

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.

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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