Sunday, 30 October 2011


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)

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?


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.

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.

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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