Saturday, 28 July 2012

Branagh Bond Bean

Source:The Independent

Like 27 million other in the UK, we were glued to the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday. Most of the comments seem to be in favour of the event except for a few strange people who seem to be offended by references to the NHS. If all 27 million viewers of this event in this country were lined up and everyone who had benefited from the NHS in some form or another was asked to put their hands up there would be very few people without their hands in the air don't you think?
I thought I might share a sort of Twitter like running commentary of the event as it played out Chez Hargreaves Towers. It's quite long but, rest assured, not as long as the athletes parade.

Family are settling down and introductory film begins. FOW2 whoops - "It's Benedict Cumberbatch!" Even though there is no sign of Martin Freeman the evening is looking very promising already.

Frank Turner entertains the crowd much to the delight of FOW 2. I am concerned that she may be peaking too soon.

The stadium looks magnificent with animals and children and peasants and things. A short film plays with every British cultural reference you could think of, backed by an equally cool soundtrack. As I suspected, it seems it was always a good idea to put someone from the North West of England in charge of this.

The largest bell in Europe is rung by a mod who turns out to be Bradley Wiggins. HOH informs us that Mr Wiggins lives just outside Wigan. rest of family struggle to understand relevance of this to anything at all really. Wiggo (as he is winningly nicknamed) leaves as quickly as possible looking like a man who would rather be back on his bike.

A young boy sings Jerusalem. I burst into tears.

Rather handsome man in very high top hat, strolls through what is now turning into a bleak industrial landscape. He puffs his chest out and begins to recite from "The Tempest" It's Kenneth Branagh! (He looks a lot better than he did when I last saw him. He was playing Wallander and appeared to be wiping his armpit with a lace curtain) Now he is Brunell, the great engineer. And he's reciting Shakespeare! Without looking at the words in his book once! FOW2 is fanning herself gently.

There are now too many cultural references to count - Suffragettes, Windrush, Sergeant Pepper, Chelsea Pensioners, Jarrow Crusade. The whole thing is looking like a sort of test film to be shown to people applying for British Citizenship. How many of these very British things can you name? FOW 1 has to be dissuaded from singing "The Red Flag" As Golden Olympic Rings are hoisted into the air I can feel my bottom lip wobbling. A pattern is definitely emerging here.

Then Daniel Craig - in Bond mode takes the Queen of England to the stadium in a helicopter from which she appears to parachute into her seat. Am astonished. Do the cartoon thing of polishing my glasses and checking the screen. She NEVER does anything like this. NEVER. Did Gin O Clock help? Who knows but well done your Maj.

National Anthem is sung by deaf choir of children who sign it beautifully. I burst into tears again.

A lovely tribute to the NHS is now the centre of lots of great moments. These include dancing doctors and nurses (real ones mind you), Voldemort, The Child Catcher, beautiful JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan and children bouncing on their beds as flying Mary Poppinses chase away the monsters. As Good Christian Men rejoice plays I fill up again. Children point at me and laugh. HOH passes me loo roll to deal with copious tears.Family are also questioning the wisdom of FOW1 putting "Stick that in your cake hole Mitt Romney!"  on Facebook. He ignores us, does it anyway and gets 142 "likes"

Rowan Atkinson is then very funny as Mr Bean, which is a sentence I never thought I would write.

There is then a sort of "yoof" section which is a great excuse for us to show the world that British people have written all the greatest pop songs EVER and remind then that Bowie, the Beatles, The Stones, The Sex Pistols, Amy Winehouse et all are well-you guessed it-BRITISH. Hah! As offspring are arguing about relative merits of above we get to see Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web. And British people are your actual geniuses as well! Am now getting quite jingoistic and enquire from children about how to send direct message to Mitt Romney. Children sensibly inform me that they have no idea and quietly move my phone away from me.

David Beckham. Suit. Torch. Speedboat. Enough said.

A tribute to those no longer with us as thousands of beloved family photos flash on screen. Emily Sande sings Abide With Me while beautiful dancers dance their beautiful dance. Beautiful hymn. Beautifully sung. HOH takes loo roll from me as we both sniffle.

Athletes parade. Lasts forever. Pour wine. Eat nuts. Amuse ourselves by trying to spot imaginary countries marching in - Narnia, Tatooine, Allezoop. Mood is also lightened by spotting German dignitary apparently Nazi saluting their team. Does not look like high five to me. Spot Charles and Camilla in fits of giggles. Feel this is not unrelated. GB team come in. High level cheering. Spot Tom Daley. Cry again.

Arctic Monkeys play. FOW2 has to lie on the floor.

Beautiful Olympic cauldron  is lit by young luscious unknown athletes. Brilliant! Am only slightly disappointed that it is not  Harry Potter shouting "LUMOS"

Paul McCartney rocks "Hey Jude" Am fearing for FOW2's health now.

And that is it. My favourite quote is from Danny Boyle. "I don't believe in God but I believe in the people who do. This is their show, they really are the best of us." And when I see how much of our heritage and history rests on the people of God, I can feel big dobby tears welling up again.


Sunday, 22 July 2012


I sit down to do this sometimes and I begin to panic. This has been a "meh" week. Nothing to tell you I don't think apart from apparently finding a dead dog in the back garden. (Morecambe is very keen on lying in the sun) But, one of the advantages of doing this is that I have to say to myself - "Think again - you have to write something. Forsooth, your people cannot survive without you!" (Ha! If only. I have been watching too much Shakespeare probably)

Sooo although, I know that basically, all I did was go to work and the like - didn't even finish reading a book - I am bringing you highlights from a boring person's week.

1. We booked our holiday. We are going retro this year with Center Parcs after the offspring requested it. We are aware that they may not want to come with us many more times. If you haven't been to Center Parcs recently, it is now practically a million pounds a minute so we are combining it with a trip up northern parts to impose ourselves on various relatives and friends. Center Parcs now offers a tree-house experience (I think there is a staircase but the prospect of me getting into a tree-house, possibly by rope ladder, kept my family laughing for what seemed like several hours - rude) The tree house option is about £2700 for a weekend. You can do New York for that! It was also sold out. (Not that we were considering it.)

2. Fruit of Womb 2 made it safely back from a "gig" in Exeter. Some band called "Howler" or "Moaner" or something. Don't think they have troubled the upper reaches of what used to be called "The Hit Parade". Still, she seemed to enjoy it and they signed a record for her so that was very nice.

3. Have made it up two levels on LEGO Batman. I don't think this is suitable for 3 year olds. It seems very difficult to me. It took me twenty minutes to get Batman out of the Batmobile at one point and then I couldn't find my way back to the Batcave. These LEGO people are fiends.

4. Head of House and I had a nice conversation with someone we hadn't seen for a while. For complicated reasons, it could have been quite difficult. It wasn't. God is very good at this sort of thing.

5. Morecambe is now up to date with his injections. It was traumatic of course - as you know he hates the vet. He did have 20mg of tranquilizer but his adrenalin levels were so high it made no difference. Still, once they had wrapped a blanket around his head and wrestled him to the ground, they managed to get the job done. Although his nerves meant that he had quite a trumpy bottom during the procedure. (Morecambe - not the vet.) HOH said he hoped no one lit a match. I wasn't there of course. I'm a much too sensitive soul for all that kind of thing.

6. Friday night was a rare Friday when everyone was home. Telly was rubbish so we switched it off and while having a drink and munching crisps we sat around and chatted and had an excellent time. Topics ranged from Bob Dylan to Youth Group Charades (Apparently FOW1 remembers spending 45 minutes trying to guess who one of the group had seen outside. The answer was "A Tree Goddess." - it's a long story.) It wasn't exactly an intellectual evening but I enjoyed it.

These are the tiny stitches in the embroidery of my life. They may not tear up any trees or get me interviewed by Fearne Cotton but they make me who I am. When I squint my eyes and look at this embroidery very closely, I think it looks very lovely indeed and I am very grateful.

PS. Family did go to Batman movie this week. It was about half an hour too long but to be honest - in view of this weekend's events in America, I don't really feel like reviewing it much anyway.


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Everyone needs a yes sometimes

John The Baptist eh? What was he like? If a hero can be someone you admire but in no way want to copy then John the Baptist is one of my heroes. If I was offered the chance to be Nora Ephron - I may have been tempted for a moment. However, John the Baptist is a different proposition. Single minded, strong and a cutting edge in human form. To be given the job the prepare the way for the Son of God - fancy it anyone? Oh and it won't be like preparing the way for the Olympics like "Twenty Twelve" - all mocha lattes and meetings with Seb Coe. (if you are not following the BBC's brilliant Twenty Twelve - you do not have the true Jubylimpic spirit and are missing out. I am always thinking of you  first as you know and have put a little clip in to help you. I am too good to you.)
No this would mean giving up everything that you and I would call life - partner, family, friends, career and comfort with one purpose - just one - no work life balance here matey. No PR firm to big him up. In fact he began his ministry by retreating into the desert only for people to move heaven and earth to find him and to listen. It is, I think, an encouraging testament to the work he was doing for God that he managed to make it all happen without (a) social networking (b) a book deal or (c) a stadium tour. (Sometimes, when you see preachers nearly always being called by God on to bigger and brighter congregations - do you ever wonder about them going in exactly the opposite direction to John? Is it just me?)
It probably is just me. I am rubbish at self promotion and would love it if I could just send out dispatches from the desert. I'm probably just jealous of people who are good at getting out there. Anyway, back to John The Baptist rather than my meanderings. He was uncompromising, efficient, and single hearted. This was a man who had a calling from the womb - literally. When Jesus was looking for a man to baptise him - there was only one man to go to. Whatever it is that a man needs to be a follower of Christ - John had it in spades.
And yet we see him in Matthew 11. He is in prison. He is about to be the victim of a sordid game of sexual politics which will see him beheaded solely for his integrity. He knows that Jesus is out there and that his ministry has begun. He also knows that if that is so then his is drawing to an end. His whole life has been lived with this in mind. John the Super-Christian should now sit back and sigh and wait for his end. But he doesn't.
Matthew 11
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come or should we expect someone else?"

 But he is John - he must get the game? He has seen God move in an extraordinary way in his life. He has baptised Jesus and seen a unique manifestation of God when he did so. Is this a doubt? Is he scared about what will happen to him? Whatever the reason for the question, Jesus' reaction is well - Jesus like. He doesn't lecture him - "Well John - with all the stuff you have seen and grown up with - I am surprised you even had to ask. Good grief - call yourself a man of faith..." etc.
He tells John's followers - paraphrasing - God loves me and he lets me - "Go and tell him all that I'm doing - healing the sick, raising the dead, helping the poor. The evidence is there. All is as planned. It is ok." Then, when they go, Jesus doesn't say "Well that was disappointing. I was expecting a bit more from John I must say." He says just the opposite.
"Truly I tell you, among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."

I think everyone needs to hear a "yes" sometimes. No matter how strong your faith. How much you do for God. However long you have been a Christian. However faithful you have been. Sometimes things happen and you wonder and you worry and you doubt. And you need to ask. Is it still ok? Are things how I have always believed them to be? Am I still secure with you God? Although we know the answer really. I think our kind, sensitive God  is just waiting to give you the affirmation that you need. Sometimes we need to hear a "yes" It's ok to ask. He won't bite. It's supposed to be a relationship you know.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A Week Part Two

Continuing yesterday's thoughts. This bit is more religious but it is good stuff I think so you pays your money and you takes your choice. As I think I said in Part One, I was watching a docudrama about the time just after the Resurrection. Docudramas are not always necessarily a "good thing" I think. However, this was ok as Tom Cruise was not playing Jesus nor was Brad Pitt playing Peter and no one had a Hollywood root perm.
I was watching as Peter and the other Jewish followers tentatively stepped out into what was called "The Way" as they began to live as if the Kingdom of God was already here. At first it was all sweetness and light as they were considered slightly funny but then things began to change. The Bible isn't specific about what turned people against them. Some scholars think it was the Day of Pentecost. Some, the forces unleashed by the death of Stephen. Some think it was because they were so popular that powerful people began to feel threatened but the tide of public opinion certainly seemed to turn.
I think that I am sometimes guilty of "Hollywooding" Biblical christian persecution. I think I subconsciously think that because Stephen went to his death seemingly serenely, that it wasn't so bad really. Watching a representation of the reality makes you wake up a bit. Most people didn't go quietly to the horror of a stoning. They struck out and fought and dug their feet into the ground in a futile attempt to stop it as they were dragged outside the city walls. People lived in fear of a night-time knock on the door which would lead to a short trial and a condemnation. The threat of a crucifixion for both men and women was a constant terror, as the Romans intended it to be, and the small community scattered, leaving just the original disciples.
I wondered what that must have felt like, to see your dreams of this Christian kingdom shattered so completely. There must have been doubts creeping in. Now you may say that you never doubt but if you do say that, I fear you may be a cad and a charlatan *takes off glove and hits you gently on the cheek to demand satisfaction* I doubt about 20 times a day - before breakfast. But even in this most catastrophic of situations the disciples would see that God wan't going to change what was happening but that what was happening seemed to be part of the plan. Firstly, when the church was scattered, they didn't leave the gospel behind. They took it with them. They settled into lives and continued to live in "The Way" And the most important message in history had found a way to push out of its boundaries.
Then, the church receives one of those decision cards back and it has been filled in. You know the kind of thing. Left on the end of pews for children to doodle on and we get the shock of our lives when a genuine one has actually been completed.
"I am very interested in learning more about your church with a view to joining it.....signed ..Saul of Tarsus."
Arrrgh! Are you joking God? Our biggest persecutor? The man who has taken all our troubles to a new level of horror almost single handed? Yet this was the man who God would use to take the church to the next level of love and productivity. He was their biggest problem but would become their biggest earthly asset.
Now I'm never too sure about the school of thought that says that God sends horrible things to make us strong. However, in "this ever changing world in which we're living" (Acknowledgement :Scientifically Proven Best Beatle) where all sorts of powers and pressures and principalities are at work, life IS full of horrible things. Things that make you doubt that there is a way out of this.
It is very encouraging, therefore, to see that God can miraculously use the very disasters that are smacking us over the head to change our circumstances. Please get what I am saying here. God doesn't always take the things that trouble us away, and I don't just mean that they pass and then we feel stronger because we managed to live through it - although there is some value in that certainly. I mean that he actually changes things - using all the things that are happening to us - good or bad. And maybe - just maybe, we will look back on something insurmountable that is going on at the moment and realise that, not only did God miraculously intervene but he did so using the very thing that was causing the problem. *Wanders off pondering the massiveness of  God.*

Ephesians 3
God can do anything you know-far more than you could ever guess or imagine or request in your wildest dreams.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

A Week

Really busy week. Work - blah. Cracked Tooth - blah. Dentist - blah. Lots to say and hope the blog isn't too long. It occurs to me that I might make this a bit easier by blogging a bit more often but don't want to overstay my welcome so will think about it. We all survived the Prom. The weather was awful which didn't help the balcony shot at FOW2's friend's house.
They spent a lovely day hot-tubbing (is that a word?) and being pampered. Then all the mums arrived and made their lives a misery for an hour by fussing and panicking. Some mums were a bit uber-organised which made me feel like a bad mother (again) because I just sort of turned up, gave her a kiss and said "have a good time" and "be careful with that dress because I'm going to Ebay it" She looked beautiful and grown up which was both lovely and a bit sad if you know what I mean.
Head of House and FOW 1 spent the weekend in York sorting out move to student house for next university year. Did I mention that he had changed his course from Politics to Archaeology?  Can't remember. Lots of reasons. Boring, Very disillusioned with the kind of people who did a politics course (some of them anyway) and also because, as his new Archaeology teacher said "I have no idea why you ever opted for Politics. You have stellar marks in History. whatever possessed you?" He wanted to make a difference I think but has decided that Politics is not the way to do it.
Just as an aside and in a non party political way. The only politicky person he saw that he at all impressed by (and he saw quite a few) was David Milliband. He was the one politician who, when asked a question that he didn't know the answer to replied, "I don't know the answer to that but I will try and find out for you." No ballooning. Just an honest answer. Something to be learnt there maybe?
Anyway, as I was saying,  family males were away for the weekend so I was in charge and people were panicking on Spotlight News because of the weather forecast. Floods everywhere apparently. Danger of Death. First time ever that Devon had a "RED" weather alert. They were so worked up that it knocked the story of "Extra Large Flower Grows in Salcombe" off the top of the news. Then FOW2 went down with a bad cold so she was going to be no help. Couldn't sleep on Saturday morning because I was so busy listening for the Four Weathermen of the Apocalypse coming galloping up Glyn Road. How was I going to get Morecambe into a helicopter when we were winched to safety without him biting Prince William?
Found myself watching some Christian TV. Spent twenty minutes being begged for money then watching some young people with interesting hair doing worship. At one point they appeared to be shaking their fists at me. Oh Yeah? Well come and have a go then!
I luuurve Young People. I live with two of them and because of that I am running into lots of them all the time. (For some reason nearly all of them tell my kids - "I love your Mum - she is so funny and Northern!". Why does no-one ever say "She's so deep and spiritual" or "She reminds me so much of Nigella Lawson"? Answer to that obvious I suppose.) All young people are a bit annoying obviously but I think they deserve better than this one size fits all approach. It reminded me why I hardly ever bother with this kind of stuff. I'm not alone apparently. It's a shame because I know there is good stuff on there - I see preachers' names and I know they will be good. It's just that there is so much same old - same old. For me anyway. I do not claim to be the fount of all media knowledge.
So I found this channel which was running a sort of docudrama of the time just after Jesus' resurrection. I don't even think it was overtly Christian because it kept going on about a "vision" of Jesus doing this and a "vision" of Jesus appearing here. It really hit home for me in a few ways though. The thing is, I have spent so much time rattling on about nothing in particular that I don't really have time to write about it. So, I will probably do another post tomorrow. Please call back if you can. have just realised that this is 100th post. Sorry it is not more epic. Must be more disciplined. Must not witter.


Sunday, 1 July 2012


Have taken far too much time watching the football. I have managed to fall out of the small routine that I have in the evenings and I am doing my own head in. It surprises me how it only takes a little disruption - like watching 22 men play the beautiful game and it being available nearly every night - to throw me off my little but still quite important evening routines. These are the routines that ensure that I get stuff done such as making sure everything is ready for work next morning so I don't find myself frantically ironing a work shirt on the kitchen counter while trying to make my lunch sandwich and avoiding getting mayonnaise on said shirt. These are the routines that get writing written, dogs walked, menus planned and families nagged. They are annoying but they are important and I have to remind myself that I am a grown up now and need to buck up. Goodness knows what my life would have been like if I had lived during the time of say.."Lark Rise To Candleford" (the book not the wishy-washy TV series.) In those days every waking moment seemed to be devoted to work to stay alive. My family would have wasted down to nothing years before now. Anyway, the football is nearly finished now so back on the wagon as they say.
The title of this blog is part of the phrase "Tarring everybody with the same brush." I don't know if it is just a northern phrase and I'm sure it's roots are quite unsavory but it was the only thing I can think of. Look, if you want literary depth try Shakespeare or Jilly Cooper or something.
I had been thinking about it while reading all the stuff about bankers. It is terrible to me how these people could bring us to the point of financial meltdown by using techniques that were both immoral and, it now seems, illegal. In another age we would have dragged these people to stocks or possibly guillotines. I am not recommending this as a punishment but  the lack of accountability is almost as shocking as the things that have been done. However, I was earwigging in a queue this week and heard of someone going into a bank and having a go at the girl behind the counter which concluded with a phrase along the lines of  "you ******* cheating bankers are all the same!"
I worked in a bank for fifteen years. I have many friends who work in banks. These are nice, normal people who would no more illegally fix an interest rate than they would boil their own heads. Many of them will be able to tell you stories about the time they were called to meetings to be told that the old culture of service, relationship and good stewardship were now to be ditched in favour of sales and oh yes.. selling. I remember people with thirty years of service being told that if they didn't like it then they needed to find somewhere else to work. These decisions had been made by people as alien to them as something bursting out of John Hurt's belly - yet they all go under the title of "bankers". And not everyone who works in banking sales is a twonk. Some people are though - and some are not. It's an individual thing.
Christians suffer the same problem. If you say you are a Christian, people sometimes see you as a right wing, gay bashing, crusade approving, cheek sucking in, generally disapproving kind of person or as a pathetic softy who uses Christianity as a crutch and won't face up to the realities of life. I wouldn't say that I am either but you might disagree. Then again, you may know a Christian who is like the description above and have therefore decided that this is how all Christians are. Some people judge all Christians by a bad thing that was done to them by a Christian once. Is that not like judging all Mexicans by a bad thing that was done by a Mexican once? I may be a Christian chump. It doesn't mean that my Christian friend is. Some Christians are as bad. She's not spiritual enough because I saw her in the pub. He's too into his own holy hole to be of any use to the church. You know the sort of thing. Being judgy is a tricky business. By tarring everyone with the same brush you might be missing out on good people and a different point of view. The banking crisis is a sad state of affairs with many innocent victims. Lots of them may have the words "bank clerk" in their job description. Be kind.

Phillipians 4 The Message
You'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worse.

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