Sunday, 30 November 2014

Advent First Sunday

This is our hallway - last year. Because I haven't put any decorations up. Not yet. We couldn't if we wanted to but we don't want to. Not yet. We have just had the windows replaced, as well as the rendering on the front of the house. I am all of a kerfuffle. I have lost three weeks of my life to dust, unplugged phone lines and wi-fi, scaffolding and big spiders. I am barely back in the habit of having regular showers - let alone Christmas Decorations. And it's TOO EARLY! I am downcast by Black Friday - watching people who fought last year in Tesco's car park for a 28 inch telly, now coming back and fighting again for a 40 inch telly because the Internet tells them that they have to. Bah!
I am bad tempered, tired with little positive to say about Christmas and I love Christmas. According to the You Tube people - this week is Jingle Week enabling me to buy my Christmas clothes and make-up. Hah! Well you know what you can do with that.
Yet, in the middle of all this, there is just a tiny hint. Something is stirring. Think of the Wise Men. They had maybe spent years and years studying astrological charts, watching the skies and reading the stars. Looking to make sure that they had got it right - that a king - a promised Messiah was on the way. Maybe they just noticed a few subtle changes in the skies, before they ever saw THE star.
Just thinking about Mary, alone and quiet - rubbing her belly and thinking and wondering what was to come. In the middle of the madness that has so successfully claimed Christmas, I'm trying to stop and look at the skies. I'm wondering how it felt, if it felt any different at all, in those moments, just before the miracle, when God's great rescue plan began to move into action. And I want to claim it back. I want Christmas to be about the baby who would be Saviour and before it all starts, I want to quietly take my time and think about what is to come.

Linking up with Tracing Rainbows - A Pause in Advent 


Friday, 21 November 2014

The Heretic

Can I just bung in a review for this book? I was given this, not to review but just by someone who thought I would like it and I really did. Set in 1536 when burning or horrific executions were waiting for anyone who held convictions contrary to the state view, it is just a rattling good read. There is a lot going on here. There's a big picture which will appeal to people who like Wolf Hall and the Sansom books and then there is a smaller, more intimate picture of family and friends during the time.The author also manages to weave in the changes and challenges to the Christian faith without it being, well a bit obvious. I think the idea was to tell a good story, really well and job done. Highly recommended


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Dreams of Another Life

We found this photo of my mum. It was lurking under the bed and she came across it trying to find a photo of me as a child for some dreadful fund-raising thing we were doing at work. She looks really great I think - a bit of Munroe in there? So we rescued it from under the bed and it's on our wall now (that's why it's a bit wobbly sorry because all our family photos are on the wall going upstairs and I had to risk life and limb leaning over a banister to get it) Mum has total recall of the day this was taken, at work (notice the typewriter she is leaning on) and it's probably over 50 years ago. It makes her a bit wobbly looking at this because she was full of hopes and dreams in those days and she is not sure that too many of them came to pass. Although she produced me - how good can it get, I ask you? Still, she has seen a nasty divorce and the death of a child as well as her other child being seriously ill. It has not been a barrel of laughs. She is finding more contentment these days though. Settled in a flat near us, she like the area and is forging new friendships and although she is loath to admit it, is perhaps more settled than she has been for years. She still likes a moan and is robust in her criticism of nearly everyone (mainly me though) but in the main I think she is doing ok.
What she has never lost and what an inveterate conflict avoider like me has never had, is the ability to tell it how she sees it.

Mum (sitting on her settee with her chum)
I think Eileen and George (residents in her building) may have something going on
Yes indeed, I have seen them linking arms and the like. (Do not get involved in what "the like" could be - I find it best not to)
She's a lot older than him - it's a bit strange if you ask me
I knew her first husband you know, if he'd have had both his legs, he would have never have looked at her.
Me (interjecting to try desperately to inject some positivity into the conversation)
She's a very handsome woman though

There then follows five seconds silence while Mum with furrowed eyebrows considers this.
Are we talking about the same woman?


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Mr Turner

Well, this was unexpected. I really liked this. I mean really, really. Possibly one of the best films I have seen this year. We went on a day off which seenmed to be a pensioners' day out. They were giving out lists of future performances for the seniors club but HOH said I wasn't allowed to get one. I thought that was a missed opportunity for HOH. He would get a cheap ticket and a cup of tea and biscuit.
 Despite the stellar reviews I wasn't expecting that much from this film really. I sometimes really like Mike Leigh and sometimes I really don't. His thing about Gilbert and Sullivan was one of the few films I have ever walked out on (I have probably only ever left about five films early in my whole life - unless you include "Love Actually" which I left mentally by falling asleep about two thirds of the way through -  a mercy for all concerned) The Gilbert and Sullivan film antipathy could have been because I don't really get G and S although I realise that they are the very air that some people breathe. I remember in my twenties going with a friend to her new fiance's house for celebratory drinks and someone - apparently unbidden stepped up to the piano and gave us all a rendition of a G and S number. It was all deeply unnerving. I was partly worried because I thought the same might be expected of all of us and I remember wondering if my version of Wham's Last Christmas was going to cut it. Digressing.
However, would recommend this. Firstly, it is beautiful. Just lovely to look at. Secondly, it seems to capture it's time and place perfectly. Thirdly Timothy Spall is just amazing. Turner seemed to me to be complex, sometimes heartless, sometimes kind, always immersed in his work and Spall makes him a human.You don't need to know about painting or anything. Just go. It's very good.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Giving Up

So, I have given up a bit and brought this home. Just to look at, you understand. Not to actually do anything with. It's just helpful, to be thinking about it - a bit.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Not Forgetting

There has been a lot of talk about the Tower Poppies and whether they are appropriate and what to do with them after Remembrance Day. Just to throw my two penneth in. I think they are dignified, beautiful and very moving. However, not as moving as the four million people who have taken the time to come and see them and remember. Surely, that is their prime purpose - not to be pretty or ugly or whatever. Just to make people stop and remember. For what it's worth, I also think they should be dismantled. They are not a tourist attraction. It is the shock that stirs the soul. So many. Would this not become diluted over time?
Anyway just for today, a poem from the beautiful Siegfried Sassoon. Remembrance. Gratitude. Yet not to forget what we are grateful for and the horror of it from someone who earned the right to tell us what he thought.

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.


Monday, 10 November 2014

The Dufflecoat Years

When I was a teenage Christian, many things were different. Tambourines were de-rigueur, choruses were found in a yellow book and the youth meeting consisted of telling you lots of things NOT to do. If you were a female type person, chief among the no-nos was make-up, short skirts and dangly jewellery - for this way sinfulness and unavoidable lusts would follow. Although I kind of understood the thinking behind this (well, no I didn't actually but in those days, it wasn't really done to ask) -  for someone like me, who had a bit of a hankering for lip gloss and love beads, it was a challenging time. Men were men and girls wore dufflecoats. When I left school and began to earn a bit of money I led a mini rebellion by coming to church wearing blue mascara and a skirt above my knee. Most of my rebellion got in under the wire because the senior leaders were too busy dealing with a bohemian girl who had joined the youth group and encouraged the menfolk to indulge a little too freely in the "community" aspect of church - especially with her. This she managed to do without the aid of make up or short skirts. By the time she had been dealt with (most successfully by someone's wife with a pointy finger and various "non-Christian" threats) the whole of youth womanhood at our church, had run wild and was unabashedly wearing perfume. The genie was out of the bottle.
So when I look around now and see young women in church with hair straightened within an inch of its life, beautiful cat like eye liner flicks that make them look like Nigella and heels that are not doing the church floorboards any good, it makes me smile. I am glad that the old tyranny has gone and girls no longer have to sacrifice eyebrow plucking and person hygiene for Jesus. EXCEPT (and you knew that there was an "except" unless you are new here) I hope that we haven't gone too far and replaced an old tyranny with a new one. I am very keen on the church being a place of safety. The concept is very precious to me even though it can be as rare as hen's teeth to actually see it in action. I hope that girls who don't want to partake in high level personal grooming feel free not to do so. I hope that church is a place where females can feel free to be themselves whether that involves wearing lip liner or just a bin liner.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Simple Things Making Me Happy

So we have a new freezer for overspill (Please ignore bottle of wine. It is not, as the nasty rumour goes, a spare freezer for Mummy's Wine.  I had forgotten to put it in the fridge and we were on a deadline) I remember a time when the most exciting present I could get was a nice piece of underwear or some interesting jewellery. It is probably a very sad day as I realise just how excited I am by the arrival of the freezer. I am officially a sad, old crone.

I have also finished my patchwork cushion. It's very nice and everything but NEVER AGAIN! It has taken longer than the Bayeux Tapestry.  I am a woman who loves a quick win when it comes to craft. If I ever do patchwork again it will be with MUCH bigger hexagons.
Made some little chocolate cake (I can't bear the name "cupcakes", Makes me think of lifestyle bloggers sitting in front of log fires pretending they are actually going to eat the food they are posing with) You might be surprised how life affirming a little cake becomes with the addition of a little Munchie sweet in the middle before it goes in the oven. No photos sorry - all woofed down.
I may not get out much but I certainly know how to keep myself happy at home. Simple soul that I am.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Keeping hold

Sometimes it's hard to hold on to your joy. Sometimes people do things with the best motives but they do your head in. Sometimes those things nibble at the vision that you feel God has given you almost to the point where you don't really know if you want to carry on with it.

Things to do to hold on to whatever it is God has said to you
  1.  Kind of in the way that The Beastie Boys advised you to "Fight For Your Right..To Paaarty" you may need to pitch in and fight for what you believe to be right. (In a totally non confrontational, Christiany  way obvs)
  2. Keep doing the right things. Stick to the plan. If this thing was worth doing before, it still continues to be so, however disillusioned you may feel.
  3. You are not going anywhere Jesus hasn't been before. People were always telling him he was doing it wrong. He wasn't.
  4. Ask yourself if "The Advice" you have received has any truth in it. If there is something you can learn, you must learn from it. If possible without learning through gritted teeth and muttering about "know-it-alls" (even if they are)
  5. Resove to be graceful if you know you are right. God has little time for gloaters who shout "Oh yeah! Oh yeah" while dancing and pointing in accusing way to the person who you have overcome.
  6. Smile like Morecambe. It will sort itself. This will pass. Get on with the job in hand.

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