Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Reviews and Thinkings

As you probably know it has been weathering like the end of the world for about a month outside and now it has the temerity to turn cold. (Not America cold but cold enough for me to discover that I have, in a kind of traditional way, lost my gloves again.) 

We haven't managed to spend much time outside except getting to and from places and dragging a recalcitrant dog around the park. I did make the piccs though and got to see "Saving Mr Banks" just in time. Just, just fantastic and lovely and sad and Emma Thompson you are brilliant. Academy Awards people - you know nothing. Nothing I tell you! No nomination for Ms Thompson or  Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Seriously - you couldn't pick a good performance in a Godfather movie. 
Various members of my family saw "12 Years a Slave" Hard to review because what do you say? I didn't like it? I don't think you are supposed to LIKE it are you? But still, they didn't like it. Relentless was the word used. I didn't go myself. A girl's gotta know her limitations. I know I would spend two and a half hours trying to get my head between my knees. 

So then. To Sherlock. SPOILER ALERT 
To tell you up front, I think it is head and shoulders above anything else on the Telly-Telly-Bunkum-Box (Thank you Mr Dahl) but I worried a bit at first. You will understand my wobbles if you are a Doctor Who fan. I'm not really - hasn't been the same since Eccleston left for me but did like Tennant quite a lot. But in Doctor Who - it sometimes feels to me like the fans write it now and I worried with the first episode of Sherlock that it was happening again. The outlandish solution to his death, the Morriarty nearly snog, the Bulgaria thingy. If you go anywhere near the Interweb, these will not have been new developments. Fans have been speculating about developments like these for ages. However, for me they did manage to turn it around. The wedding episode was just lovely and I think it needed to be lovely - it was the wedding for goodness sake. My favourite one though was the final episode in which we got the return of what was missing from the other two - menace. That chap from Borgen playing Rupert Murdoch was genuinely scary.

I've watched em all again. (Told you I wasn't getting out much) and these are my best bits

  • Sherlock snogging Molly. Didn't say all the fan fiction was bad did I?
  • John Watson's face when he sees Sherlock for the first time. Underrated excellence.
  • Sherlock and Mycroft's parents being played by Benedict's Mum and Dad. Classy
  • The character of Mary. Really glad she fits in with them Would have been boring drivel to make her antagonistic to Sherlock (See every other girl who has gone out with Watson in every other adaptation - ever)
  • The game of Operation between Mycroft and Sherlock. So much back story in there. Excellent writing.
  • Sherlock's battle for survival after being shot. Genuinely original and engaging. Nice to see Andrew Strong back but am hoping he is not alive. (Morriarty that is) Does no one die in this thing?
Stephen Moffat says he wants to write it as long as he can keep Benedict in it as the Cumberbatch is hot as July there now. I am hoping Hollywood holds its horses for just a bit longer.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Not as easy as you would think

I was wasting time on the t'Internet looking for photos of  dogs in onesies and rabbits making friends with baby cheetahs. (Not convinced about the long term future of that one) I came across a thing on The Huffington Post more or less saying that we over complicate the Christian Life. You just like... do it - God has left instructions. Easy Peasy.  Then they quoted Micah 8

It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,

From my experience, I think we have to be careful mixing up the words "simple" and "easy". The basic idea of living a Christian life may be simple. It don't necessarily follow that it is easy. Take that bit about doing what is fair and just to your neighbour. What if your neighbour doesn't fancy having what is fair and just done to them maybe because your neighbour is in the wrong? What if they just wanted you to be on their side even if your neighbour knows in their heart that side isn't the fair and just side? Or maybe they think their side is the right side? Then they tell everyone they know that you have done them a wrong thing. Suddenly you are the most unpopular kid in school - just for trying to do the right thing.
You know in the long term that the right thing is simple and indeed right but in the short term, it may not be too much fun for you if you choose to follow it. Jesus chose to speak the truth - it didn't always make him the most popular man in town. 

I think Jesus' life was messy and complicated - full of distractions. That's why he had to "set his face like flint" I think the young people call it "eyes on the prize" 

What I am saying is not to panic if it doesn't all fall in your lap. You do the right thing- the simple thing for God and it all goes wrong. You know you operated with the best intentions so it is really discouraging when things fall apart.

When I was a young person I was really keen on Be-Be and Ce-Ce Winans. They did a song once called "The Blood" with MC Hammer of all people. It was a cheery enough song - not exactly a personal favorite. (My personal faves were the ones where Ce-Ce sounded like she was just about to cough her lungs up) Then, once, I listened to it with earphones. And there, ever so quietly, in the background was a secret message sung in the backing track. Over and over they would whisper

"No need to panic. Trust the Blood."

And that's all  we can do in the end. If Philippians says - don't worry about anything - pray about everything - it sort of follows that God knows that there will be things to worry about - mais non? In the words of the great Michael MacDonald - "No-one said it was easy..." etc etc
Don't think you are always doing something wrong it you find the Christian life hard. The central core of love is the simplest thing in the world. The day to day living of it can really do your head in. The central comfort for me is that I never do any of it alone. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Shape of Things to Come

We have a thing here at Martha Towers. Not a huge thing but a thing for us. We have a notice board in the back room/sewing room/computer room/dump everything room/Liam's sleeping room. We use this notice board to slam up little reminders of the things that have happened to us during the year. We are a collection of simple souls and these souvenirs do not, unfortunately, include gambling chips from Monaco and sachets of spices from Moroccan Bedouins. They tend to be cinema tickets, receipts from nice meals with nice people, train tickets to interesting places and letters and invites from people who we don't live that close to anymore. It provides a snapshot of the year as it passes. Every January, I clear it all off, bung it all in a big envelope and we start again. As usual, when I clear it, I am struck by how much God gave us. Even in what was for us a year of taking our time and standing still; there was still so much that happened. 

So now the board is empty (except for the permanent residence of FOW1's instructions to Head of House about how to put music onto his MP3. HOH cannot live without that being handy at all times) I am a bit allergic to looking forward and planning. Partly, I think because, years ago, when I became ill, I did so in early January and the promise of the new year was immediately swept away. However, sometimes my lack of planning, does jump up and bite me on the bum a bit. Like last November, I wanted to go on a writers thingy but because I left it to the last minute, I couldn't get the time off work and, to be honest, I hadn't put the money aside either, so didn't make it.

Tentatively then, I am thinking about the year to come. 

  • Everyone in the house has a milestone birthday (except me) 18, 21 and 70. (OK so I am lying about the 70) I think this shows how bad a planner I am. What sort of lunatic would plan their children's births so that they have these birthdays in the same year and on top of that, in the same year that their father is 70? (Lying again about the 70)
  • One member of offspring has big exams followed by decisions about the future
  • We are hoping for some time away this year - in fact trip to York already in the bag as they say and looking at other stuff in second half of the year.
  • As HOH is getting very old (70 candles this year. OK still just winding him up) he is thinking about reducing his hours ministering to the sick. (The sick seem to be ok with it)
  • I have accepted a request to speak at an Alpha (First time I have done this in years. Feel slightly sick at the thought)
  • We are hoping to get the rendering sorted some time this year as well. This may not seem like a big deal to you but it will go down very well with the neighbours and will hopefully get them to change their minds about getting a petition up because we are lowering the tone.
So loads of stuff on, even without the things that God tends to slip under the front door when we are not paying attention. I am going to try a bit harder to take responsibility (see last blog - not just throwing this together you know) and plan a bit. I think if God plans, it is maybe a good thing to have a go myself, maybe

    I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Word 2014

So, apparently it is not cool to do resolutions any more. I have to admit that all those Sunday supplements promising "New Year - New You" are very annoying. The Sunday Times are relentlessly pushing a book by some woman who thinks we should give up sugar. I am sure that this is an admirable ambition except the "delicious" recipes are completely unobtainable unless you are a Notting Hill dwelling, mega salary earning, bona fide FREAK!


Natasha - founder of Honestly Healthy - Breakfast is a smoothie made from 100g mango, 60g celery, 60g cucumber, 25g spinach, 5g mint, 40g avocado, juice of 1 lemon, 260ml coconut water, 1/2 teaspoon spirulina, 1 teaspoon chia seed. (I consider it an achievement if I remember to stir currants into my porridge.)

Or Johnny - founder of Bespoke Fitness. His sweet treats include Stevia (a natural sugar alternative) and Cacao (a natural antioxidant). (I have double checked and he doesn't seem to list a scone among his sweet treats. No accounting for taste I suppose.)

We can all probably do with reducing our sugar intake. I just am not sure that I want to make it my reason for living. A more sensible approach to New Year resolutions is the one word for the year thing that people are doing. Angela at Tracing Rainbows has come up with the word "Shine". Lucy Mills at Looking Deeper has chosen "Release" You get the idea. For me I think it will be "Responsibility" - both positive and negative.

It is my responsibility to make the most of my time, my energy, my rest. If I have goals for the year, it is my responsibility to do what is asked of me to move closer to those goals. I have to be a grown up about this and not spend my time complaining that God never does anything for me. 

However, I also have to accept that it is not MY responsibility to keep the whole world happy. I can make sure that I try really hard not to make other people's lives a misery. I can try to be kind and sympathetic and thoughtful. But I cannot really bear the responsibility for making people happy. People come to me sometimes with a list of woes and look at me expectantly. I can give my take on it and maybe that can help (or maybe not) but other people have to take responsibility for their own lives sometimes too. Sometimes we really can't help ourselves and support is vital. Maybe just not as often as we think. I don't know about you but I have had people say "pray for me" but they don't really mean that. They mean "pray for me, take this from me, go find me the right people to help me, answer the phone night and day to support me, just flippin' come up with the answer will you!!!!?!" And I can't. Not always. I can listen but not forever. I can pray but we all need to pray for ourselves as well.  In my rather limited experience, when we pray for something, God rarely bursts through the door in a superhero suit. Each situation needs us to learn, often slowly and when we look back we see the miracle and our place in it.

The Hollies were once memorably heard to sing in a sort of long drawn-out way "He ain't heavy - He's my brother." Well he is quite heavy sometimes actually. And maybe, when I have done everything possible to support him, we both have to accept that really it's now between my brother and God and he needs to get off my shoulder and go to God direct - before he puts my back out.

It does sound a bit horrible this and I am not saying that people who need support shouldn't get it. I am just saying that God does the one to one stuff better than me and sometimes I just have to give you up to him and then you get to experience what he has for you yourself. 

Perhaps my most favourite pasage from The Message is the one from Matthew 11

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Sometimes we all have to find this in God for ourselves. That connection. That "Hullo. I was waiting for you to call on me." That thing that Jesus does that no one else can. There is a thing that only God can give you - and he won't let me go and get it for you. Believe me, it is much better for you to get it from God yourself. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Films 2013

In case you are bothered, these are my films of the year. Because I am bothered, there is a definite lack of films where women are wounded, tortured with pliers or generally terrorised for our entertainment. If that's what floats your boat, you are in the wrong place. I don't think it's just my imagination that there is a lot more of this sort of stuff about so I am really chuffed when I find movies that try to do something a bit less stabby. Also, there are films that have been highly recommended that I haven't seen yet but still hope to (Saving Mr Banks, Mud) or  ones that I have heard are excellent but I feel a bit old to go to (Warm Bodies, Catching Fire)So by no means an exhaustive list. Anyway, one or two films till we all get bored and go off and do something else. (Bit like Doctor Who)

Game changer. 3D and then some. Peril in space. Totally realistic (obvs no actual experience but judging by how scared I was...) Cloonster, Sandra, Best special effects EVER. That is all.

Tom Hanks, possibly his best ever performance. ("Big" not included obvs) So tense, un-named member of our party had to go to loo halfway through for tension wee. (No, not me actually) Paul Greengrass genius story of Somali pirates hijacking a ship had me chewing the seat in front. No appearance from Princess Anne but you can't have everything.

Woody Allen good again. Cate Blanchette so brilliant I forgave her that stupid Armani advert. Interesting and smart, Alex Baldwin in it.  New York. And. just. funny. What do you want?

Bit obscure but worth seeking out. Delicious coming of age film. Sam Rockwell very funny. Steve Carrell very creepy. Nothing particularly revolutionary here but it is actually heartening and surely there's nothing wrong with that is there?

Deceptively important. Nasty nuns. Man's inhumanity to man laid bare, in the name of no religion I have ever known. Sensitively played by Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Also noticeable that Philomena retained her faith and they were faithful to that. Two tissue movie.

If you didn't like this-you are weird. "Bottom! Heh. Heh."

Made me laugh a lot. "Cream of British Acting" behaving like alien invasions are something you can easily deal with, given enough pints of bitter.
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