Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas


Hello. Just to let you know that the blog will be going quiet over the Christmas period and I will be back with deep insights for living (or failing that lots of inane observations) in the New Year.
And, bowing to huge public demand, all that remains is for Martha Towers and especially Aged Parent (with assistance from FOW1) to wish you all a Blessed Christmas and an Amazing New Year
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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Nativity Overkill


It has been suggested to me that Five Nativity sets may possibly be a little over the top. I am not sure about that and I'm not taking any notice of anyone anyway but I thought I might just introduce you to them. (This is nothing like introducing you to my children either) The set above is the newest addition and this is cool and elegant Jesus with a free Bethlehem background. 
This is cute Jesus and has the advantage of having the whole stable shenanigans attached. No blu tac needed. Real straw too, therefore highly authentic
This is "I've No Idea Where This Is From Jesus" so called because I have no recollection of buying it. Still, all are welcome here.
This is Inca Fairtrade Jesus AND you can put a tealight in it. That is all.
And this is my oldest child Nativity. If you look closely you can see that most of them are propped up against each other because they have a lot of bits missing. A great deal of the damage was caused by FOW1 doing secret death match fights using them as action figures when he was little but I sort of thought if Joseph wasn't man enough to take Spiderman then God would never have chosen him to look after Mary and Jesus. Five? Too many? Nah.
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Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Pause in Advent #4

Gari Melchers
I wouldn't claim to know anything about good art or bad art. I just think this is amazing. Not because of the draughtsmanship which I know nothing about but I love the sentiment. Mary and Joseph are in a dirty back room. Mary has just given birth and is exhausted. Joseph looks as though he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. No angels yet or shepherds or wise men. Just a quiet moment of wondering - is this it?
Maybe sometimes miracles have very unprepossessing starts. Not every answer to prayer comes with an angel bursting through the door playing "In The Mood" on his trumpet. Sometimes we have to screw our eyes up a bit to see exactly what this seed can become. Like the tiny cloud, the size of a fist, when what the people need is a huge deluge of rain. Sometimes we have to nurture the answer, which comes quietly and without fanfare and believe that this is God, starting to answer our prayers. Seeing with the eyes of faith I think they used to call it. God may be sending us the answer we need already, we need to respond to his prompting and ask and see if he wants us to do anything to develop his miracle in our lives.  Mary and Joseph had to do it. Out of a very unpromising start came the miracle they had been promised. But it  must have looked very dark there for a while - even when things had started to move. 

This is my last part of A Pause in Advent. There are some great blogs out there about Advent. Always a blessing - never a chore. Please feel free to link in and take a look
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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Pause in Advent #3

Mary. You know, I think she was quite a person. I was thinking about her last night as I was blu-tacking my newest Nativity set on  to a shelf. (That makes five in total I think. NO ONE can say that they don't see anything of the original Christmas story when they visit this house at Christmas) 

I re-read the beginning of Luke and was amazed to see how much of her early journey with God was so counter intuitive to what would usually be expected.

When the Angel first visits to tell her of her pregnancy, she asks how, but once she's told, there's no "I don't fancy this, think of the trouble it will cause" Or "Are you sure? Because I will need some kind of proof - otherwise - you know - what will Joseph think?" She is certain of what she has been told, and full of praise for the miracle she is about to witness, sets her face forward to meet head on anything that is about to happen.

She leaves with Joseph when heavily pregnant. Leaves her mother - and the women who would certainly have been her birth partners behind and ploughs on alone; possibly with a man who was still eyeing her sideways and wondering if he had really heard the whole truth. Yet she is still determined to see this through. He own personal hardship does not dim the vision she has been given.

When the shepherds came, all full of stories of angel choirs and confirmation of all that she had been told, she could have stood up and shouted - "See, I told you so!" but the Bible says she kept it all in her heart - not to needing to justify herself. 

It was, obviously, a special and different time. God would see his plans come to pass and Mary would have his protection. Sometimes when I look at her and what was already within her - it seems that God saw something in this woman and picked her out - something neither she nor those around her were maybe aware of. There are maybe lessons here for all of us about what God sees in us and what we see in ourselves. What we feel is achievable and what God knows is achievable. It's switching from one track to the other that is the challenge for us.



Part of A Pause In Advent 2015.
Go here to link up to some great stuff.
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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Sacrificial


To the Joy Unbounded that is B and M Bargains. We have taken Aged Parent because she has always wanted to go to the massive B and Ms in Cornwall. Have given Head of House a stern talking to. He is not a great shopper (unless he is in Armani and those days are long gone, Buster). He likes to go in, choose what he wants and leave - preferably within thirty seconds. This is the exact Polar Opposite of Aged Parent who feels if an aisle is worth looking at, it's worth looking at four times. I feel that if everyone compromises, all will be well. Thirty minutes in, we are halfway down Aisle One and Head of House is sitting disconsolately on a £19.99 chaise longue which doesn't look that sturdy to me. I am running between the two trying to keep everyone happy. Well, actually Aged Parent is oblivious to any tension as she is thrilled by her purchase of 40 Christmas cards for £1.99. I am quite concerned that when you hold them up you can see through them but she reassures me that it is "Only for the people in the Sheltered Housing"
Head of House cheers up a bit when we find an enormous steak and kidney pudding in a tin, which is technology at its most advanced as far as he is concerned. After what seems like a lifetime, we retreat to Waitrose next door for overpriced coffee and a pastry that Aged Parent has to take all the nuts off. She shares interesting story about a lady she knows who was "a bit of a girl" when she was younger.
"Apparently, all the Matelans were queuing up for her when she was young"
"Mum, I don't claim to be an expert in naval terms but I'm pretty certain that it is "Matelots" that you mean."
Aged Parent gives me hard stare and moves on - completely unconvinced that these sailors do not share their name with the well known discounting store.
Anyway - bottom line. Nice morning really - once we all got used to each other.
HOH and I soothed our troubled brows later on by going to see Bridge of Spies. It's very good. Really good. Spielberg is really very good at what he does for a living.
In other exciting news. I have booked my Star Wars tickets. I'm not going on the first night because that's when all the people who like to dress up as Wookies go and that's a bit much even for me. Am going as soon as I can after that though. Happy Days! 
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Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Pause in Advent #2

Our Advent services proper started this morning at church. A good title don't cha think? Clever. Nothing to do with me. This morning we were talking about (well - I wasn't - the pastor was) ..John, John The Baptist that was it, and Zachariah and Elizabeth. And I got thinking (After the service obviously - I was paying rapt attention throughout) It was the angel, that did it. The rustle of an angel's wing. Small beginnings. An almost imperceptible noise. Did the shepherds hear that flutter before they saw the angels  in all their glory?

And a prayer. The answer to a prayer. Zachariah and Elizabeth had thought it was too late for them. Zachariah hears the rustle of an angel's wings just while going about his day to day business in the temple and then he sees the miracle. 

Sometimes things start small. An answer may not come how you expect it. We should maybe learn to see God answering us quietly first and in unexpected ways. Such as the kindness of a local businessman who offers his shed to a young couple with nowhere to sleep. Or a star, a twinkly light in an unexpected place, reminding us we are loved and watched over.

We can despair or think we are forgotten. We can worry that the promised end seems as far away as ever. Yet, at this time, something in the heavens was stirring as God moved to put his plan into action. Sometimes it was obvious and angels sang in the sky but the small signs of God moving must have been there before, when people - shepherding their sheep, serving their God (though fearing they had been forgotten) and exhaustedly keeping on going despite everything -  out of nowhere, suddenly heard the rustle of an angel's wings 

Part of A Pause In Advent. Lots of good stuff linked through here

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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

For the outsiders



I was just thinking, as you do. I kept thinking about those who feel on the outside of things – for whatever reason. Those who feel passed over. Those who never feel asked to the party. Those who feel it all goes on without them being able to be part of things. Three stories
The woman who hemorrhaged – for twelve years mind you – this was no passing ailment. She had been brought so low that as she reached out for Jesus, through the throng and those stronger than her, the place she was at was on the floor. So low that as she reached out her hand she touched the lowest, furthest part of him. It was all she could do. It didn’t matter. It was enough. Jesus felt her touch. He responded.  No one is too low.
The woman at the well. So sick of herself. So afraid of the constant judgement of the predicament she had got into, that she absented herself from life. She went to the well – did the things that were necessary for everyday life – at times when no one else was there. She cut herself off. Avoided everyone who might pass judgement. And Jesus finds her. He finds her in her hiding place. He goes out of his way and outside of the expected timeframe to find her. He talks to her through the looks he gets from his disciples, because he sees the person, even though he is well aware of the life she lives.
The centurion with the sick servant. He is from a different culture – a different understanding. He is not sure how to reach this Jesus. He does not feel on the same page, knows he needs something but cannot quite see how to get over the gulf. He sends out messengers – forerunners. He protects himself by insisting that Jesus doesn’t need to come. He manages to reach out while insisting on a distance. Jesus can work with that. He can take whatever you feel you can give. He will love at whatever point you are at. Jesus took it as a great credit that the centurion had felt able to reach out at all.

The lost, the lonely, the marginalised – either by life’s circumstances or their own behaviour. So many stories about Jesus and his ability to reach all – even the most trembly, crushed and messed up. 
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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Pause in Advent

So, despite my best efforts, Christmas has genuinely started - or at least the countdown has. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Christmas. I'm just not that keen on it in September. 

Everyone, I meet says how annoying it is that we are constantly bombarded with Christmas adverts from just after the kids go back to school. Yet still people keep glancing at the Christmas decs, just itching to get the tree out and wrestle with the lights. Advertisers know that they are pushing on an open door when it comes to an earlier and earlier Christmas, Otherwise, why would they bother? So why do we say we hate how much earlier Christmas has become and yet allow ourselves to be taken along by it?

I think it's maybe partly because people need Christmas. (I am now fighting off an image from my youth of a long haired, lady playing the acoustic guitar and crooning - not entirely successfully - "People neeeed the Lord." Funny what stays in your memory banks ) First of all, those of us that are blessed enough not to work in retail or health care need the break. It's a legitimate chance to stop, to just stop doing everything and that makes Christmas important. (And for my money, that is one reason why moves to open shops on Christmas Day should be resisted by all means possible)

There is something else there though. After a difficult and sometimes dismal year people sense something. They sense a hope. An exhortation to be good to each other, beyond our own selfish desires and ambitions. Christmas brings with it the possibility that there is a plan and a purpose, despite very inauspicious beginnings. I think that people almost don't know it, but Christmas still stirs something within them - a possibility of the impossible - Peace on earth. Goodwill to Men. As a little girl, I was taught that these things has a condition in front of them - for peace and goodwill you had to take on board the first part of this verse in Luke and put God in his right place. That way, men can get that break and that rest from the daily troubles, that we long for. It's not much point in us trying to make it happen ourselves - not really. Not with our track record.


Luke 2
 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 As this is part of a link up - as the month goes on, can I draw your attention to some blogs taking part in A Pause in Advent. Have a look. 

http://angalmond.blogspot.co.uk/


http://www.faith-hope-and-confusion.com/2015/11/a-pause-in-advent-1.html

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Last week I have been...

"The Lady in the Van film poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia 
Reading stories from Paris and wondering about the courage of people and how they carry on afterwards. I am not writing too much about Paris here. I am not sure I have the skills to do it justice. 

Taken delivery of FOW2 for a weekend. She was came home to go to a concert. You do a sort of almost imperceptible gulp at the moment when your loved ones go to a public event but we need to carry on I think. Anyway she was convinced that bombing type people would have no idea who the band "The 1975" are so she felt quite safe. In exchange for a lift to the gig she accompanied me next day as I took Aged Parent to The Range. This was a bit of a rollercoaster. After having a heated argument with HOH about whether "Lametta" is a real word, I was very pleased to find a packet there and send him a photo, however was unable to talk Aged Parent out of her instant affinity for an exploding glitter Santa.

I was slightly put out to hear that security at Plymouth's dockyard is being stepped up in the wake of the attacks. There are nuclear submarines there. I was hoping security was already quite "stepped up" there as a general principle to be frank with you.

Out to watch The Lady In The Van. They are pushing on an open door a bit with me. I love Alan Bennett. His observation about day to day is outstanding. Maybe you have to be from the North of England to really get it but I am certain I have met around fifty percent of the people he talks about. 

I have already seen The Lady In The Van on stage. It was very good but I liked this more. It tells the "mostly true" story of an old lady who lived in a van which Bennett allowed her to park on his drive for fifteen years. She was cantankerous and had "interesting" toileting habits but Bennett said "She never impinged."  Maggie Smith is as perfect as you would expect obviously. However, I thought Alex Jennings was at least as impressive as Bennett. I read that Jennings wasn't too bothered about it being seen as Maggie Smith's film but was a bit taken aback to see it billed as starring Maggie Smith and James Corden (Corden is in it for about fifteen seconds) It's well written as you would expect and sometimes really funny. It's not a barrel of laughs though - you won't be holding your sides when  you come out because it is also really quite sad. People behave the way they do for lots of reasons and life is sometimes quite harsh to those who don't quite fit the mould. There's a lot of kindness here though and, at the moment, I can't think of a better reason to recommend a film to you.
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Thursday, 19 November 2015

In Praise of Lists


I am the type of person who scours the Internet to see what it is that I am doing wrong. Having spent some time perusing Twitter (to find some nice photos of Jeremy Vine and Karen Clifton in Strictly. I have left Strictly now they have gone. Too many semi danced trained, low level showbiz types for me - sorry.) I have come across a few things talking about the tyranny of lists and getting rid of this oppressive scourge. Well not me matey. I have a list. I have an ongoing list. My list is going nowhere. I will admit that the whole planner thing has gone a bit too far. I have never really felt the need to buy stickers with little glasses of water on them to tell me to drink six pints a day or whatever. I also freely admit that I find it a teeny bit sad that people spend fifteen quid on a stamp that says "To Do" rather than just scrawl it. (Actually, I don't even need to that. If it's written down - it needs to be done. That is all)

Firstly, I notice that a lot of these people who rattle on about leaving yourself free to run through God's Open Fields of Thoughtfulness or whatever are not burdened by my working patterns. I am full time - nine to five. I can't break off for a couple of hours to sit on a hill. It won't go down well with the Powers That Be. I cannot count on their understanding. This does not just apply to people who work. Lots of people are so committed to lots of things, they just can't "go with the flow". 

Also I am old and I forget things and if things that I need to do are not staring balefully out at me when I open my diary, there is every chance that they won't get done. I am the King, Queen and Princess Royal of mentally sidelining things that I don't fancy. Writing it down will make it unavoidable; a Thing That Must Be Done. Consequently, when the task is complete, I have found that there are few things more satisfying than running a highlighter pen through one of these conscience prodders.

I find, it makes time for me. It really does. I use a list to both write down what I need to do but also to limit my expectations. I may need to do eight hundred and forty things but if I write down the three most urgent for the next five evenings, I will usually do those things and then skip off and do what I want to do. This means things get done and I feel good. Otherwise there is every chance that you will find me curled up in a ball under the bed crying because I am overwhelmed by how much needs to be done and I have spent the whole evening watching re-runs of Only Connect - even though I have already seen every episode- just to take my mind off them.

As I age, I am more aware of how quickly time passes. The prospect of having a life that, one day, allows me to lie on my belly in the sun and daily contemplate God's goodness is very attractive but today, I have so many things I have to do, that I need to remember them. 
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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Right Time. Right Place.


Hello. Sort of feel the urge to tell you a story, that I know I have told before. Can't remember if it was here or not. Feel free to skip it if you know it. I would. It's quite long, hope it isn't too long.
When I was at school, I was rubbish at sport. Really rubbish. In fact if being rubbish at sport ever became an Olympic Sport, I would be a multi gold medal winner. (I understand how unlikely this scenario is) 
Believe it or not I actually spent some time as part of a class hockey team. Not because I had suddenly become a hero with a hockey stick but because:
a) My friends were all in the team and they wanted me with them - however burdensome I was.
b) No one else wanted to do it.

For a while it wasn't too difficult. I was a defender in a really good team so the goalkeeper and I spent more time playing air guitar with our sticks than actually staving off attacks. Eventually though, and despite my best efforts, we were promoted. Then it all went wrong. I kept finding myself up against much better players, players that my friends could not protect me from. Week after week I watched wingers maraud past me, and put in amazing crosses. It was really hard work. I could have taken out shares in witch hazel, I spent so long bathing bruises. But I carried on. I turned up every week and although I was praying to be dropped, I decided that I wasn't going to walk away. I trained hard - to no avail and my worst fears were confirmed when we played the league leaders. When I saw their winger I immediately demanded a sex test. She passed me again and again, legs pumping like pistons. I was having a torrid time. Then, out of the blue as she ran towards me again, I breathed hard, remembered the training for once, stepped into the tackle properly and smashed the ball back upfield. It was a brilliant tackle and it seemed to break my opponent's spirit. Either that, or she was too shocked to continue. 
The spectators were as surprised as anyone else. As we trooped off the pitch at the end - I could hear people openly saying - How did SHE manage that? My gym teacher, who I thought could barely remember my name, replied to those around her. "She deserved that. She kept going. Made sure that when the opportunity came she was ready for it. Right place right time."

I wish I could say that this was the start of a great hockey career but I was soon out of the team and they were better for it. (Much better) but I still think about it sometimes. When I am tempted to give up and walk away, I think - what if I miss it? What if the good thing happens and I have legged it out of there? 
Maybe that is what this means

Galatians 6:9-10The Message (MSG)


9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Though a Strange Lens

"Partridge Family first cast 1970" by ABC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Partridge_Family_first_cast_1970.JPG#/media/File:Partridge_Family_first_cast_1970.JPG

I'm sat in the Sunday Morning Meeting, as you do. I'm alone as HOH is tending to the needs of the sick at the hospital and I'm looking round a bit. My eyes see a few people sat to my right. Our church is cavernous, so they are not exactly sat on top of me. They are people I know of rather than know - if you get me. They are medical people, really nice. They do stuff for God in far off places in their spare time. They are going through some testing health problems which they are bearing with good faith and application. I spoke to him once and was amazed to find that he had not been a Christian for very long. He attended an Alpha course and it had gone from there. Amazing. Then, as I do, I compare these people to me. I see all they will achieve for God and I wonder if I have left it too late. They are nice. I am not nice. They have maturity and gravitas. Er... This can lead to me wondering if I am really much of a Christian at all and if God could really have done much better for himself. Then, out of nowhere, I came over all David Cassidy.

I don't know if you remember David Cassidy. When I was young, it was one of three. The cool girls loved David Cassidy. The really cool girls loved Michael Jackson. The rest of girlhood loved Donny Osmond. I was team Donny. I know. I don't care.
David Cassidy was beautiful though. You had to admit that. So I used to watch him in The Partridge Family. I loved the Partridge Family. I had no idea what was going on really but anyway. I think they were a pop band made up from a family. They would go "on the road", have wacky adventures and then sing a jolly pop song at the end. Think S Club Seven with Shirley Jones as their Mum. That kind of thing. Then, because David Cassidy was beautiful, he started doing stuff on his own. And there was a song, Not much of a song but it had a lyric. 

In the eyes of the world I'm a loser just wastin' my time
I can't make a dime
In the eyes of the world being born was my first big mistake
I can't get a break
But in the eyes of my woman I stand
Like a hero, a giant, a man who's as tall as can be
Any fool can see

That she's lookin' through the eyes of love
Lookin' through the eyes of love
Lookin' through the eyes of love when she looks at me-ee.

And I thought. That's what God does - with me. He sees me differently than I see myself. Reminded me a bit of this in Galatians. 

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

And I felt ok. There are complicated transactions going on here. Much more complicated than me and how I feel about myself sometimes. But it is taken care of. It is sorted. Christians should feel comforted and secure. Because we are.







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Monday, 9 November 2015

New Week

"Spectre poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spectre_poster.jpg#/media/File:Spectre_poster.jpg


Monday  has zoomed round again, as it does and I have looked back on a less than momentous week - the highlights of which I am happy to share. So last week, I was mostly...

  • Taking Aged Parent to Aldi and watching the crowds of students miraculously part as she informed the room that Syrup Of Figs was doing wonders for her constipation. She has no boundaries but at least we can get to the fish freezer easily.
  • Going to watch The Bond. I wish I liked Spectre more. I would love to like The Bond, packed as it is with great people - Rory, Ben, Ralph and, of course Dave Batista. And it's British and cool. But it was so long. Hours long, and I get a bit bored of car crashes and punching people and torture. Where are the jokes? It used to be full of quips. Not very funny quips, I'll give you that but a least they were having a go. The beginning is really good, a great set piece but then, well not so good for me. The villain was annoying me - why wasn't he wearing any socks under his trousers? There is a moral choice at the end that JB would NEVER make which was a puzzle. And Monica Belluci needs to phone her agent. All she gets to do is look Italian (Which she does fabulously well) get pushed against a mirror by JB, do a bit of jig-a-jig, then never be seen again. Lots of people loved it. HOH liked it. He told me - "It's not really for you is it?"
  • Turned on the Festival of Remembrance to hear them singing Praise My Soul rather beautifully, only to have the whole thing ruined by Pixie Lott giggling though it like I used to do at school. (In my defence - I was eleven) This, I think, is was happens when you try to put showbiz into intelligent, thoughtful things. I'm not sure what her contribution was because I switched on late. I'm willing to bet she had spent some time earlier murdering "We'll Meet Again" - making it sound like a threat rather than a promise.
  • Been over to Amazon to pre-order the new Pen Wilcock, Hawk and The Dove book. (Highly recommended by the way) It's not due out till February but, I like to be in the queue. It's a British thing I think. 
  • Felt a bit sick - along with HOH, for a couple of days. We are a bit concerned that our duvet is trying to kill us. It's really efficient. Too efficient and we both keep waking up boiling hot with bad heads. I could do with the weather going a bit colder to be honest or we may not survive the Autumn. 
  • Managed to leave my phone at work Friday night and decided that, rather than go back for it, I would have a phone free weekend. Have been approached by four people (one a bit worried that I had been kidnapped or sold into slavery apparently) moaning that they couldn't get in touch with me. Will need to rejoin human race today unfortunately and return to phone.
Other than that, I worried a bit, prayed a bit, got on with it, as you do. Bring on the next week. 
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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Halloween

Autumn is in full swing. Halloween has come and gone and I can't say I'm sorry. We actually had kids knock on the door this year but we don't answer it. We can't. The dog isn't keen on strangers calling in the dark and making woo-woo noises. They would get more of a spooking than they were bargaining for and no one wants to spend Halloween in Casualty. I'm not keen on Halloween for lots of reasons. 

  • The spiritual aspect. My background means that I am not kindly disposed to jokey stuff about witches and demons etc. It was never a positive when I was a little girl. Also everyone' s background should surely mean that they are not too keen on dressing their five year old as a sexy witch or giving their three year old a Scream mask. That could just be me. Modern parenting may have moved on. I do not claim to be an expert.
  • Halloween Parties. Too fraught for me and too many plastic spiders knocking around. Also as a non swimmer, Bobbing for Apples always seemed to be the kind of thing you would do when you were trying to extract information about the whereabouts of secret plans. Not a child's party game.
  • Never been a fan of entertainment based on frightening the living daylights out of me. Can still remember a visit to Mother Shipton's Cave as a child. Some lunatic had thought it might be "educational" to put a statue of Mother Shipton (Wise woman/Witch - depending on your theology) in the back of the cave where she was born. After catching sight of it, it took three park attendants to scrape me off the ceiling.
  • My mother told me that Door Knocking was legalised begging. (See also Penny For the Guy and singing the line Away In a Manger three times and calling it Carol Singing) Or demanding money with menaces these days. My neighbour actually had her windows egged this year! This was unwise as her husband is an ex marine and they have three quite large sons knocking about the place.
  • It's very American. That's what people say a lot about Halloween. I like America though. I like the teeth and the can-do attitude and Tina Fey. It's a grand place. (The Gun thing is a bit weird I know) Halloween is a bit of a money spinning exercise though, as anyone who has been in the first aisle of Sainsbury's at this time of year will tell you. (Where are the carrots?) 
The Indep.
We like our Autumn entertainment a bit more homely in the UK. We like celebrating the possible destruction of our democracy by burning effigies in the streets and by remembering torturing people until they could no longer write. See Guy Fawkes' signatures before and after The Rack. We are  a bit more civilised here. 
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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

China In Your Hand

This is my final little treat to myself before Christmas saving etc. (That's if you don't count visit to the hospice shop to stock up on books and some other books I need and some mascara that it is good to get because I have a voucher and some theatre tickets oh and I will have to get a new cardi for work. Think that's it. Possibly not.) So this lovely phone case came from China which I feel a bit guilty about because of the cheap steel imports and the human rights but it is really difficult to get a Lilo and Stitch phone cover. I have read that sentence back and am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Lilo and Stitch, by the way is the best Disney cartoon EVER. (This is not a debate - this is a statement of fact) Possibly rivalled only by Mulan. Do not bother me with Frozen - full as it is of  tiny waisted insipid girlies running up and down piles of ice and bellowing songs at me. Mulan is a lady soldier who SAVES CHINA! (This blog is very oriental, I have noticed). And Lilo and Stitch has the best quote ever in it:

Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten

You can also get this on a phone case but I keep crying every time I read it which is not very helpful when you are trying to answer your phone. 

I am a bit puzzled by the inclusion in the  phone cover package of a little blue jewel thing to stick up my phone's bottom. I cannot for the life of me think why anyone would want to do that. But I am old.

We moseyed on down to the cinema to see The Martian. It's very good. Probably about 20 minutes too long. There was a bit in the middle about China (good grief, there it is again) that I couldn't really see the point of but it was good. Everyone in it plays the person they normally play. Matt Damon is a decent everyman sort. Sean Bean is a gruff, Yorkshire, Lady Chatterley's Person sort. Jeff Daniels is the man he plays in the Newsroom - tough but fair. Jessica Chastain is edgy but somehow appealing. Still, they all do it very well and it was a bit jumpy at the end. Cinema does space very impressively these days and it freaks me out to see people behaving normally in a spaceship when out of the window you can see that they are a gazillion miles away from anywhere. Although, is it true that you can see the Great Wall of China from space?


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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Social Media - The Revenge

One good thing about kids leaving is that you get to raid their bedrooms for, well anything you fancy really. FOW 1's room is not much good tbh because I am not that into Wolverine or the Red Hot Chilli Peppers but FOW2's bedroom - that is an Aladdin's Cave of stuff. It's mostly books although there is some nice nail varnish and a couple of more than acceptable scarves. I also have a winter coat to try on as the suede one I had my eye on from Tesco is sold out unless you fancy a size 8. (I may fancy it but I will never see it again.)
Anyway - back to the books. This is a salutary tale, mainly about social media and the trolling that goes on there. It's not so much about the famous ones - you know - where people can threatened with rape because they do something terrible like wanting a picture of a Suffragette on a five pound note. It's about people who made actual mistakes - remember the girl who was disrespectful in Arlington Cemetery? She had death threats, and lost her job - couldn't leave the house. Ronson compares this to the days of the stocks when people were dragged into the town square to be publicly humiliated for whatever they had done. 
Twitter is a scary place but I have comforted myself with the knowledge that as a nobody, I am unlikely to attract any attention. It seems that this is not true. One ill-advised Tweet or one stupid photo can bring the might of the entire Internet down on your head. They can make the sort of threats that, were they made directly to you in the street, you could ring the police and they would send two burly police constables round immediately. (If there were any constables left)
This makes me sound like I am 104 but sometimes, when I hear about people planning to behead people in the street or public shaming becoming a thing again or people using children as their own personal slaves, I do wonder how far we are progressing. I mean, I rarely throw the toilet waste out of upstairs windows I know and rickets is all but eliminated in Plymouth but it seems there are sometimes when we have barely moved on at all.
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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Autumn Thoughts - Not from Abroad


The leaves they are a colouring, the wind, it is a gusting, the spiders they are a hanging off my windows. It must be Autumn.

Autumn is ok really. It gets a bad press because people are annoyed because Boots has got its Christmas presents out. People are wandering around muttering "It's only September" and are refusing to join in the general merriment at the Garden Centre where Christmas Joy is already full blown - if the light-up, back-flipping Santa Garden Sprite is anything to judge by. 

So Autumn is the bit between Summer when we were all quite wet for a lot of it and Winter when we are all quite wet again but need the heat on as well. It is the time when the telly bucks up a bit because we didn't need good telly in the summer when we were all rowing down rivers and drinking Pimms in the evenings. Now, the nights are closing in and we need the X Factor to bring us hope for the future. (I have never seen the X Factor - I shouldn't judge) It is therefore a time of transition and change and moving on and lots of other transitional words. 

We are transitioning a bit here at Martha Towers. We are officially "Empty Nesters" now - at least until Christmas. You are supposed to fall into one of two camps as an "Empty Nester". Either you phone your child three times a day and beg them to come home or you paint their bedroom in a neutral kind of colour and rent it out to a student called Juan. I don't think we are either. I am really pleased that they are moving on. I wouldn't want it any other way. It is their time. I enjoy lots of the new things. Small ironing piles, being able to put bacon in pasta dishes, not hearing size twelve shoes trying to creep in at 4am. HOH and I have enjoyed just thinking about us. It has been lovely. 

Yet there are friends missing from the house. There are gaps. We miss them. And, cliched as it sounds, I am wondering what I am actually for? If you get my meaning. (Please don't send anyone round. I am not balancing on a ledge or anything) But I know, I have to find the next stage. Nothing dramatic. No juggling, back packing, entering Bake Off. Just the next piece of thing. 

“When the time’s ripe, I answer you.
    When victory’s due, I help you.

Isaiah 49
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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

It's A Timing Thing


We have been away. Not physically but mentally, spiritually. Our two have flown the nest as they say, and it has been lots of things - exciting, sad, shattering, worrying, satisfying.

I am not a depressive type of person, but I have felt a little low. Partly because, the FOWS had worries of their own. For FOW2 there are all the obvious worries of starting Uni for the first time. For FOW1 - the return to York - this time as a post grad, needing a job and starting again in a way. 

People say it's like a bereavement but it isn't - not for me anyway. I have been bereaved and it's not like that. There is too much conviction here that this is such a fantastic opportunity for both of them, I am proud. (Did we decide if this kind of pride is a sin? I can't remember) 

HOH and I have also been physically pooped. All the packing, tidying, last minute running to Wilkinson's (Did I say how expensive this whole business was?) HOH has driven to York and back over the course of two days. So we just stopped. A bit. We had to go to work obviously (They seemed to insist for some reason) Sunday, we didn't go to church, just padded around. And it has been more or less like that all week. More prayer too. We are not able to help them with the things they are dealing with ourselves so we have prayed. We have found the consolation of giving these huge worries and concerns to God a great - well consolation. And prayers have been answered. 

I pinched this off Kindred of the Quiet Way because it fits how we feel. 


"Flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put aside your laborious pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in him for a little while. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek him."
                                 ~ Anselm of Canterbury



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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Busy


We are all over the place at the moment. Two people going to University in the next three days. Fortunately HOH has had some time off work so the main burden of overseeing and generally chivvying everyone up has fallen on him - he is playing to his strengths here.
I am a bit jumpy about them both going - not because I don't want them to go. They are ready and this is the right thing. FOW1 is going back to do his Masters and FOW2 is returning to education after a year out and she has really missed it. I just wonder how I will be. Also - sometimes I think I will be fine with it and then I feel a bit guilty.
I was talking to someone after church on Sunday though and she was brilliant. She told me - quite firmly - and I paraphrase a bit. "I was fine when they left home. I thought it was fantastic. Lovely and quiet and ordered. No more piles of washing or buying food for England. Coming and going as you please. People talk about it being a bereavement and it's not a bereavement. It's not as if someone has died or gone away to war. They have gone somewhere that they really want to go. They are blessed to do so and I thank God for it. (And they are back more often than I would like as well)"
I think this is right. I will miss them - I am not sure I will ever get used to watching Only Connect on my own but I am grateful to be here to see them spreading their wings and this is good for them. Once again I discover that it's not all about me.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bank Holidays

I don't know where you live (obviously) but around here we were promised torrential rain and a lot of wind up us for the Bank Hols. Consequently, we planned very little that meant leaving the house without a full length sou'wester and a compass. By Monday afternoon, looking back on a weekend when the sparrows have been passing out with heatstroke - I feel we may have underachieved a little. Do not blame me - blame the Met Office. (Except Tomasz Schafernaker he's my favourite - the only weather man I have ever seen who comes over a bit louche) Anyway - digressing. We tidied out a bit. HOH sorted out some of his record collection on the dining table which went down tremendously well with me. 
Incidentally - you can see at the back an album by someone called Barbara Lewis (no - me neither) with a rather attractive blond white couple on the cover. Actually,  this is a photo of Barbara Lewis

Spot the deliberate mistake? Well this album was released in around 1965 when black faces didn't sell records so the rather lovely Ms Lewis was replaced with two refugees from a knitting pattern. Er... It's beyond words to be honest. Anyway - digressing.
Sunday morning was an all age service in which the children shared the story of Noah and the Ark with us. It was brilliantly done and kudos to the person who saw no reason not to to have children in masks, an ark made of cardboard boxes, a paddling pool full of water, and the baptismal tank ready for a baptism all on the same stage. Well done you and no-one died which was good news.
Monday and I achieved the target of "Throwing Out 50 Things" set by some guru or other with very little trouble. I did this by cleaning out my underwear drawer - easy. How I ever got some of those knickers over my hips is a mystery to me. So then we woke up to the fact that it was actually another beautiful day and we walked over Jennycliff. This is the view from Jennycliff. 
Plymouth Herald
So that's alright then.

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Saturday, 29 August 2015

Her name is Susan

If I have any kind of thought out pattern or ambition for these posts, it is just to write stuff that makes us all feel a bit better. We all have plenty to deal with and my personal opinion is that, as far as God is concerned, we are all probably doing a lot better than we think. Sometimes though, I just have to rant or cry or share things with you and then you can take or leave these as you see fit. 
Whatever your personal politics, you have to be horrified by the things that we are seeing happening in the Mediterranean as women fight to keep their babies heads above water. Or the terrible stories of murder and mayhem on streets which people used to walk down every day just to shop and to carry on with life. Even this week we have all probably imagined the horror of over 70 people fighting in vain for life in the back of a sealed lorry, watching as their loved ones succumbed to suffocation.

Yet sometimes something lodges itself in your head above and beyond all else. It's not a graphic photograph - not compared to some of the stuff that is out there at the moment. The origin of this photo is uncertain; wiser people than me think this lady and child may be Christians holding their names up to be sold as slaves or possibly to be exchanged for a ransom from their family. (SOLD AS SLAVES - this disgusting phrase - in this century!) The thing that struck me hardest was that the paper has her name on it and the translation of her name is Susan. It's such a normal, ordinary name. It was a very popular name when I was young. I know lots of Susans. She's just a lady - with a child and I cannot get the look of hopelessness and resignation on her face out of my head. She could be me. She has had her life snatched away in the midst of unfathomable wickedness and she is just a mum, like me or maybe like you. She is a person, not a statistic and she puts me to shame.

I am ashamed of my government for confusing the words refugee and migrant so that desperate people, who are running to save their families' lives are portrayed as people coming here because it might be easier to get a council house. I am ashamed because this government agreed to take a certain amount of refugees and seems to now be reneging in that agreement because it wasn't playing well at the General Election.

I am ashamed that this subject isn't front-row-centre of the Christian church's agenda at the moment. If they cannot expect help and mobilisation from us, then where are they going to get it? I am ashamed because my response is falling so short of what God requires. I don't think anyone should think for one moment this whole thing is about religion. It's about what most things are about - the powerful and strong taking advantage of the weak and the weak minded to increase their power base. It has no connection to any kind of faith. 

It is overwhelming. What are we supposed to do? A few suggestions.

  • Pray. Pray for refugees as they are - people - individuals, men women and children. Pray for a solution.
  • Talk the talk. Try and stand up for what is right. I am not talking about hiring a megaphone and standing on a plinth in the market square. But, if I had a fiver for every time I have heard someone say - "Well - with the best will in the world we can't take everybody" No-one is asking anyone to take everybody. These people are not getting into dinghies because they have heard that our National Health Service is a hum-dinger. They are coming because people are being killed in the streets. We should maybe just try, gently to point out that you can't believe everything you read in the papers.
  • Think about parting with some dosh. People are out there helping at the pointy end - they could do with some support. I don't suppose any of it will help much but as I see Susan's child cling to her for dear life - I just think we have to do something.



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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Well this looks good

Well this looks like good news. Dad's Army trailer is here. Great cast. (Step forward Michael Gambon). All very promising. Have not been so pleased to see a film trailer in a long time.

Except for Star Wars of course.

I should have thought that was obvious.

Completely obvious - it's Star Wars.

Are you on drugs? It's Star Wars and Han Solo is back. How could anything possibly be better than that?
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Sunday, 23 August 2015

Ahem



Firstly, to address the elephant in the room. (Although why he would be interested in anything I had to say.....) The blogging or lack of. Nothing much to say really. I have just had two weeks annual leave. In three weeks our kids leave us to go to university. One to do his Masters back in York and the other to start university in Exeter. I decided (in a gradual way - I didn't make a speech or anything) not to blog. We were going to chill and spend time together as a family. We did very little - just spent the time. I'm glad I did it. I would do it again. So there you are. 

I was back at work last week which seemed to take me by surprise as usual. I have no idea why. The date is in my diary and it tends to be a Monday when I go back - especially if I had finished on a Friday. Anyway, library books were due back. It's a total pain paying fines but I have no-one to blame but myself. I tried to renew online but some sneaky person had put an order in for the Mary Berry book that I am borrowing. So on Friday I found myself dragging back to the library in the pouring rain muttering to myself that I was not going to take anything out this time - I have lots to read at home at the moment as well as stuff on the Kindle and all that. No need for any more on the pile - just no need. 
Twenty  minutes later I am in the queue to go to the little machine to check out four books and I realise that they are all about downsizing and clearing out clutter. Some may say that I had been divinely led but I think it was more likely that I was rushing to get back to buy some wine that I had promised someone for a garden party and was only able to look down one aisle.  

Bea Johnson's book is the first one that I read. I did it in about three sittings. (two and a half probably)  This book is full of things that I will probably never do. I cannot see me ever making my own mascara. Unless there is some kind of apocalypse and we are all living in the woods, I think it unlikely that I will go to Morrison's Fish Counter and ask them to put two salmon fillets in a glass jar that I have bought expressly for that purpose.(Apparently they are not very keen on doing this in supermarkets because it is a Health and Safety nightmare but if you are truculent enough they give in eventually) I also cannot see the day coming anytime soon when I am wiping my behind with my hand to cut down on toilet paper use. (To be fair, it was a very short lived  experiment in her house as well)

But...there is lots here to challenge you. Some stuff is dead easy. I have already cleared out my Inbox and unsubscribed myself away from lots of people that I have given my email address to. We were already using a bowl to collect water when we shower so I was quite smug about that. (Actually I think the only reason the family let me do that was on condition that I told NOBODY - oh well, never mind) There is lots of stuff about clothes and possessions generally. I have cleaned out my hang around the house T Shirts because supposedly no one needs 38 T Shirts. (They have sentimental value actually) I have been brutal and whittled them down to about 30. I am feeling very cleansed actually. I am off to order copious amounts of baking soda to whoosh out my drains - or something. 

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Cue Zither Music

Plymouth Herald
Out at something a bit different last night. Our local arts centre had arranged a viewing of The Third Man at Plymouth's Council Chamber. The idea was (I think) to show a film about post war secrecy and confusion, in a setting where secrecy and behind the scenes chicanery still exist. I'm not sure about this myself because you can actually watch the Plymouth City Council in session over the old Interweb should you not have a life (not what you would describe as shot through with tension - sorry) and they do run tours to the building as well. However, the setting was a huge success - all teak walls and spooky shadows. 
There also plans to show "The Life Aquatic" with the screen on the massive fish tank in the National Marine Aquarium, Fight Club at the Royal William Yard and lots of other stuff. FOW 2 is a bit worried. She helps out at the Arts Centre and on learning that the lady who introduced our film was in full 1940s fancy dress, was concerned to see that she appears to have her name down to do some ushering for The Rocky Horror Show. "I am NOT dressing up is suspenders for anyone" and also Raiders of the Lost Ark which will be shown at the Tamar Trail "Nobody should think for a minute that I am getting on one of those zip-wire things" 
"ThirdManUSPoster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - 

It's a long time since I have seen the Third Man, with its genius script and atmospheric shots and the very hot Orson Welles. It's just one of the best films ever made. That is all.
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Friday, 31 July 2015

Conversation


Me     How are you?

Her    Well, really well. Much better.

Me     You look well.

Her     Thanks, I feel so much better since I made things right with *****

Me     How did that go then?

Her    Good. I told her how I felt, about things. How hurt I was by her actions and that I had been quite vengeful in my thinking towards her but that I had accepted that she didn't mean to upset me so much and I had  forgiven her and I was happy to move on.

Me     Well that's lovely. How did she feel about that?

Her     She was a bit surprised. She had no idea that there was a problem until I told her.


Sometimes I think forgiveness is very much a clear the air/talk it through thing. Sometimes, maybe, it's just a you and God thing. A thinking good things about people thing. A private decision to move on thing. Maybe some things are better left unsaid.
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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cecil Ranting

BBC
I wouldn't claim to be the most intelligent person in the world but can someone please explain big game hunting to me? I am not a vegetarian or anything and I do know where meat comes from thank you but I just don't get this at all. When I see posts from people who live in the woods who have killed a giant boar to keep their family in meat for a month, I do understand that - they are going to eat it. It may not be for me, I prefer to go in a straight line to the supermarket, trying, if I can find it or afford it, to buy as ethically as possible. But, at least if you are feeding people with it - it does make sense.

It's just the whole concept of this, I don't get. What on earth makes anyone want to put photos of themselves up with an animal they have killed? What is the achievement? What is the point? You have a gun (or a bow and arrow for some, even more, bizarre reason) a tracker, a Land Rover, and twenty five fawning people around you just in case things go pear shaped. It's not exactly an even Man v Nature match is it? (As a side issue - what is all the stripping to the waist about? This is ultra weird.) A few weeks ago some woman posted photos of herself having shot a giraffe. A GIRAFFE! That must have been some thrill ride. We have giraffes in Paignton Zoo and they can die if they get their legs tangled up and they fall over. I wouldn't call it big game hunting really. Would you? Is it the thrill of the hunt? Really? Are you a grown up? Is that what life is about for you? Seriously? Do they allow you to vote?

And now Cecil the Lion has been lured from a Reserve to be killed by an American dentist of all people. It it weren't so sad, it would be funny. Apparently, root canal work isn't hitting the mark for him so he shoots wild animals with a bow and arrow. Cecil took 40 hours to die. His cubs may well now have to be killed as they will be vulnerable to attack from other males. I go back to the beginning of this rant. Just what on earth is this about? 

People argue that hunting is legal and it puts money back into conservation. Well lots of things have been legal - sending children up chimneys, stopping women voting, taking people from Africa and depriving them of their freedom and the right to say 'no' when the master fancies a pop at your wife or your daughter. These things are no longer legal and as we move on, we realise that they were never right AND WE STOP IT.  As for the money, the amounts that these people pay to hunt - huge amounts - they don't smack of legal fees to me, they sound like corrupt blood money. Have a collection. Set up a charity. That's what normal people do. 

There has been some very sensible talk on social media about how people are getting more worked up about this than they did about the death of a black woman in police custody and of course that it true. There is a connection though. When something is wrong - it is wrong. When the strong and those with the protection of money or privilege take advantage of those who cannot defend themselves there is a sense that the world is off kilter. You can feel that here I think and it is this innate "not rightness" that rears its head all the time. It makes me despair. Sometimes I just want to hang my head down and apologise for being a human.
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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Instructions



Hallelujah! Thank God! Pray to him by name! Tell everyone you meet what he has done! Sing him songs, belt out hymns, translate his wonders into music! Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek GodLive a happy life! Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works; be alert for signs of his presence. Remember the world of wonders he has made, his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered— O seed of Abraham, his servant, O child of Jacob, his chosen.
Psalm 105 The Message

Are you ever surprised by just how much the Bible manages to pack into so few words? Being a bit of a bletherer myself and never using one word when twelve will do, this kind of thing always impresses me. I would never be able to do it. I am very glad that I didn't have to write the Bible (And the cry went up from all the nations - "Aren't we all!") 

I have not had the easiest week ever - Aged Parent at hospital (all well - thanks for asking). The dreaded mammogram. (You know me - I am the health professional's friend - but when a nurse who hasn't bothered to turn round as I enter the room stripped to the waist  says "We'll start with your right side" when I haven't got a right side - I think I have a right to be a bit annoyed) Anyway - to raise the tone. This is like an instruction manual. Just here in these few lines.

Be thankful. Talk to God. Tell people about him. Sing. Sing loudly. Honour him. Choose happiness with him. Look for him. Expect miracles from him. Remember his goodness. Remember his wisdom. Remember you are his. It's a life instruction book. Mad positive and generally all over empowering. You know - if I ever had a tattoo.... (No need to look so panicky Head of House, am just musing)
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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Flicks

Wikipedia

Just calling in to mention a couple of films we got to see. We went to see Minions - myself and FOW2 and we didn't care. I loved Despicable Me and so there we were. To be honest, it does exactly what it says on the tin. There are Minions, they fall over a lot and shout at each other and that's about it really. There are some laugh out loud bits and Jennifer Saunders does a brilliant turn as an arm-wrestling Queen of England but, to be honest, it's not really for me is it? There was a little person in the seat in front who almost dies of happiness a couple of times and that was almost worth the entrance fee to be honest.

Wikipedia
About as far away from that as it is possible to get is Amy - a documentary about Amy Winehouse. Ah - this is so sad. Most of the news about this has been about how Amy's father is threatening to sue the film-makers for the way he has been portrayed. I'm not surprised - he doesn't come out of it at all well. The problem with his indignation is that you can see him, behaving badly, in front of your own eyes. It's all camera footage, not people giving opinions on his fathering skills. I know it can be manipulated but it is shocking to see him dragging a vulnerable Amy here there and everywhere for his business deals. The kindest thing you can say is that maybe he didn't really understand what was happening to her and how dangerous it was. I think he probably had her best interests at heart - he certainly adored her - as did everyone. 
I have to put my hand up here and say that musically, I am not her biggest fan - too much derivative stuff for me - although she could certainly sing. This is a terrific film. It moving and sad and funny. She comes across as a vulnerable little soul under all the gobbyness, a tiny person physically who just couldn't take all the chemical abuse she put her body through. The most moving moment for me is right at the end when Tony Bennett - one of her all time heroes and a man who was no stranger to a bit of substance abuse in his younger days - said something like - "It's so sad - I wish I could have told her that you learn how to live your life eventually, as you get older." Whenever I see stuff like this where people lose hope and can't find their way back, it does make me think about Jesus and his promise of redemption - in the sense that there is a way back from everything - whatever it is, no pit is too deep. Sometimes it doesn't seem so, I know. 

If you get the chance to see this, please do. I don't suppose it will be on in many places, unlike Minions which will be so ubiquitous it seems like it is showing on the back of your eye. 
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