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.


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.

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. 

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.


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 -

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.


Monday, 9 November 2015

New Week

"Spectre poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

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. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


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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