Monday, 24 April 2017

I wouldn't have thought you were old enough!

So I am now officially no longer the mother of children. Not that I am no longer a mother but now it's adults all the way as the FOW2 has just celebrated her 21st birthday. 
Now there is a strong school of thought that says "Adult is as adult does." or, put another way "You are only as old as the adult you behave like." (Neither of those are right I think but you get the gist.)
Both offspring exhibit many admirable qualities but there is still a bit of a skill gap in the adult department as far as I am concerned. Both of them struggle to help their clothes make the arduous journey from their wash baskets to the washer without prompting. Both seem to think ironing is  a mug's game. Unless Yours Truly is the mug by giving in and doing their ironing to show them how much nicer their clothes are when a nice pressing has happened.
We have all had a lovely weekend celebrating. Friday night was a meal with Aged Parent which was fine when we eventually sorted it.

Aged Parent..........."Are we having a meal for the birthday?"

Me........................."Yes, FOW would like to go for an Italian"

Aged Parent..........."Well she should have what she wants - it's her birthday. But I don't like Italian, the onions double me up."

Me........................."I know so we are going out separately with you for some nice Fish and Chips."

Aged Parent..........."So I won't come out on her birthday"

Me........................."No, because she wants Italian."

Aged Parent............"Well she should have Italian. It's her birthday   but I can't eat Italian"

Me............................Through gritted teeth "I know. Therefore etc etc."

In the end - she came out for Fish and Chips, polished the whole lot off with extra bread and butter, returned home after having a great time and then rang next day to tell us the the batter had doubled her up. At the moment FOW is avoiding having her boyfriend in the same room as AP for too long in case he thinks that's how we all are secretly.
It's cliche, I know but just where does the time go? They are just wandering around on chubby legs, hiding Lego in the video recorder and then suddenly they are writing essays on Film Noir. Sometimes mothering children has been the most satisfying part of my life. At other times, nothing has made me feel more inadequate. Either way - it has been a privilege. Here's to the next set of "Interesting Parenting Challenges"



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Thursday, 20 April 2017

A Cookbook - Really?

This is me, recommending a cookbook. I'm not getting paid for it or anything like that. I have to tell you that I have no love really for cooking. It's ok. I do it. I do a lot of it from scratch but I have been known to eat an Easter Egg for lunch because I couldn't be bothered to cook. (Today actually) I have never been to a cookery class to learn new skills because I'm not that fussed really. Unless you count Domestic Science at school, which chiefly consisted of winding up a Vera Lynn lookalike teacher who despised us all with a passion - but she disliked me particularly because we didn't have a set of scales at home and she thought that this was slovenly. 
I don't mind hanging about in the kitchen if the football is on the radio. (Radio 5 Live football commentary is one of the things that makes this country great.) However, I'm not too fussed about creating dinner party masterpieces and, although I can do Yorkshires from scratch if the mood takes me, it very rarely does. 
This book appeals for lots of reasons
1. Economy. The title is self explanatory. Each meal costs one of your English squids. (I have to be honest - for me it's usually a bit more than that.) The food is often from your "discount supermarkets" but that's where I shop anyway. There are lots of ways to use leftovers etc. Lots of cheaper ingredients like veg etc
2. Ease. There are very few fancy-dan methods here. This is good because I have only the most basic of skills. At no point are you asked to light a blow-torch, spin sugar or puff some pastry. You can if you want to. I don't want to.
3. Health. Everything has vegetables in it of one sort or another. This is a good thing. Portion sizes are reasonable, if a bit loosey-goosey on the measuring. (Suits me - see non-affinity for kitchen scales above - although we do have some now.)
4. Flexibility. Because all recipes serve one - you can mix things up. It helps to use single pots to cook in. Someone doesn't like mushrooms - leave them out in one pot. Someone else is going through an incomprehensible vegetarian journey - replace meat in one pot with Quorn. If someone is due in late. Put one dish in fridge etc etc. Also - all dishes scale up for bigger meals with more people. Win-win. 
5. Variety. We are quite boring eaters. Our friends call us "The Blands" but there are curries and other more exotic things here, as well as your Chicken and Mushroom Pie. 
If you are mildly interested One Pound Meals is on Instagram for free. So you can have a look first. I understand I am not the first person you would think of when you thought of a recommendation for a cookbook so feel free to research. Here endeth a blog I didn't really expect to be writing.
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Monday, 17 April 2017

Reporting back

I did say, for those of you that were paying attention, that I would report back on "doing" this book through Lent. First though, a couple of things
Thank you for all your comments on the last blog about Jesus and Tesco. I didn't comment on any of them, partly because I couldn't think of anything to say and partly because every time I wrote about it, I just got a bit more worked up - so I left it alone. Your support was appreciated though. 
Also, on a less impressive note - did anyone watch Maigret? I haven't read any of the books so I have to admit that I have no background knowledge on this. I stuck with it for an hour and a bit and then decided to go off and watch some paint dry instead. I prefer Vera. You know where you are with Vera. Someone dies a terrible death in the wind and the cold. Vera comes along and calls a lot of people "pet" while eating pasty and chips. She invariably calls the wrong person into the interview room and accuses them of murder - "I think you did it pet". Then she has a flash of inspiration where she suddenly spins round and asks one of her interchangeable minions to check something and lo and behold! It is sorted. None of this is a criticism. Vera is ace. Better than watching Rowan Atkinson trying to look deep and French and, Lord help us, sexy and smitten at one point. Anyway - Mr Cheekbones is back in Granchester next week. 
Back to the job in hand. The Wilderness Within You by Pen Wilcock had a reading for each day of Lent. It imagined a visit by Jesus to the author - an ordinary person with a job, living on a housing estate, just normal really. There are conversations and questions. The author has to deal with the fact that if Jesus is talking to you, he knows exactly how you really feel about something so, sometimes, things are more transparent than she would like. What really came over to me was the person of Jesus. The way he sees things, how he feels about us and the depth of his personality. I liked it a lot. I did a read it every day and it was easy to stay with it. HOH read a few chapters a day (he's a very contrary person) and he was writing down bits from it because it described how he felt. It turns out that Jesus is a practical sort with lots of ideas about how we can help ourselves a bit. I know it's a long way off but next Lent - if you are looking for something - this is good. (Actually, coming over all Puritan, you could just do it as daily readings - you don't have to attach it to Lent - let yourself go!)
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Friday, 14 April 2017

Of Fairy Stories and Mercy

RANT KLAXON!!!

You may or may not have seen the furore about this advert. The ad's a bit annoying but with the level of spiritual ignorance around now-I wasn't really all that worked up. (Although I am looking forward very much to the next advert when they will replace the words Good Friday with Eid - you don't think so? Why ever not?) I would just say that before you pour all that money into an advertising campaign, just get someone to run an eye over it and ask whether it is appropriate to have an advert like this on the day lots of people are remembering an innocent man being tortured to death. Me being picky? 
What did bother me was, when Christians complained, Twitter was full of people saying things like "Why should we be bothered about your fairy tale?" or "It's just a day off work for the vast majority of people." Actually, comments were a lot more offensive than that but I will spare you the details, gentle people that you are. I don't understand why people who are not Christians get so worked up. Why is it such a big deal for you? 
I am not demanding that anyone become a Christian, it is entirely your decision but I am so fed up with believers being treated like idiots - usually by people who haven't given anything outside social media any more than twenty seconds thought. 
I have been a follower of Jesus for more than forty years. It has not been a bed of roses, I have given him plenty of grief and, like most I have known dark nights of the soul. However to know Jesus has been to open my life to a level of consciousness that has been beyond anything else I have experienced. The sophistication of his thoughts and the depth of his understanding have challenged me on levels I could never hoped to have approached. He has challenged me on every level possible - my thoughts, my dreams, my behaviours and through it all I have experienced love and acceptance which continually changes me. To be as loved as I am helps me get past my own insecurities to love others and to do good. To experience mercy and grace has opened my eyes to impossible things. 
Knowing Jesus has inspired people to change the world - Wiberforce, John Newton, Martin Luther King, Archbishop Tutu flawed like all of us, yet driven on by the knowledge of Jesus. This is not some silly little joke that people can just have a pop at to get more followers. 
Not all things supposedly driven by faith are good of course. I would ask anyone who says they start a fight on behalf of Jesus to have a very hard look at what he taught. But, of course the assertion that without religion there would be no war is just plainly stupid. In the words of Frankie Boyle
"Some violence is caused by religion. Some violence is caused by lager."
Anyway, today is Good Friday. I am very pro Good Friday (Sigh of relief from God.) It makes me stop. It makes me think about things bigger than I am. It makes me muse on the nature of humanity. It makes me wonder about sacrifice and generosity. All the things that, if left to my own devices, I might not bother with too much. 
Jesus helps me to step out of the shallows. He is lots of things but Airy-Fairy he is not.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Gull's Alright With Me

I have unashamedly pinched the idea of this blog from Kindred of the Quiet Way. Pen was writing about seagulls. I am a big fan of seagulls. I live in Plymouth and one of the things that first charmed me about the area was the noise of seagulls in the morning - it reminded me of childhood holidays in Torquay. However, few Plymouthians share my enthusiasm for seagulls. Admittedly, it takes a brave person to walk through the centre of Plymouth eating a Scotch Egg. They will dive and take it. They are also making Plymouth's attempt to promote a pavement coffee culture very difficult - unless you bring your own water pistol to warn the blighters off. The FOWs' school actually brought a hawk in because of the problems the children were having in the playground. I am not sure this is workable at the Coffee Bean Cafe though. It's a bit disturbing watching them fight to the death when you are trying to bite the top off a tomato sauce sachet.
I once spent an entire lunch break in companionable silence with a seagull who was waiting for the last bit of my tuna roll. In exchange I got to stare at him/her close up. The bird was extraordinarily beautiful. Its white was brilliant white, contrasting with jet black on the wings. After checking that there were no seagull haters about - I was more than happy share lunch. 
( I understand this is not allowed - we had built a beautiful bond though)
Our local MP instigated a ridiculous debate to have them declared nuisances or something but, in my opinion, they were here first and if they are scavengers, then whose fault is that? If you had a choice between following a trawler in the howling wind  for fifty miles or lifting a battered fish from a bin bag, which would you choose?
Seagulls are monogamous, can live up to 50 years and have shown tool using capabilities when opening up shells. We mess with their heads and then when they respond accordingly, we think it might be convenient to cull them. Sums up our approach to the environment perfectly don't cha think?


















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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Palmster

I wrote this on Palm Sunday before hearing about the terrible attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt. I thought twice about uploading what is an essentially light-hearted account of my day. However, on reflection, I would rather carry on as normal, which is what this attack was meant to stop. It goes without saying that I am praying for my Christian brothers and sisters who continue to be persecuted and for those whose lives have been changed forever today.

Today was my first Palm Sunday attending a C of E church. I'm not used to church dates and celebrations. Having quite a lot of non-conformist people in my upbringing - some of whom thought that Oliver Cromwell was a bit on the frivolous side, I was a little bit apprehensive.  This wasn't helped by HOH musing that he was sure that he had read that Anglicans marched around the church waving crosses and shouting Hosanna. Consequently I probably didn't look as grateful as I could have when I was handed my Palm cross on the door. Aged Parent didn't seem too bothered. 
"Ooh is this one of those glow sticks?" she asked the steward. (She is very keen not to get left behind by the young people)
Like I said, I'm not really good on church dates and celebrations. Although there is a certain lovely constancy about markers through the year which have been there through generations. But, thinking about it, today, Jesus, riding into town on a donkey - defying the expectations of those who wanted someone to lead the revolution against the Romans. He knew that today was the beginning of the end of this chapter. From today, there would just be an ever quickening run towards the event he had really come for. It's quite a big date really - when you think about it. 
In the end, it was just a really good service. A good preach based around the events of Palm Sunday and no one asked me to wave anything or clean up after a donkey. 

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How Low Can You Go?


This is how my mind works. All over the place. You can try and keep up if you like. Try not to get frightened. 
I have just finished catch up on SS-GB. I understand that I am the last person in the world to watch this but I have things to do. I quite liked SS GB, I thought it was an interesting idea - I had to turn it up a bit and could possibly have done with a crib sheet to explain who half the people were but that's more to do with my attention span than any inconsistencies in the plot. 
Musing on a possible German Occupation (well it's not impossible-apparently we are on the verge of war with Spain at the moment) I think the best book I ever read about WW2 was "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boon. Ten Boon lived under German occupation in Holland. Her family - driven by their Christian faith - sheltered Jews from the Nazis. When they were discovered, they were shipped out to Ravensbrook Concentration Camp and Corrie lost her sister there. It is an extraordinary story, full of suffering and man's worst excesses, yet it is also full of forgiveness. It was a groundbreaking book. When I was young, people were entitled to doubt that you were a Christian if you hadn't read it. The most famous quotation in the book is probably

No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still


They should know I would think. 

So, thinking about deep pits. Not an actual pit with dirty water and old bike frames etc. Just about finding yourself in a low place, a place where you don't think anyone understands or can help. This comes to mind. 

Matthew 9:20-22The Message (MSG)

Just then a woman who had haemorrhaged for twelve years slipped in from behind and lightly touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can just put a finger on his robe, I’ll get well.” Jesus turned—caught her at it. Then he reassured her: “Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you’re well.” The woman was well from then on.

When I was young - we used to call this; The woman who touched the hem of his garment. The woman - bent double by the weakness caused by constant blood loss - was as low as she could go yet found that she couldn't "out-low" Jesus. I wonder if she could even look up to see his face - just maybe the edge of his clothes - yet it was enough. She was rescued. It is a great comfort I think, for those who are struggling to raise their game in any way at all, for those who a low and stuck low, to find that Jesus is down there too, knowing and understanding and able to act. There is a lot to be said for being cheerful in the face of adversity but if you simply cannot get up, if you have tried many times and have no capacity left to stop sinking, there is someone who you can't sink past, capable of lifting you and changing the things that you can't. 
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Monday, 3 April 2017

April Reading

I'm a bit ashamed of the size of this month's book pile. In my defence, some are charity shop finds, some are re-reads, some second hand but some are undeniably new. Sorry (not really) 
I did get some library books out but I took them straight back next day because they were rubbish. It's my own fault, I am too much of a sucker for self help books. At least, knowing my weakness means that, wherever possible, I try them out at the library first. So now I know why French Women Don't Get Fat - because they hardly eat anything and the reason they hardly eat anything is because of the recipes in the French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook. Bleugh. 
Anyhoo. Some of the above I have read already "A Glass of Blessings" is a re-read. I am like Phillip Larkin (a sentence that I never thought I would write) and I would rather read a Barbara Pym novel than a Jane Austen. Controversial that but Pym is a top notch novelist for me.
In the Company of Women is a lovely book of photos of female entrepreneurs and artists. This means it is an important feminist tract and also pretty enough to live on our lounge table covering the bit I made go a bit funny by putting a hot drink on it.
I have looked out a couple of books from the Golden Age of British Detectives. I think I have done all the Wimseys now. So I am trying Margery Allingham and Michael Innes. 
I found Little Women in the hospice shop. I am a bit suspicious of anyone who hasn't read and loved Little Women. Even Aged Parent thought it was good and she openly doesn't like anything vaguely heartwarming. 
Robert Harris's Fatherland is a thriller set in Germany after they have won the Second World War. I thought it was excellent - did exactly what it was supposed to. It is, as they say, a page turner.
Prodigal God is my first read by the theologian Tim Keller. I have only just started it. There doesn't seem to be many laughs so far. I know. I know. Not everything needs to be funny etc etc. I will give it my full attention.
Write Away is a book on writing by Elizabeth George. I could say that she is one of my favourite writing teachers or I could tell you the truth and say I thought I was buying a writing book by Elizabeth Goudge - who I really like. Note to self - wear glasses when charity shop cruising. 
Lastly, I am in the middle of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. This is currently a best seller. I am about a third of the way through and it is fantastic. It's about someone's disappearance in the Summer of 76. Boiling hot if you remember. Two little girls set out to sort out what has happened by finding God - on their street. It is beautifully written with sentences that roll around your mind. 
So there you are then. Off to do a bit of reading.


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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Er..well hello


I am sorry. I have been a tad disheartened. No need to call for help. I have just been a shining example of how lots of tiny nicks can stop you in your tracks and suddenly you find that time has got away from you and you haven't blogged and just how much of a time stealer Twitter is. So, for all those who are calling in on the off chance, I have been mostly


  • Suffering with a migraine that lasted about eight days with a couple of breaks in the middle. This meant that screen time had to be limited and the people who pay me for the work I do on a day to day basis were not likely to say - "No - go ahead and use what little energy you have to blog - we'll be right here when you get back"
  • Making sure Aged Parent is ok. She has taken up with a lady who, in her younger days, was what we used to call "a bit of a girl". She is a very nice Christian woman apparently who has recently been widowed. We are only slightly concerned that last week she informed Aged Parent that God had cursed her (lady not Parent) with an "unacceptably large sex drive". She has been signed up to a Christian Dating Agency but apparently there are only slim pickings there and she is looking at signing up with Chat magazine. Aged Parent is liking her company when they talk about church - less so when talking about men. Both of our FOWs are seeing her as a very promising development in life.
  • Speaking of FOWs both are on verge of living at home at the moment and indeed - for the moment. Eldest child has finished university for now - possibly and is looking into ways to get involved in chosen field while working part time. Youngest child will be doing last year of Uni from home - because she can. Because it saves money and her chap lives locally. HOH and I are well on the way to being totally at peace with these unexpected developments. 
  • Anyway to return to Aged Parent. After being ill for much of the winter, she would now like to return to church. She does however feel a bit weak and feeble on her own so HOH and I have been accompanying her. It has been quite good actually and we are seriously considering moving with her so that we can keep an eye on her. It will mean going to a C of E which I would have said is against my religion (pun intended) but it is very groovy. More details to follow if we actually make the leap.
  • I have been a bit naffed off with my blog. Not blogging - just the blog. Some stupid thing has got into my stats which means that some posts are showing as having 3000 views a week or something. I got quite worked up about it. Someone said I should go the whole hog and get a website and change things up a bit. I dunno - I'll think about it. 
Anyway, thanks very much for calling in - if you did - I have no idea with these stats. I could be whistling into an empty bucket for all I know. Or transmitting to the whole of China. Ain't life grand?
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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day


I'm late I know but I'm really mad busy (watching the football) and I didn't want to have the day pass though without acknowledging International Women's Day. This is me and my baby girl and I think because of the work of those who went before, she will have plenty of opportunities to make the life she wants to live. Sometimes people get a bit huffy and say you can't be a Christian if you are feminist and vice-versa. I would just ask (and I know I have said this before) if you are a woman


  • Do you vote?
  • If you buy a house with your partner - do you expect to have your name on the deeds?
  • If your husband gets a bit fed up with you and runs off with the maid - do you expect not to be thrown out on the street - losing all rights to see your children?
  • Do you expect not to see the words "Males Only" in an advert for a job?
If you take these things for granted, it is the feminists that have gone before that you need to thank. And if what you want to do with your life is to stay at home and care for your family and build a good life for them, then feminism doesn't want to stop you - it is about you having the same opportunities that's all.

In church, people sometimes talk about feminism or women in leadership going against hundreds of years of tradition. I'm not really a natural leader but I think
  • Tradition - "the handing down of statements, beliefs, customs" isn't always a good thing. There are children suffering fgm every day because it has been done that way for generations. 
  • If God doesn't want women to minister - why does he keep giving them something to say and gifting them to say it? 

There are people more learned than myself who say that the New Testament is scattered with examples of women leading, ministering and sharing the Good News. It is also full of women cooking, doing housework and running families. There are also plenty of women being healed, hearing from Jesus directly and even having him save their lives. It is full, therefore, of vibrant, alive females - living their lives to the full, in the manner they were called to, under obedience to Jesus. If that is feminism and I believe it is, for an individual female to be given the chance to be the person God wants her to be without having to be put into a restrictive box, then I think you can probably call me a feminist.
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Sunday, 5 March 2017

Coming Apart


I am having a "Biblical Theory with No Biblical Evidence" moment. I have spent the weekend with an award winning migraine. I haven't had one like that in some time. It was a codeine level interruption to my weekend plans. And I did have plans. HOH is working the night shift in the hospital - helping people to get back into bed and wondering how anyone can need that many toilet visits. So my idea for the weekend was to do a lot of catching up - housework and all that stuff while he was asleep. (I am a very quiet housewife type person) Then work happened - with quite a lot of stress for some reason and I was pooped. But I still intended to work through everything on the to-do list. Then my head exploded so it was all I could do to copy small dog pictured above and place head under cushions and sleep. I think that I was definitely in need of sleep because I did and awful lot of it.
Which makes me wonder (back to non-Biblical theory) do you think that sometimes, instead of claiming healings and bouncy jigginess, we should accept that maybe God would rather we put our heads down and did nothing. And when we refuse to do so, he is able to make us do so? I have little or no evidence for this theory - except that I wouldn't have stopped unless I was made to and that I feel better now than I did before I was ill. 
Also - does this sound sometimes more like a command than a cosy invitation?

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat 
Mark 6 v 31

And does it make you think that if I had just stopped when I needed to rather than when all the unpleasant Scanners type pain started, it would have avoided a lot of trouble. Interesting theory? No? Probably just me then. Anyway - back in the saddle and feeling much better thank you.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Lent


Today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. (Sorry for rubbish photo - last minute as usual) I am not really overwhelmed by Lent. I come from a non-conformist background where this sort of thing was not acknowledged at all as it was considered "Papist" or something. Also, there is nothing gets on my nerves more than hearing people say things like "Uh, it's like er Lent so I am like going to see if I can lose some weight." I just think, if you are going to give something up, you should possibly have a look at the spiritual significance? At least put to one side some thinky time - otherwise it's just what is called "a diet".
Some people wear crosses made of ashes on their foreheads which is quite powerful symbolism. I heard that a gay rights Christian movement is selling ashes with glitter in them. I am all for campaigning for what you believe in but this doesn't sit very well with me. Thinking about what we remember happening at the end of Lent - I just think there is a time and a place.
I see that Theresa May held a reception for Christian leaders in 10 Downing Street to commemorate Shrove Tuesday and to say thank you for the work that Christian Communities do in our society. "About time" is the phrase that comes to mind and well done Mrs May for celebrating Christian life in Britain. If I could just respectfully point out that Christian life involves: feeding the hungry, taking in the displaced and healing the sick (not shouting at them that there is nothing wrong with them because they have managed to walk five paces across a room - that does not count as healing). Making sure your government supports these things is maybe another valuable way to celebrate the Christian contribution to society.
So I'm not giving anything up for Lent. I have done it before and it doesn't work for me. I am "doing" a Lent book. The Wilderness Within You." by Pen Wilcock. It looks like it is a tiny chapter a day and I like her writing. Will let you know how this worked at the end. Thank you for your time people.
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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Oscars

BBC

Just a little summing up of the Oscars as you do. Most of the films I liked didn't win much which is probably tells you a lot about my life.

Oscar night used to be a pretty big deal in our house because we go to the flicks quite a lot and it used to be a flippin good laugh when Billy Crystal did it. Now Sky have it and we don't usually get to see it but FOW1 had bought NOW TV for a month to watch the football so we got to have a look. Jimmy Kimnel, who I get mixed up with Jimmy Fallon, seems to have done ok as the host. He seemed fine but I wouldn't go a bunch on him as my old Nana used to say.
So Moonlight won Best Picture but I can't help you with that I'm afraid. I haven't seen Moonlight so far, partly for the childish reason that when someone tells me that something is the "Best Film Ever Made in the history of anything - EVER and that anyone who doesn't like it and see it is basically useless" I tend to put my money back in my pocket. I'm just a bit contrary that way. Also I think I will struggle a bit with the bullying of the little boy. I'm not very good with that. I dunno - I might see it. 
I never quite understand it when Best Director doesn't go to the person who directed the Best Film - maybe they think you have had enough awards. But it went to Damien Chazelle (La La Land) who has a name which suits being the director of a musical I think. A lot of people I know will be disappointed that La La Land didn't win - especially those who go to the pictures rarely and went because, for once, they found a film that they liked and could get on board with. I wasn't thrilled with La La Land personally but I know what they mean. 

Emma Stone, who seems like a lovely person, won for Best Actress but, for me, it should have gone to Natalie Portman for Jackie - she was amazing. Casey Affleck won Best Actor for Manchester By the Sea which was all good and correct - he was astonishing. My favourite film of the year "Arrival" won very little. I think it got an award for "Best Noise Made When You Rattle A Stick In A Bucket" or something. I don't understand the technical awards.

The biggest hoo-ha seemed to be because someone put the wrong card in an envelope and the wrong name was read out. This was corrected within about 15 seconds. Anyone who has ever got on the bus and tried to show the driver the wrong ticket will understand that this is an easy mistake to make. The difference is that normal people get over these things very quickly. As far as fancypants showbiz people are concerned - it seemed like the end of days. I am assuming that heads will roll. Ah Hollywood, what are you like.
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Sunday, 26 February 2017

My Favourite Character


This is about the book of Jonah. If you are not familiar with it, you may find it helpful to read here

I love Jonah. I think that have a lot in common with Jonah. Obviously not the being eaten up by the big fish bit. We don't share that experience. I'm supposing you're the same. If you do think that you have shared that experience, you should write a book, or get interviewed or have a nice lie down in a dark room until the feeling passes.
We also don't share being an amazing preacher which I assume he was. Well, when he preached an entire nation repented. Practically overnight. Turned on a sixpence. Even the dogs sorted themselves out. (Anyone who has met my dog Morecambe will know that this is something I definitely don't share with Jonah) Not many can say that they have made entire nations repent, I wouldn't have thought. We may have heard a few preachers claim that they did this and we may have suspected that it wasn't entirely correct. Jonah did it though.
Jonah is one of the main "I'm not having that" things that people throw my way about Christianity. They say things like "But Jonah and that whale. Who believes that?" For what its worth, even as a child I wasn't sure that there was a literal whale, although I have found it a useful rule of thumb in life not to underestimate God. However, it has never really mattered whether there was a literal event or not. I just love Jonah.
He's all over the place. God tells him to do something, and although we can assume he has the gifts to do it. He ignores the instruction completely and goes in the other direction. We are not even told why he legs it. Fear? Inadequacy? Can't be bothered?  He gets in a boat and the weather happens. When the storm hits, he knows that he is the problem and heroically offers to sacrifice himself to save the others. (I don't think he had any possible ideas about whales and bellies - would you?)  When God saves him, he is repentant and contrite. He does what God asks him to do and is hugely successful. Instead of being chuffed and full of faith and optimism, he gets all ratty. Why should Nineveh get all this forgiveness? He has a go at God for his mercy - despite having been a recipient of it pretty recently. God responds with grace and covers him from the sun. Jonah calms down. God removes the cover. Jonah gets nasty again. God gently reminds him who is boss.

I love the passion of the relationship between God and Jonah. Jonah knows God. He knows exactly who he is. Yet Jonah gives God a hard time, he gets fed up, he accuses God of things that aren't true, he is irrational. Jonah has a short memory when it comes to God's goodness. He sees great miracles but prefers to concentrate on how rubbish he feels now. He is upset by other people's blessings and greedy for his own. He has everything within him to serve God and it seems to be a chore. I don't know if I identify with any other biblical character more. 
You know what else I notice in all this. The character of God. He is patient. He gives out second chances. He heroically saves, knowing that any gratitude will be short lived. He provides shelter then removes it to gently instruct and inform. He reminds Jonah who he is without using fireballs, plagues, pestilences or anything else that might make Jonah permanently regret his stroppiness. It is a story of a man and his God. It shows the chasm in behaviour and the way God reaches out over the chasm. Knowing what I am like, with my unfailing tendency to be a ratbag most of the time. It is very comforting to see how God feels about someone just like me.
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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Reality

Full confession - I love reality TV. Not the TV where people of no discernible talent, usually from a disadvantaged background are encouraged to perform like dancing monkeys for our entertainment. You know the kind of thing I'm sure. No, I really love the kind of show where people take their passion, which they have been developing for some time and work with professionals and mentors - kind of in competition but usually with a heartwarming team spirit. At the moment I am setting the Betamax for The Great Pottery Throwdown and The Big Painting Challenge. I really like the people hosting them - Sara Cox is from Bolton and therefore untouchable and the Reverend Richard Coles is a bona fide National Treasure. Also in there is Mariella Frostrup who makes the men in my house emit a strange noise when she begins to speak. I love these and, if the Bake Off became a bit overhyped last year, I still hope that they manage to salvage something of its lovely warmth, wherever it ends up.
But - hold the phone! I read this week that my favourite  - The Great British Sewing Bee, has not been recommissioned yet. This is unacceptable. I love Claudia on this. I love the way men and women come together to sew things they will never wear. This is British TV at its absolute zenith. It also shows you how skewed my priorities are. It took me a couple of days to get round to signing the petitions about refugees but when one came round about the Sewing Bee - I was on it like a shot. As the highly competent new President  of the USA would say. Sad.
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Monday, 13 February 2017

Northern Returns


We have been away, Now we are back. The undeniable climax to Aged Parent's 80th birthday celebrations was a return to her northern roots - for a few days at least. With the dog safely ensconced at home with FOW1 for a few days, we climbed into the car and began the five hour trundle to Bolton. We were a bit worried about Aged Parent in the leg department - what with the Arthritis and everything but we found that liberal application of Tramadol sorted all that out. (Please don't write to Age Concern. It has all been legitimately prescribed)
I may or may not have mentioned that Aged Parent has a sister. She is a few years older than AP but otherwise a carbon copy of her. It is, I think, written somewhere in Leviticus, that two such similar people, when left in close proximity to each other for a few days will inevitably clash. This will always happen - no matter how much they adore one another.  We dropped Aged Parent off with Aged Sister and went off to meet some very nice friends. When we returned the next day, it appeared that they had been re-enacting the film "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." There was a great deal of moaning and groaning about each other - most of it though was under-breath grumbling so neither of them could hear the other one doing it. We had arrived to take Aged Parent to our old church, giving her the opportunity to meet some friends. We were all taken aback when Aged Sister - who has never shown any interest in Christianity - announced that she thought she would like to come as well.
We arrived at church with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in tow and were warmly greeted at the door by the dreaded words - "How lovely to see you. You know it's the Youth Service don't you?" For the uninitiated - the Youth Service involves flashing lights, driving beats, jumping up and down and high-fiving - all the while informing ourselves and each other how awesome we all are. It's fine and dandy for young people. Not so much for two octogenarians , who sat at the back wondering what was going on. Still, it gave Aged Sister something to think about. 
The next few days were taken up with meeting friends and relatives (see above) which they seemed to enjoy and constant bickering which they also seemed to enjoy. 
Anyway, when we set off home and it occurred to them both that they may not see each other anytime soon - they promptly burst into tears. Which was nice. As for me and HOH we planned in a cheeky little trip to Ikea on the way back. It all was, as the young people say, win, win.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Golden Hill

I am not a natural book reviewer. If I like it I will come on here and say so. If I don't I will probably wap it in the bin and we will never speak of it again. I'm not very good at being negative about people's hard work so I just tend to be quiet. I also know that book reviews do not seem to set my blog alight with traffic so I may be just writing this for me. Hey Ho.
This is a very good book. (I could end this here to be frank but I won't) I'm pretty sure that I have said on here before that Unapologetic -  Francis Spufford's book on his Christianity is one of the books that has influenced me most in this part of my Christian life (as in old and haggard). So I have been interested in anything he has written. However, this is not a Christian book. It is fiction - set in New York before the revolution. It is a rattling good read. If you are like me and a bit slow on the uptake, the pace and the language can take a bit of getting used to. It is set in 1746 and the language reflects that. Once I got the hang of it though, it fairly races along. There are some great set-pieces - a chase along rooftops, a duel and a really effective piece set in the theatre. The hero is handsome, mysterious and made for a movie adaptation. (I suggest Tom Hardy if anyone cares) There is a heartbreaking death and a final scene that made me almost want to stand up and cheer which would have been unfortunate as I was in bed at the time. It is a fantastic book. 

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Monday, 30 January 2017

Boss


I am a fairly independent kind of person. I can drive a car, I can iron a reasonably straight line in my trousers, I can boil an egg perfectly. (That last one is a lie) I was reading something quite nasty on the Internet about how Christians are a bit pathetic - leaning as they need to on a God who insists on being top dog and in charge all the time. I thought about it for a while because it is true - we do. Why would a reasonably grown up person like me be happy with this kind of arrangement? It's a fair question I think.
When I see the statement above, it makes me comforted, secure, in safe hands. It doesn't make me feel as if I am in some kind of abusive relationship.
Mainly it's about the kind of God that God is. I'm from the north - we are sharp as tacks - I wouldn't choose to worship any old god type entity. To belong to God is to belong to someone who always has my best interests at heart. It is to be a part of something where someone who always gets it right, invites me in to see how it is done. It is to draw alongside something so beyond my normal comprehension that things happen that I would never expect. It is to see an impossibly high standard set for me with no condemnation when I fail. Then there is the love. This God loves me. This God loves me without cause. This God loved me enough to send his son to die for me. I owe this God an immeasurable debt, yet the only repayment he asks is that I allow him to set me free. 
So you have a point when you say that I am subservient. I do look in awe and worship. But it is a truth that we all worship - something or other - money, power, popularity even (heaven help us) clean eating. Christians get to worship someone whose position of God in the relationship gives us comfort, security and surprisingly, a chance to be ourselves - free as birds. Strange how that works isn't it?


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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Weekend



To York on Friday to see FOW1 get some more letters after his name. It is such a lovely ceremony, even if your son - shown here as the humongously tall person, only takes ten seconds to get his award and you spend the next half hour clapping a lot of Chinese people from the business school. There was one very good speech from someone getting an honorary degree. I'm sorry - I didn't get his name - he used to be on Time Team. (At this point FOW1 points out, quite testily, that, like most people on Time Team, he is also a distinguished academic with lots of important discoveries to his name. This is in case any of us were thinking that he was just an eccentric man with a trowel) Anyway - this gentleman didn't find out that he was a good writer or TV person until he was in his late fifties. It's encouraging I think, for those who feel that they are knocking on a bit and are yet to hit their mark in life.
Then off to Kings Manor for a reception for the Archaeology Masters students and their families. This is always very nice but standing around balancing nibbles and a glass of wine while making small talk will always be my idea of a nightmare. Last time we did this, the sandwiches they gave out may well have been the reason that I spent most of the evening in the bathroom so I resolved to stick to a little piece of cake. However the food police seemed to have got there first and there was only fruit for afters. The thought of trying to hold a sophisticated conversation with a professor whilst holding a glass of wine in one hand and eating a banana with the other was almost enough to finish me. FOW1 is now working through thoughts about PHDs or work etc. 
We then shook off the students and spent a lovely evening at the panto. It's quite a famous panto - very traditional and lovely. It's the kind of panto where you sing along to words as they come down on a screen and they read out dedications for the audience. It's also very funny. 
Anyway, a lovely weekend which almost made the six hour drive feel easy. Almost. We are back up North in a couple of weeks to take Aged Parent to the land of her birth for a few days. This is to celebrate her 80th birthday. We won't actually be seeing her on her birthday because she has had a better offer which is fair enough.

Parent      They are holding a party for me here, with a few drinks                                and niggles
Me           Niggles??
Parent      *Exasperated at my ignorance* It's what Rose calls                                      those things on sticks!!
Me           WILL YOU PUT YOUR HEARING AID IN! Please

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Monday, 23 January 2017

In between


It is that time of year I think. Christmas is a far away thought of the past. New Year's Resolutions are teetering on the brink. Money is tighter - even if it isn't, there isn't really that much to do with any spare money. It's really cold outside so that leaving the house is not as pleasant as it might be. Then there is the darkness, it's dark when you get up and dark when you go to bed. Even on a more global level, times seem dark and confusing.
This time of year can be a sort of downtime. Time to get a bit down sometimes. I was speaking to someone who got through this time of year by planning all their holidays and breaks for the year ahead. "Gives me something to look forward to." That's nice. But I was thinking, what if this blah time was a blessing. What if it was time-out from the rest of the year. There is, for many people a space here. Maybe nothing that NEEDS to be planned for quite yet. Nothing outstanding, nothing to write home about. I was reading in one of the Gospels about Jesus' ministry and was struck by how much travelling from village to village he did. 


Luke 8The Message (MSG)

He continued according to plan, travelled to town after town, village after village, preaching God’s kingdom, spreading the Message.

I sometimes have a vague idea in my head about him almost being mobbed by different groups of people as he wandered around a couple of places. (I understand I should read my Bible better - don't write in) But I realised that, between the high level healings, and temple arguments and just downright Messiah like happenings, there was lots of planned walking between villages. Going from place to place. Sometimes they were met by the needy but then they would carry on. Just normal times. Talking, laughing, eating, going about their work, possibly being a bit low, a bit puzzled. Just life - with Jesus.
These are maybe the in-between times and they are just as important as the "happening times". I looked at January and thought "Quiet nights, blankets, candles, books, TV catch up, eating out of the freezer - not much else really". 
As it turns out, we have a couple of events in January and February but besides these, we are slow and we are quiet. And it is ok being just that. 
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Sunday, 15 January 2017

Settling Down


Here is the less than overwhelming Martha Towers News.
Things are returning to normal here after the Christmas shenanigans. FOW 2 has returned to university burdened with only an extra heater for her bedroom and the knowledge that she will need to try and find two of this term's films online as the university have found that they will be unable to supply them. This has made me want to stage an intervention as in "intervene to ask the university what they think they are playing at". You know that a university education is charged for by the second now right? My feeling is that if uni is telling students to download these films from Amazon, then maybe the university who are extracting several thousand pounds a year from the students, could possibly think of rousing THEMSELVES to do the downloading. Too radical? Too much like hard work? Possibly. I have been commanded by FOW2 to say nothing.

Went to the pictures to see La La Land. It's very pretty - lovely colours. Lovely performances - especially Emma Stone. It's just that - for a musical - I didn't think the dancing was very good. I think maybe it was supposed to not be very good - sort of modern and messy. I am afraid that I am used to Astaire and Kelly levels of excellence in my musicals not just pretty people having a pop at it. There is big dance scene on the motorway which everyone raved about and I just thought it was a bit of a mess. Still, not to complain too much. It's about time someone had a go at something a bit different and it is really lovely to look at. Also, no one gets their throat slit. Hope that's not a spoiler. 

We didn't get any snow in this round but that didn't stop Spotlight News from sending a man to stand on the highest point on Dartmoor and predict an apocalypse. It was all a bit embarrassing as he pointed at various donkeys and sheep and tried to canvass them for their opinion. It went a bit cold and a bit rainy then it stopped. 
Glad to see Endeavour back on Sundays and Sherlock obvs. People have been complaining about Sherlock. I've been enjoying it. Just me probably. 

The house has been full of students. Well just the one who has been staying with us. Why does it always feel like there are more? 

And in the most important event of the week is...I HAVE A COLD! I NEVER GET A COLD! This is unacceptable. I have a really busy week at work. FOW1 graduates at the weekend and I will be needing all my strength to try and look good in clashing prints. I have no time for this. So I am off to try and get warm and all that stuff. Petitionary prayers gratefully received. 
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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Alone


One of the joys of any time away from work is being able to listen to Woman's Hour. I love Woman's Hour. I love talky radio (so long as it's nothing to do with Brexit) 

I managed to listen between Christmas and New Year. I can't be more accurate than that I'm afraid. I tend to ditch my diary around Christmas and all the days seem to run into one until I can get a nice new diary out. The programme was a phone in about how people had spent their Christmas. It wasn't the most imaginative subject but I expect the production team were still in the middle of their jolly hollys. I found one lady's story particularly touching. She explained how she had spent Christmas alone and how difficult it had been. She was 62 years old; widowed for quite a few years but still fit and active. She talked about how she went to clubs and met people, but how, sometimes she felt relegated to the outskirts of people's lives. Her little dog had recently died and no-one had knocked on her door to see how she was. All she wanted, she said, fighting back tears, was for someone to give her a call and say "Would you like to go for a walk this afternoon?" then the killer line - "Maybe even someone from my church". Arrrgh.

If I had a fiver for every time I had heard this. It begs so many questions. Are we really fulfilling our role in our community - whether that is inside or outside church? Are we inclusive? Not just the young and the beautiful but the older and the "ordinary". I recently looked at a church's list of home groups. (Aged parent wasn't sure which one she went to - long story) There were some fantastic things there - surfer groups, 20-30s nights, student evenings etc etc. There didn't seem to be much for anyone over 50. I am a parent of students. I am glad the church is trying hard to hold them. I am slightly concerned that if they went to everything that is available for them in church, they would never get any work done. Apparently, the church is losing a young generation. We need to work to get them back. I am very supportive of this project. I wonder though if we aren't also losing other people. The quiet, the lonely, the people who maybe don't vote with their feet and turn up every Sunday then go home to an empty room and an equally empty week. 

I am all for pastoral teams, they do an excellent job. They find the people who are struggling and lost and lonely and they visit and pray. (Quite often anyway) But they are up to their eyeballs in work most of them. And, a pastoral visit is not a friendship. It is a reach out. In some ways it should be a last resort. I don't that that "Community" is the pastor's job. I think it is the community's responsibility.

We often talk about faith nor being an exclusive pastime. I don't just think that is about sharing the gospel - although obviously it is about that. I think it is about not closing down when we have found our tribe. It is so easy when we find like minded people - especially in church. We pull up the drawbridge so we can stay with our friends and the people we love and trust. Unfortunately, if that is your plan then I think you may have joined the wrong religion. We are called to be friends. To support and to love. Not just those we identify with. 

I am, of course, certain that this is the plan because Jesus gave us the example. He shunned the wise and the powerful, those who maybe could have done the message he brought a power of good. Instead he sought to be with those who could give him nothing back. He chose to teach them of course but he chose a different way. He chose friendship. He spent time with them. He ate with them. He then told then to do the same, as people, as individuals. If people are looking out of their windows alone. If people are in our churches, praying that someone will want to be their friend, if people mourn their little dogs alone, then maybe we don't wonder if the pastoral team will ever get their finger out. Maybe the command was to us. To me.

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
But remember the root command: Love one another.

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