Sunday, 30 April 2017


Charlie Mackesy

Hello All. I am a Line of Duty widow tonight. I'll be honest I was out when Thandie Newton came round on the kitchen floor and the man from Nativity! was standing over her with a chainsaw. Sometimes you just know when a programme isn't going to be your thing. 

So, I thought I would just call in and show you this. This morning, the Vic was talking (extremely well) about the Prodigal Son and this painting was up on the screens. It is by Charlie Mackesy and I wanted you to see it. (By the way I have worked quite hard to get this to you. I hadn't noticed that I had written Chris rather than Charlie in the search box (Helpful predictive Google) and I think I nearly broke the Internet. It gave me Christopher Biggins, Chris Eccleston , Chris Pratt (a LOT of Guardians of the Galaxy stuff with that one) a rapper called Prodigal and a lady teacher called Chris who has knitted some nice finger puppets. (I may have imagined that one) Like the rest of us, Google needs as much help as it can get sometimes.
Anyway - back to the picture.  I think it is extraordinary. I love the sense of collapse into the Father's arms - the right hand, draped helplessly over is beautiful I think. Also the way the Father - overcome with emotion holds on so tight. Hugging him and kissing him. It is a beautiful and comforting picture of the Father's Love. The Vic spoke really well about the unconditional love of a parent which HOH and I found really challenging.  A good morning, despite getting soaking wet in the South West's first significant rain of the Spring and Aged Parent's post church trip to the Co-op during which I once again failed as a daughter as I was unable to find two of her favourite ready-meals which were (a) not curry and (b) had no onions in. My life is blighted by my shortcomings.

Can I just tell you what else the painting made me think of? Today marks ten years since the disappearance of Madeline McCann. I know they have taken a lot of flack for one terrible mistake and there is probably some truth in the theory that working-class parents making the same mistake would have found the law of the land less forgiving. However, I can't really imagine the pain they must go through every single day. The longing to have their child fall into their arms and to hug and kiss her must haunt their every waking moment. The Father's love has proved itself to be an urgent, constant love. Those who have experienced it must know something of what the McCanns go though. They deserve our thoughts and prayers today.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

It's a Wimmin Thing

I read this a while ago. It's a great read, well researched and full of enlightenment. I liked it because I related to a lot of it and, as you know by now if you have been reading this blog for a decent amount of time, it is usually all about me. Bessey is a Canadian writer and speaker and a wife and mother. She writes well. Some of it is quite emotional sometimes but not cloying or annoying like some Christian women's blogs. Sorry, I should rephrase that. I find some Christian women's blogs a bit cloying and the fault may well lie with me. I could possibly warm up a bit, I know that but I struggle a bit with those blogs that are a bit...

" I am washing the clothes by hand, in the kitchen and I am grateful, my heart is full of gratitude, gratitude for the pleurisy, for the rickets - the gratitude of a Mama"

I know, I know - it's my fault. I'm cold and heartless. Bessey isn't like that though, she is warm and encourages grace in what is sometimes a difficult subject. Some of what she says about Christian women and their place in the church may well be challenging to some people but I think it probably needs to be said. She is an encouraging, positive writer who builds confidence in her readers and I like that.
Bessey has recently stirred a bit of interest on Twitter by starting the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear

Among the comments that women reported hearing were 

Dress modestly because men are too weak. Also men are in charge of you because they are spiritually superior 

"You're a Christian feminist? Good luck finding a husband!

"If you preach, I will get up and walk out." 

I make no comment about these but it is quite interesting to hear that things I heard when I was young - many, many aeons ago - are still being heard. My impression is that young women are less inclined to take this kind of thing lying down these days. I personally find that very cheering and may power be placed heavily upon their elbows.


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"


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.

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!)

Friday, 14 April 2017

Of Fairy Stories and Mercy


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.


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?


Sunday, 9 April 2017


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. 


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. 

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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