Sunday, 22 April 2018

What Are The Chances?

The KHT has completed the hours required for the Monday element of her course, so we decided to go to Worcester to visit the Art Gallery and Museum to celebrate.

It was a mild day, with high cloud, so we were brave and went without coats. A bold, and possibly rash move, in a year when winter seems to have gone on forever!

The roads were quiet.

There was just a brief hold up to allow a delivery truck do a very complicated manoeuvre off a drive. We watched as the vehicle inched closer and closer to a ditch, willing the driver not to make an error of judgment, that could have taken the truck into a muddy abyss.
Fortunately, he didn't.

We regularly visit Worcester. However, we usually focus our attention on the Cathedral, the river, and the main shopping streets. On this occasion, we headed northwards towards Foregate Street in search of the museum. Well, the cafe had great reviews, so we just had to check it out...

The KHT was impressed with the giant sturgeon - minus its caviar, which is just visible at the back of this photograph.

We admired the very constable-ish artwork of Leader, complete with ornate gold frames - which you either love or hate.

We ate lunch at The Balcony cafe, enjoying the peaceful oasis it offers, before exploring the rest of the museum, which was mainly military.

The fact that amazed me most was that prior to the ice age, the Severn used to flow northwards into the Dee, until during a prolonged cold snap some glaciers got in the way.
The thought of all that water changing direction blows my mind!

Meanwhile, the KHT enjoyed trying on the hats. She only tried on two, so this was the closest we got to a hat trick...

After leaving the museum we found our way to the Sabrina Bridge, pausing to watch a film crew and a handler with two birds of prey leaving the racecourse. We will never know what we just missed. Life is strange like that.

We crossed the river and headed south towards Powick, past a regal looking belgian shepherd dog, with a freshly stitched ear. Life continues to be odd...

A brightly painted barge overtook us, making its slow way somewhere. Rosie and Jim were nowhere to be seen.

We passed a lonely lifebelt floating futilely in the water. Liberated by vandals or floodwater, we knew not. I wondered how far had it traveled before it came to rest in that tangled mass of twigs.

We passed crossed the main road at the unimaginatively named 'Worcester Bridge' and continued south. The budding greenery helped us to appreciate spring has finally arrived.

Behind the fence adjacent to the footpath, groundstaff were making up for lost time after the recent floods, marking out the nets.

The river level had dropped far enough for the weir to be visible, but we heard it before we saw it, as gallons of water tumbled and roared down the incline en route to the sea.
I am still trying to get my head around the river changing direction, and failing!

We cross the Diglis Bridge.
The KHT practices walking on walls.
"If I get the shot right it will look like you are walking on water..."
 I don't get the shot right.

Words of encouragement have appeared on the footpath. Is this art, graffiti, or both?

We have walked about 11k steps, so we reward ourselves with a coffee.

We head home retracing our route across country. As we pass through Inkberrow, we have to stop to allow a car with trailer to pull out of a driveway. We realise to our total amazement, that it is the very same house where we had to wait for the truck to complete it's tricky manoeuvre this morning. What are the chances of that happening?

Sunday, 15 April 2018


Friday began with a funeral. A chance to give thanks for the life of a man who did so much for so many. As DH was printing the church annual reports ahead of the AGM, the KHT accompanied me to the funeral, as we were heading into town afterward.

The church was packed - memories shared, prayers led and voices raised in praise by the full house that gathered to pay tribute to Mike. It was a poignant reminder that, compared to the vastness of time, life is short, fragile and precious. Pack in as much as you can, to help as many as you are able.

Afterwards, as we walked towards town, I asked the KHT where she would like to go.
"Let's go and see M & S"
The store shut while we were away.
In her head, the KHT knows it has closed, but she needs to see the evidence for herself. This will enable her to supercede the image in her mind, of a place with pizza and a warm welcome, and replace it with the reality of an empty shell.  This will help her to convince herself, that the days when she could saunter casually through the doorway, have passed.

We approached the store and the KHT stopped in front of the  hostile roller shutters in Walford Walk.
"Oh!" she said, as reality started to hit.
We turned the corner, and walked past where the cafe was. The windows have been covered up with bright posters advertising the shopping centre.
"Why have they done that?" she asked.
"So that people don't just look in and see an empty store."
Artificial light was visible where the double doors met. The KHT peered through the gap, into the void where the kingdom of St. Michael had been.
"You are right. It is empty!"
I stood there, clothed in M & S from socks to my shirt - the only exceptions being my coat (Roman) and my trainers (TKMaxx), and shared her sadness.

When we lived nearer the town centre,  I used to joke that M & S was my corner shop, which was really convenient.  I have continued to use them sporadically, as I like their food - their large blocks of vintage cheddar are both a bargain and a joy - slightly crumbly, with a taste normal supermarkets cannot come close to, with their rapidly processed rubber produced cheese. We also now need to find a palatable alternative to their fair trade coffee, as we will no longer be able to pop into town to pick up the odd jar for church.

Instead of our customary lunch in M & S, we visited Debenhams cafe. The KHT was going to have an egg sandwich, until she discovered they did a small, perfectly proportioned lasagne. Sorted.

So long, M &S, with your bunches of Daffs,  ease of shopping, and cafe with cheery staff to gladden the heart of the KHT and parent.

Memories of people and places live on, but that doesn't mean that we wanted to say goodbye.

Friday, 13 April 2018

All At Twos and Threes

And so it came to pass that the penny dropped, as pennies usually do, when I realised that the two events that had been arranged in parallel email conversations involving an almost identical group of people, were rather closer together than I anticipated. Allow me to explain how this happened.

About a month ago, I was asked if DH and I could help out by taking part in a couple of Quarter Peals at a nearby tower. For the uninitiated Quarter peals are set lengths of bellringing of around 40 minutes, that comply with certain rules.

Unfortunately, we had to decline the invitation to ring in the first, as it was on Good Friday when we were away. This was a real pity, as it was on eight bells and we rarely get the opportunity to ring Quarter Peals on this many bells.

The other Quarter Peal was being arranged for the second Saturday in April. Due to a ringing event already being scheduled at that tower on that particular day, this was subsequently rearranged to be rung at our home tower.

We normally ring for evening service on the 1st and 3rd Sundays, and recently we have tried to ring a one Quarter Peal per month.  I had arranged for April's attempt to be rung on the third Sunday of the month, as we were away on Easter Sunday, April 1st.

However, it was only this week that I realised that the second Saturday was 14th April and the third Sunday was the 15th - adjacent days! Arghhh! What is the chance of that happening? Is it one in seven, or are the odds against this happening far greater?

DH was apprehensive as to how his arms would cope with all this stretching, and that was before he remembered that we were also signed up for ringing training on Saturday afternoon!

It came to pass that for a variety of reasons Saturday morning's ringing was rescheduled for later in the month, thus we were saved by the bell.

Meanwhile, I resolve to pay closer attention to the calendar in future!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

All A Matter of Interpretation

Birthdays are like buses, none for ages, then you hit a run of them!
This month G2 (Aged 8) will become G2 (Aged 9) and, similarly, G3 (Aged 8) will also become G3 (Aged 9). Ironically G2 (Aged 8) was due about a week after G3 (Aged 8), but was born first, and will therefore always be G2, not G3 as we had expected. In case you are wondering, they are cousins, not twins...Babies come when they are ready, not to some neat and tidy plan. Although the medical profession gave their best estimates for the birth of both children, they had their own ideas about when they were arriving - one early, one late.

In view of G2's impending birthday, I did my research and identified a suitably inappropriate present - as grandparents do. I discovered that the simplest way of obtaining the gift was to order online from John Lewis, to be collected from our nearest Waitrose - well one of the nearest Waitrose stores - there are three in the surrounding area, but not one in our town - we are not classy enough!
In order to not be charged the £2 fee I also ordered a water bottle for taking to work, as the one I am using is no longer watertight.

Having received a text notification that the goods were ready for collection we duly trundled off, through the mist to collect them.
On arriving at the store, I left DH paying for the parking while I made myself known at Customer Services, who advised me that my items would be ready for collection by the time I finished my shopping.
After circumnavigating the supermarket two and a half times, as you do, we decided to call it quits. In this short time, I had stocked up all sorts of exciting goodies not available in our normal superstore of choice. Now M&S have abandoned town I may well be here more often...
Having duly lobed items in the trolly with joyful abandon, in my own mini version of supermarket sweep, I thought I would position myself at a discrete distance whilst husband paid. I made my excuses and returned to the Customer Services desk.
"Sorry your items are not here yet"  
Interpretation - the person whose job it is to collect your order from the warehouse is still on their break.
"It will be here in a minute"
Interpretation - their break should have ended 10 mins ago
Then a rather large item and a smaller item arrived and were placed on the counter in front of me. For the large item think massive teddy -  the sort a child could sit on, or possibly a dog bed...
I regarded them with surprise
"Gosh!" said I, as I gazed upon looking at the proffered items "I was expecting something considerably smaller. It must be well wrapped. I am sure it will be fine!"
Interpretation - this feels wrong, but I cannot believe John Lewis would mess up my order! 
The assistant zaps the label, and, surprise, surprise, it doesn't tally with my order.
He turns around and suddenly notices two much smaller,  and rather insignificant parcels on the back counter.
"Oh, they were already here!"
These pint-sized, but more plausibly dimensioned items successfully tally with my order.
The member of staff apologises and hands over my packages.
"I wonder what I nearly got instead!" I said, brightly.
I got a look in return.
Interpretation - you weren't ever really going to get the large package. Even if I knew what was in those other packages, it would be more than my job is worth, to give the vaguest hint of their contents.
I smile and head off with my purchases, to discover a slightly shell-shocked husband, still reeling from the dent in his wallet.
He gives me that look.
Interpretation - HOW can a few items cost the same as a weekly shop?
I smile sweetly, knowing he has bought three 'gluten free' ready meals for himself.
He gives me another look, as he knows I know about the 'gluten free' ready meals, and he also is well aware that any reference he makes about cost will undoubtably return to the 'gluten free' ready meals...

Now I just have to find the card I bought for G2 (aged nearly 9)...

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Mega Oops and Mercy

Do you ever find that you have been putting something off and the reasons why are so complex, that you haven't really acknowledged them, not even to yourself?
Maybe this hasn't ever happened to you. Your life may be well ordered and successful, with no unexpected miry messes to entrap and paralyse, or unexpected bumps to launch you into an unanticipated orbit.

Having returned from my Easter excursions, I decided that it was time to clamber out of the pit of procrastination and start tackling those things which I had placed in a mental file to be opened after Easter.  Renewed and refreshed from the spiritual nourishment of Minehead 1 (Spring Harvest Christian Conference based at Butlins in Somerset for the uninitiated.) I resolved to face some of the challenges I had put on hold - one of which was booking my place on a residential weekend I planned to attend.

I searched my emails for the relevant document,
opened it
and discovered to my absolute horror that the closing date for bookings was the end of the previous week.



I reflected further.
It wasn't the end of the world.
We could do something else that weekend...

However, knowing that they have to place food orders four weeks before the event, I thought that they had probably given themselves a buffer of time to process the paperwork.  I, therefore, decided to throw myself on the organiser's mercy and see if it was still possible to obtain a place.

In faith, I printed off the booking form and hurriedly emailed a few folks who I thought maybe going, confessing my utter incompetance. To my surprise, they too had been caught out by Easter/post Easter busyness and I suspect the organiser may have received a few more apologetic emails.

Imagine my surprise, relief and delight to receive back an email from the organiser, accepting my belated booking. I have attended this conference for several years, and it is the first time I have missed the booking deadline. I am very grateful that my booking was still taken, despite my failure to meet the well-advertised deadline.
It wouldn't have been the end of the world if I hadn't gone, but it is good to get away to a completely different environment, to learn, reflect and chat through topics of interest. I hurriedly passed on the good news to some of my friends. This may not be a glamorous ball, but I am so very pleased to be going!

I reflected on the evening,
  • Procrastination overcome
  • Recognition of failure
  • Acting in faith
  • Mercy, from the organiser
  • Grace, I don't deserve
  • Good news spread
  • Resolve not to repeat the error
  • Unhappiness transformed into thankfulness.
Does all this remind you of something?


Sunday, 1 April 2018

All in the plan

“All this rain, Lord..”
"Yes, its nothing unusual. 
Just a weather system.”
“Are you trying to tell me something?”
“What sort of thing do you think I might be trying to tell you?”
“Lord, I hate to ask this, but…”
<Sigh> “Go on, spit it out”
< Gulp> “Do you want me to…
build an ark!?”
“I was waiting for you to ask me that.”
“You were?”
Whenever there is a series of weather systems, which cause a significant increase in rainfall. I get asked that question. 
Many times.  
Strangely, it rarely comes up during a period of drought. 
And no, Ikea do not have a kit for making arks!”
“Have you checked?”
<Sigh> "I don’t need to check. I know.”
“Oh yes, All knowing… Omni wotsit"
“Yeah, that’s the bunny."

"God, can I ask you a question?”
“ Of course…I might not know the answer… only joking…”
“If you knew I was going to ask about the ark, why did you ask me what I thought you might be trying to tell me?”
“That was for your benefit. 
It was a worry going around your head. 
You needed to verbalise it and face your fear.  
Yes, the rain will stop, but it will do so gradually, changing from continuous rain, to showers. 
In a few days the weather will change. 
There will be warm sunny days, and this wet weather will soon be a distant memory.  Have you already forgotten the day a couple of weeks ago, when you were happily wandering around without a coat?”
“Well, not entirely.”
“Good.” I
t’s human nature to put yourself in the middle of everything.”
“Well, things affect me!”
“Yes, but these situations are not just about you. 
They are not planned as some sort of punishment for you. 
They are part of something much, much bigger.”
“Not about me..?”
“Nope. A wet Bank Holiday weekend is an inconvenience, but it hasn't happened just to spoil your plans.  
Weather systems are complicated, they are often in seven-year cycles. 
Complex factors determine when and where the rain falls.  
If you are that concerned, start looking after the environment and work with me, not against me!”
“I would have preferred it to have been warm and sunny..”
“And if it had been warmer and sunnier, there would have been more people out and about.”
“More accidents.”
“Sometimes I am disappointed in you, God.”
“I am aware of that, b
ut I gave mankind free will. I wanted you to be able to choose."
“We don't make a very good job of it though, do we, Lord? Take Good Friday for example…”
“It was all in the plan.”

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Watching and Waiting

Slow down.
Watch the sun set.
Observe how the banks of cloud
pass between us and the sun,
obscuring it from view,
then part
to allow the sun to glimpse through.
once more.
For the cloud is not the solid mass
that we would have it be.

As we wait
the cloud moves towards the south,
whilst expanding downwards
towards the horizon.
Will the sun sink faster than the cloud can move?
This is the mystery of the evening.

For one brief moment
the sun appears beneath the cloud,
before another bank rolls in
and the colour fades finally from the sky.

We wait for the morning
to celebrate the miracle,
the majesty
and the mystery
of the Sonrise.