Sunday, 19 November 2017

Blessings from Heaven

Sunday was a joint service at Christ Church, followed by lunch.  Yours truly was down to lead the intercessions. Unlike last week, I remembered to print them off and take them with me.

According to the order of service, the intercessions were supposed to follow on seamlessly after the sermon. I had a bit of a heart attack moment, when the Vicar said "Amen" about 5 mins in. I thought he had finished speaking and was poised to leap to my feet, in an understated Anglican sort of way. Fortunately, I realised that he was just emphasising a point, before I left my seat....

It was good to worship together as a parish, and to share lunch afterwards. The service was a joint effort, with folks from all three churches taking part in a beautiful fusion of traditional and modern worship.

Twin poops
Afterwards we came out to discover that we had accidentally parked our car under the flight path between the sports hall and the shopping centre. Our car now fully displayed the evidence, on the windscreen, the bonnet, the roof, the doors (both sides).  No part of the visible exterior of the car was left unscathed.  Note the 'blessings' on the windscreen, and the row of birds lined up above the silver car, ready to carry out their next round of target practice. Bizarrely, the car next to us appeared unscathed. Perhaps they thought a green Jaguar posed a greater threat, that a benign blue Ford.

Queueing for a turn at target practice.

A close up of the birds on the roof...

DH was definitely not amused, to the extent that when we got home, he went and got soapy water and a cloth. Still, at least the car got an unexpected clean!

Three Have A Surprising Day South

On Saturday we headed south to meet up with the Open University Society of Bellringers. Last time we rang with them was back in 1995 in Oxfordshire!  Over the years we have visited a variety of towers with these ringers, from large influential churches such as St Martins in the Fields and the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, to small village churches. Today we were heading for Bedfordshire and it sure was a day of surprises.

Surprise No. 1 - Despite leaving later than planned we were still early! Having completely forgotten to take sufficient cash with us, this provided the opportunity to pop into the village shop and get cashback..

White Lion?
Surprise No. 2 - Getting out the car and seeing this white creature carved into the hillside.
I assume it is a horse, but it could be a lion. I couldn't find any information online about it, but then I wasn't really sure as to the precise location of the carving.

Surprise No.3 - There was a loo in the first church. Small, but essential detail, and made the coffee even more welcome! Thank you to the local tower captain, who took time to come and make drinks for a bunch of strangers.

Surprise No. 4 - The first tower bells were more difficult than I anticipated. A 9cwt ring of six should have been easy to ring, but they required more effort than their weight suggested. I did wonder if they were still on plain bearings.

Surprise No. 5 - How busy a small place can be. Our second tower was Toddington, a bustling village, where it was very difficult to find anywhere to park, but we did :)

Not Woburn Abbey
Surprise No. 6 - Pershore Abbey has bells.
Tewkesbury Abbey has bells.
Westminster Abbey has bells.
Bath Abbey has bells.
Woburn Abbey does not have any bells, being a stately home, not a church. However, we did ring at the parish church. A majestic 24 cwt ring of eight complete with a partial moat or haha..

Surprise No. 7 - Woburn Church was full of shoeboxes!
There were hundreds in there - at the ends of pews, against pillars, on the chancel steps, round the font. I have never seen so many shoeboxes, even in a shoe shop!

Surprise No. 8 - We had to leave via the crypt.  The KHT was very excited, she thought she had located a secret dungeon!

Surprise No. 9 - We found a pub serving lasagne that had room for about 16 people, who wandered in without a prior booking... The pub we went in was The bell, opposite The Bell. Well, where else would ringers go?

Surprise No. 10 - How wet it was. I had not taken much note of the forecast, as we planned to be indoors, or travelling for most of the day.  It was quite a surprise when it started raining, and the rest of the day remained damp and drizzly with limited visibility through the murk. A pity, as what we could see of the countryside was very beautiful. Even through the greyness, the autumn trees were a joy to behold

Not a Flat White
Surprise No. 11 - They do not know how to make a flat white in Woburn... Not wanting vast quantities of liquid, I ordered a coffee to go with my meal
"Can you do a flat white?" I asked. The waitress didn't bat an eyelid.
"Filter Coffee" she muttered under her breath, gave a satisfied nod and I KNEW I was doomed :).
"Can you do a Latte? asked my husband
The waitress gave him a look, as if he had asked for something totally impossible, but she duly brought him a latte.
Me, I got filter coffee with a jug of milk.
Fine - just NOT a flat white!

Surprise No. 12 - There are a lot of really big houses in this area. Not just one or two, but lots of sizeable country houses.

Surprise No. 13 - Finding the church at Cranfield.
Not Cranfield Church
As we headed into the village I spotted a spire, and it was right where the satnav indicated the church would be.
Great, we rejoiced, that was easy to find.
Then I thought
"How on earth do you fit a 17cwt ring of six in there?!!!"
Answer - you don't.
I do not know what building it had been in a previous life, a school possibly. Now it was housing.
We turned around and looked...
Cranfield Church

"Ah, there is the church!"
Now that looks more like the sort of tower that would take a heavy ring of six!

Surprise No. 14 - Beautifully carved angels inside the church.
I couldn't decide if this one had an early version of an ipad or an x-ray machine, or what..

We arrived at the last tower at 3:30pm. We rang, and enjoyed a ringers tea - sandwiches, sausage rolls, pizza, etc.,. The KHT tried a pickled gherkin, but was not impressed...
Then we had a meeting during which the constitution had to be updated...
By the time we emerged it was well dark and we had completely forgotten which direction we had approached the church from and, more critically, where we left the car. Amusingly, we were not the only ones in this predicament!
I recalled the spire. DH used his car keys to locate his vehicle.

The only surprise might be that we didn't ring any 'surprise'.  Others did, so I suppose that makes up for it. They were going to ring spliced Cambridge, Norwich and Bourne. But they hadn't got enough ringers who would admit to being able to ring Bourne, so they omitted that, which made it Bourne free... (groan).

Time to go home, so we did.
No surprise there....

Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter Wanderland

Thursday came and went and included a trip to the place of miracles, where order was restored to my hair. I hibernated and blamed my malaise on the passing UFOs,
flying by in tandem,
as they do...

Evidence of passing UFOs

Friday, however, was light and bright. All was well with the world. Then we discovered that the KHT's repeat prescription for anti-allergy meds had disappeared, somewhere between the kitchen table - where she had just signed it, and the car.  We weren't going anywhere until that little mystery was solved. I checked my bag (twice). The KHT checked her bag and her coat pockets. I checked my desk (twice). We all checked the kitchen table. The prescription had vanished into thin air. Dear Husband (DH) finally tracked down the missing item, in a bag left behind in the KHT's room...

Twenty minutes later we finally depart to our first stop - the chemist, a mile away.
Step two was dropping off some paperwork.
Step three was exploring Hartlebury Common on a beautiful sunny morning.
Having examined the map at the information point, we set off vaguely in the direction of the viewpoint.


The cattle kept a close eye on us.

In the shade, the frost still lingered.
The KHT was fascinated
"Ooh look it has been frosting!"
She touched the fragile white coating, which to her surprise, instantly melted at her touch.

The KHT in 'looking into the depths' pose.

We wandered down to Hillditch Pool, a beautifully sheltered sunny spot. A couple of women sat on a bench, taking a break from dog walking. enjoying the peacefulness of the place and the unexpected warmth of the November sunshine on a frosty morning.


Hartlebury Common is an area of heathland close to the River Severn, and is surprisingly sandy. As you wander around you could easily forget that the sea is 100 miles away!

Walking back it was definitely warm enough to take my coat off, as I could feel the sun upon my back. The only fly-in-the-ointment was a man, who appeared to be unable to control his dogs that growled at us, encouraging each other in their aggressiveness. The KHT does not understand dogs and cannot work out what they are going to do. The last thing I wanted was for her to be bitten by a pug and fellow canine thug. Why do dog owners assume that any woods or open land is solely for the purpose of exercising dogs? People love these places too and should be able to wander freely without feeling intimidated by badly trained dogs.  From the poo bags abandoned near the entrance, within feet of the bins, it would appear that the dog owners do not hold the place in very high regard.  One bag was abandoned in a tree. What had the poor tree done to deserve that?

At lunchtime, we visited a nearby Garden Centre, that we have visited before, and purchased a very substantial circular plant support, for a very reasonable price.

The last time I remember visiting the Common was on a church outing nearly 40 years ago! We stopped there to have a picnic before going on to Stourport on Severn for the afternoon.
Where do the years go? It is a mystery!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Bigger Picture

Wednesday morning saw us acting out 'The Man Who Came Back' - my favourites ever Open the Book story, as my daughter could recite it without prompt it when she was about 6. The Ed. Psych. was not impressed and dismissed it as mere echolalia. My daughter did not to have any talents in his eyes. Try telling that to the audience who listened to her :/

Yesterday we were three helpers short at the afterschool club, a stand-in reduced that to two down. Today, we had a couple of folks who could not make it to Open the Book this week. Fortunately, the story was short & simple, with not a lot of props required. I am always amazed at God's timing. At the end of the last academic year, we had a run where for various reasons we were consistently missing one or two from our Open the Book team, and it coincided with a succession of stories that required very few parts. This week, again when we are rehearsing there are just two main parts plus a narrator, and three of us. There are opportunities to fit the others in, so it will all work out just fine. If it doesn't then we will adapt and improvise. All will be well.

The afternoon brought the second funeral of the week - strangely another contemporary of my mother. Like my mum, she had been a member of the parish Young Wives group, and in later life suffered from confusion.  Unlike my mum, she was a pretty nifty dancer. More interesting facts learnt from another life well lived.

After a lot of busy evenings, I finally got the opportunity to phone my ancient Father-in-Law. His health features prominently in our conversations, which vary in length according to how he is feeling. Today he was much chirpier than usual, sharing his opinions on a variety of subjects.  My role is to listen, and not agree with him. Towards the end of the conversation, he began to talk about how disturbing he found the Armistice celebrations.
"Why do they have to keep talking about the war. It won't bring them back. It just reminds me of it all. How we were treated like animals. We weren't even allowed to have enough water to drink."
War is ugly and cruel.  Sadly, there are times when it is necessary to fight against evil. We need to be aware of the memories we awaken, but also remember those who sacrificed their future that we may live in peace.

Through our window we see the seasons changing. Golden leaves flutter past like brief a storm of gold - a moment of glory, which becomes an irritation when they settle on the lawn. The distant ash trees have already shed their leaves, and we can see through them right across to the woodland at the counties edge.  Our perspective is ever changing, our view enlarging.  Trees stripped of their finery reveal the beauty of their structure. Skies, free from the clutter of leafy canopies, become larger.  November, a month to look back and remember, but also a time to see the bigger picture. Some pictures are prettier than others.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Dark lane, but not Dark Lane

Tuesday is a roller coaster sort of day. Work, quick lunch, and the first funeral of the week.  I was a contemporary of my mother, a quiet gentle soul, who knew her own mind.  Her eldest child was a month younger than me, but far, far cleverer!

Funerals are strange things. The person who is the main focus is not really there. All we have is the shell they once inhabited, encased in wood and strewn with beautiful flowers. I was a very private person and wouldn't have wanted a fuss, so I do wonder how she would have felt about having her life laid open for all present.

Funeral addresses usually include a brief resume of the person's life and often reveal some facet that you never knew. I was very aware that for many years I worked with her late husband and assumed that this was to ensure the smooth running of the business. I never realised that she too was a qualified dispensing chemist. In my defence, their shop was the other side of town, so I never saw her in her working environment. They used to cycle to work, sneaking through a gap in the hedge and onto the highway at a point that was convenient for them and made their ride shorter.  

Pretty pot
Home for a coffee before it was time to head off for the afterschool club -  Jonah week three. No tent this time, we have moved on from the fish/whale. Unfortunately, we were three team members down. Fortunately, A stepped in to lend a hand. The children remembered the story well including the small detail, like how the sailors felt when they had to throw Jonah overboard. The children love to act out the story and all want a part. This week 'Jonah' went around telling everyone to repent, and getting really cheesed off when they did.  The person acting out Jonah did a really good sulk, and two others had a great time acting out the vine growing and shielding 'Jonah'. We talked about how we cope when life is difficult and even if things do not happen the way we expect, God still cares.

Then came the fun part. Decorating flower pots and planting bulbs.  Fortunately, I had some clean ones left over from one of the Old Testament stories in Open the Book a while back. More amazingly, I managed to find them!
(I look forward to a day when the study is tidy, and so does everyone else!)

Fifteen children + craft activity = mess! I am always reminded of the feeding of the 5,000 when clearing up afterwards. You fill 12 baskets full of debris, and you seem to have the same amount of useable craft supplies at the end.  No idea how this works. It just does!

Not Dark Lane
In the evening we dropped the KHT off and headed over to Feckenham for ringing. Whatsap advises me that Dark Lane is closed, but I am completely in the dark as to where Dark Lane is.  Sure enough, no sooner have we left Astwood Bank than the road ahead is closed. We set the satnav for our destination, it re routes us down narrow lanes parallel to the route we would have taken.  Apparently, there was an accident with a motorcyclist and a car.  We pray that the motorcyclist makes a full and speedy recovery :(

We collect the KHT, who has been taking part in sporting activities this evening.  She enjoyed it, but found it a bit much when they were all throwing the soft balls around.
"Next time Girls' Brigade have games, I am going to need a suit of armour" she informs me.
After today's reminders of the fragility of life, who can argue with such a statement?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Right Pair of Trousers

On Monday morning paperwork was a good excuse to pop round to see some old friends and put the world to rights.  There were some interesting noises off, as they were having their bathroom refitted.  Fortunately, the floorboards held firm and there were no unexpected arrivals downstairs...

View from the car park
Dear Husband has been bemoaning the state of his trouser collection for some while. As we had a free afternoon we headed off to the super large M & S at Longbridge.  This was Dear Husbands first visit to the store. From a previous visit, I roughly knew how to access the multistory car park where there would be space. The trouble is that the idea of me knowing something roughly always gives my husband the feeling that it is going to go wrong. I have no idea why...

"Don't set your satnav dear.  I have no idea how to set it to get the last bit right. It will drive us round the bend as we will just have to keep ignoring it, while it gives wrong instructions. Instead, I will guide you. Just head towards Birmingham, and take the first roundabout at the edge of Brum. I will give further instructions as we go along."
This, however, was not good enough for my husband who likes everything to be certain and planned.
"Which road do I take to Birmingham?"
"The one that takes you to Longbridge Lane."
"Well, I could go this way or I could go that way..."
"Or you could just go to Birmingham the normal way.  Through Hopwood, up the hill and turn off. I can't remember if it is the Man on the Moon roundabout, or the one before."
"So do I go down the bypass?"
"Yes.  Stop being .....(censored bit)" I said sympathetically. Not.
We found the roundabout, drove down Longbridge Lane, with fields on one side of the road, and houses the other.
"Is this not the edge of Birmingham?" I queried
"Birmingham may begin at Hopwood for all I know." responds my Londoner born & bred husband.
"Hopwood is in Worcestershire..."
Despite our navigational and geographical differences we successfully found the car park.  This was when the fun began.  We had gone up to level 4. Parked the car and walked down the stairs.  Read a different parking sign and were unclear if the 3 hours free parking applied to all floors, or levels one or two only  To be on the safe side, we went back down the stairs and moved the car down to a space on level 2.  We didn't mind paying £3 if required, but we didn't want to be clobbered with an expensive surcharge for non-payment.
View from outside the changing rooms

In M&S dear husband tried on a variety of pairs of trousers, and finally selected the same style as he already has, though a different shade, In order to get another pair in the same shade, he will need to order and collect in store, as there were none in stock. Obviously a popular colour and size.

No trip to M & S is complete without a trip to the food department. For the first time I actually claimed a discount using my sparks card. Until now I have just collected the points.  I was quite impressed that the 10% off food was loaded on to my card.
"£82.83" requested the assistant. Dear Husband hurriedly paid on his John Lewis card, to redeem something from this debaclele.
"HOW did I fit that much in one basket?" I marveled.  Then I remembered the trousers... Phew!

On the way out of the store we stopped by at Customer Services.
"Do you know anything about the car park?" we asked, and explained our confusion.
"Well, the car park isn't anything to do with us, but if you put your car reg into the machine it will tell you if you need to pay." Sure enough, the machine had two entries for our chariot, and required no payment.  Result.  Now if we had remembered to set that location to 'favourites' in the sat nav, we would have had an easier trip next time, but we didn't. Hindsight is wonderful :)

Afterwards, we successfully found our way home, even though the sat nav was sulking, no doubt offended by our independence on the way there.

In the evening the KHT couldn't wait to go to Special Olympics.  She was offered the chance to go to an area meeting, but when I explained the invitation she gave me a stern look and told me not to start anything else.  One step at a time, onwards we go.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Confession Time....

Sunday morning was lovely, bright and sunny with a generous gusty wind - perfect weather for drying washing, so I duly loaded the machine.  My husband had departed early, as he had service cards to print, computer to set up, and in the absence of a tame trumpeter or bugler for The Last Post, a clarinet to warm up.

The KHT was also ready to go from 9:10...
"Yes you can go now, but it is a bit early." Only to repeat the same conversation 10 minutes later.
I remembered to hang the washing out and left it fluttering gently in the sunlit breeze.

On arriving at church I set up a craft activity for any 5-13's who would be in the service. Although there is a creche today, the usual children's groups were not running. The freshly coated church hall floor was still drying, or setting, or doing whatever newly coated hall floors do.  As dear husband was playing, I had the task of sitting behind the sound desk and trying to remember to mute and unmute at vaguely appropriate times. As I 'muted' the Reverend gentleman for a hymn, I remembered the prayers I had written the previous evening, and more importantly remembered that I had not got round to printing them... AAAAAAAArgh!!!!
The Evidence...
"Oh God, our help in ages past..." sang the congregation, as I crept around the sound desk, scurried over to the craft table and filched a pencil. Taking a scrap of paper from my bag, I hurriedly scribbled down some headings from what I could quickly recall from the prayers written the previous evening. (I rescued my note from the recycling bin in the study, just to take this photo. Strange, but true!)
For those unable to read my panic-stricken scribble I have provided a translation below.
  • Those who gave so much
  • Those who waited
  • Those who still wait
  • Mentally ill
  • Leaders of the nations
  • Bereaved
  • Those who are ill
When you go forward to lead the intercessions, it is important to have a piece of paper in your hand, to give both the service leader and the congregation confidence that you are prepared.  You do not need to read what is on the paper, just take it with you. It is your passport to leading prayers.

Fortunately, on a day such as this, it is perfectly acceptable to leave small spaces within the prayers, to allow people the opportunity to reflect.  This also serves the purpose of ensuring that your tongue is in sync with your brain, not racing ahead....
The intercessions concluded with The Lord's prayer.  So preoccupied was I with kicking myself for not having brought that which I had prepared, I forgot to take my service sheet with me when I went forward.
I have 2 choices, bluff it or confess.
The confession was earlier in the service, so I step out in faith...
"Our Father...."
If I leave a millisecond gap, the wonderful lady in the front row will feed me the start of the next line.
The only place I come unstuck is when we are near the end, and I boldly proclaim
"For yours is the kingdom the power and the glory, while the congregation declare
"For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours..." Fortunately, the congregation are in full flow by this point, so with a bit of luck, they will not have noticed...

We do not normally ring on the 2nd Sunday evening, so later afternoon we rang a Quarter Peal on the bells at the Parish church, half-muffled for Remembrance Sunday.  We do not have many ringers who can ring for 45 minutes, nonstop. As we were one short we rang the front five, which are in a minor key, which with muffles on sounded delightful. We chose a method which we could ring well, and after a couple of initial stutters, we rattled through the changes with some very good striking.

Home for a coffee,

and off to a Taize style service.

It was lovely to sit in the candlelight and sing along to the chants. Very peaceful and relaxing.

I remembered the washing, fetched it in
and came back to this....

The countdown begins....

Thank you, KHT!