Monday, 19 February 2018

Alien Invasion

Sexing Aliens
The last few stragglers are leaving church.
ED (Elder Daughter) is in the process of rounding up her brood
DH to G3 (aged 8) "And that includes you!"
G3 (aged 8) is straight back at him
"Oh no it doesn't! I am coming to your house!"
DH looks at me for affirmation, as visions of an afternoon nap disappear.
I affirm that G3 (aged 8) has indeed invited herself for dinner. For some reason, G4 (aged 5) appears to have got out of bed the wrong side this morning. This way I am at least removing one potential source of conflict from the equation, for the short term anyway.

G3 (aged 8) is a free spirit and spurns the colouring sheets I offer, preferring to do her own designs. I have to confess that I was so preoccupied with the 'Zaphod Beeblebrox' element of the design, that I never got beyond asking the name of this curious creature. Rainbow Alien was the reply. With such a name I think I assumed that it was female, but upon closer inspection, I am having my doubts...

I often feel that the grandchildren live in a different world that overlaps with ours. They have different expectations, different habits. Technology is an integral part of their lives. G5 (aged 3) mastered using the photos app on an iPhone at a very early age. She is also ruthless if anyone should disturb her viewing of photographs or her favourite video of Granddad blowing down a piece of drainpipe.  The other day my phone rang, and she had hung up on the caller before I had time to register that my phone was ringing!

True to form the KHT disappeared as soon as she had consumed her lunch, leaving G3 (aged 8) to battle with her peas.
"Take your time, there is no hurry. Granddad and I will just enjoy a coffee before we do pudding..."
With cake and ice cream on the menu G3 (aged 8) had both time and incentive to chase those naughty peas, and we were clearly not in a hurry. At home, I suspect that she would have been able to get away without eating these troublesome vegetables. No such luck when dining with grandparents with alien expectations, and no younger siblings to act as a distraction. We did give her a spoon to help accomplish the task.

But who are the aliens? The grandparents, who grew up drawing on the back of recycled paper, or the grandchildren, who assume that all resources are in unlimited supply? Meanwhile, we will just enjoy glimpses into each other's worlds.

G3 (aged 8) spent a good portion of the afternoon watching a Spongebob movie with the KHT, before reappearing to eye up the box of chocolates I have been given.
"Plenty of Kitkats and lollies on offer. We probably have some biscuits too... Ask Granddad, he is the expert on such matters"

The chocolates are reserved for Grandma the Alien, and will be savoured at leisure.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

You've been framed!

In the frame
On Saturday the calendar was suspiciously blank. No ringing, or any other church activity planned. No service to prepare for. A strangely quiet day. No wonder everyone was feeling a bit edgy at this unaccustomed leisure.

However, a picture had been dropped off at a framing shop in Evesham a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday we received notification that our masterpiece was now ready for collection, so we thought we had better go and retrieve it.

Evesham is a town we often drive round on the way to the Cotswolds, occasionally drive through (because it is a day when we can't be doing with all the roundabouts), but rarely visit. However, as we had some spare time after collecting our freshly framed picture, we decided to go for a wander along by the river.

Despite the coldness of the day, spring was definitely in the air as far as the cobs were concerned. They were definitely still in Valentine's Day mode. Lots of frantic feathery flutterings as the poor pen took off down the river, hotly pursued by a couple of would-be lovers, with amorous intentions.

Our wanderings took us from Waterside, over the stone bridge to Abbey Meadows, where we challenged the KHT to engage with some of the play equipment.

DH's muscle power was required to propel this particular peice of equipment. It needed to be turned several times in one direction, so it could then spin back in the other direction at a much faster speed. The KHT had a great time demonstrating that it is not possible to spin silently. We were then joined by a family with younger children. Their dad had a great time winding up the swing so his children could enjoy the sensation of being hurled through space. Being children the novelty soon wore off and they decided it was more fun to chase the seats. Unfortunately, despite being warned not to, the youngest child decided to chase one of the seats while it was in full flight. To her horror, the KHT collided with the child, who was unable to match the speed of the swing. The poor lad was swept off his feet and deposited on the floor. To add insult to injury he acquired a mouth full of wood chip in the process, as he was just getting ready for a most indignant yell when he landed facedown on the ground. 
"That will teach him" observed his mother, sympathetically.
No injury was sustained, other than to his pride. I reassured the KHT that it really wasn't her fault, and it was suggested that this would be a prudent moment to move on.
"Yes, that is a good idea," agreed the KHT, "Before I am travel sick!"

We continued our walk down past the play area by the new bridge to Hampton Ferry and beyond. By now the sun was shining and it was all very pleasant.
"Where's the coffee?" enquired DH.
Unfortunately, there are no coffee shops near the river in Evesham. Rather than take a significant diversion in search off a coffee shop in the town centre, we decided to stop off at Evesham Country Park on the way home, as it has changed rather a lot since DH last visited.

"It's a lovely walk," observed the KHT plaintively "Can't we continue?"
"The art of a good walk is to know when to stop, especially when your father wants a cup of coffee..."
Then just as we reached the new bridge again, the KHT said excitedly
"There is something I need you to see" 
and she pointed out some graffiti.
"It's Laurel and Hardy!" I said,
Her face lit up and I knew what she was thinking.
"But I do not think that it is a Banksy"
Blankety Blank...

Meanwhile, our newly framed picture is home
and awaits hanging?

Watch this space...

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Inconvenient God

The beginning of Lent is marked by the joint Ash Wednesday service at the parish church. A sombre event, which includes 'The Imposition of Ashes' within a service of Holy Communion. Palm crosses left over from the previous year, are burnt and mixed with oil to form a black gloopy looking paste, which is used to draw the cross on the foreheads of penitent parishioners. This act of repentance is followed by the Peace, which provides the opportunity to admire everyone else's forehead.

The KHT wondered what would happen if she kept the cross on her forehead. Fortunately, by the end of the service, it was already a blur, courtesy of her fringe. Hopefully, she washed off the remnant, before she got into bed.  It is also a good idea to remove your cross if you are planning to pop into the supermarket on the way home, unless you want to get involved in theological discussion at the checkouts.

The gospel reading was the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery, which is always a challenging passage - like where was the man!? Why was it only the woman who was in trouble? As I listened I was struck by the fact that Jesus wasn't overly interested in the woman's actions, or her justification for them. They both knew she was guilty. The difference was that Jesus knew that they had all sinned.  However, Jesus wanted the woman to change, and it was her transformation and future that mattered, more than her past indiscretions. I was feeling strangely encouraged by this, and then God whispered in my ear.
"You know those situations that are bothering you. "
"You think that you are right, don't you?"
"Well, yes. Because...."
"I understand. You don't need to justify why you feel as you do."
"Don't get trapped in the righteousness of your argument"
"Put down the accusations you want to throw."
"Just one thing. You have to forgive."
"They haven't admitted that they are wrong yet!"
"That is not the point. 
You need to forgive them or you are just like those who wanted vengeance in the story"
"I'm not accusing anyone of adultery!"
"I know, but you are feeling wounded by the choices they have made."
"And you think that they are wrong."
"Well consider the evidence..."
"I consider everything.  
I know everything. 
Do not forget I can see the bigger picture
"Trust me."
"I am trying to..."

Sometimes God's ways are rather inconvenient!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Elephant In The Room

Spot the puppet...
Monday saw us travelling to the Black Country for Open The Book training.

I have lost track of how many years it is since Open the Book was launched in our parish, and we began the weekly task of acting out Bible stories in local schools. I guess it must be about six years, as we are almost at the end of the second time through the three year cycle. In our team, only two of us remain from the original cohort. Thankfully others have come along to replace those who have moved on to do other things.

This was the first opportunity I have had to go on a training course, as in the past they have always happened on days when I am working. As this one was on my day off, I thought I better go. The venue for the training was only about half a mile, from where another year-long course we are doing, is based.  As a consequence, we feel that we are getting to know the Black Country!  Normally we travel through in the dark, so it was nice to see the place in the sunshine! I can now verify that Old Hill is just as steep as it appears in the dark!

Expectation - everyone will be highly organised, very capable, with excellent props.
Reality - they blundered through, just as we do, getting most of it right.

What did I get out of the course?  
A sense of something much bigger than six of us rolling up to school all bleary-eyed on a Wednesday morning and appearing from behind clothes airers. It made me question what else we should be doing, within both the schools we visit and the community in which they are based.  The leadership also shared their vision for possible developments.

What did I like best?
The resources in the prayer corner, which would be very useful in the after school club we offer in one of the local schools. I have already purchased a couple of items and have my eye on a few more...

One girl made an elephant out of playdough - which I christened 'The elephant in the room'...
Another suggestion was prayer paper aeroplanes - perfect potential for mayhem, in the name of prayer! Perfect!
Perhaps we should christen them 'Prayeroplanes'...

What did I like least?
Evaluations questions! Having said that they did make us think. At first, I thought that I had nothing to say, but as the conversation got going, I discovered to my surprise that I had plenty to contribute!

What surprised me?
It was a daytime course and most of the participants were quite mature in age - but not all!  Some regarded Open the Book as a project for the retired and seemed quite indignant at the thought that younger people might take part. Such ageism! In reality, I am the only member of my team who is not retired, but I do know people who successfully fit in Open the Book' in with their work commitments.

We now have a two-week break from Open the Book, as we are replaced with Mass on Ash Wednesday, and then it is half term.  When we return, it will be with renewed enthusiasm for bringing the stories to life.  I will be able to see beyond the crowns, swords and goblets and clothes airers, to the wider ministry.

But will I see an elephant?

Monday, 12 February 2018

Gastronomic Catastrophe!

It has been years since we have regularly eaten a Sunday dinner at lunchtime.  When my husband became Churchwarden the first time around, we discovered that by the time we got home from church we just wanted to eat, not wait while food cooked. From then on cheese sandwiches became our standard Sunday lunch, as I was rarely sufficiently organised to put dinner on before we went.

Fast forward twenty odd years, to my husband's third stint as Churchwarden. We noted that it was often 9:30pm before we ate our main meal on a Sunday, so in recent weeks Sunday dinner at lunchtime has been reinstated.

I am not keen on cooking.  It bores me. I end up cooking the same thing every day, mainly through lack of inspiration - baked potatoes (less washing up) and chicken (you can never eat too much chicken!) However, since retiring, DH, who rarely cooked when he was working, has become much more proactive in the kitchen. This Sunday, however, I decided to cook...

I remembered to put the KHT's fishcake in the oven. However, I never remember to use timers or make a note of what time I start cooking, so I usually make judgements on colour and temperature, rather than time. DH is the exact opposite - time is up, it's coming out, ready or not!

I decided to cook Dauphinois Potatoes. The potatoes were peeled and parboiled. For some bizarre reason, instead of just adding milk, cheese and a bit of flavouring, I made a roux sauce, poured it over the spuds and bunged it in the oven. As it was cooking delectable odours wafted from the oven, tantalising our nostrils.
Was it a success? Think potatoes in white glue, with cheese on top...

The chicken was lightly sauteed, with mustard, courgettes and tomatoes - did I ever tell you that I LOVE fried chicken.  However, in order to ensure the chicken was thoroughly cooked, I left the lid on. The consequences of this were that the courgettes felt sorry for themselves and went all limp and lifeless. Near the end, I remembered the wine and chucked in a good measure.
Was it a success?  Think chicken soaked in vinegar, with an overdose of mustard. Apparently, two spoonfuls of wholegrain mustard is one too many...

On the positive side the sprouts, beans and carrots were absolutely fine, except when DH prepared the green beans, he accidentally chucked in the carrot peelings, which I had left on one corner of the chopping board... They just needed fishing out prior to serving.  Yes, I know I was supposed to be doing the cooking, but I coerced DH into chopping the Green Beans, as he always buys ones with ends on.

Meal verdict - disaster. Give the woman a sad face sticker!

Moving on to Monday and husband is back at the chopping board, eager to avoid a repeat of yesterdays gastronomic catastrophe. I must admit I had my reservations about this evening's delight. Mince is rarely one of my favourite dishes, but black pepper and fresh tomatoes combined to create a very tasty meal. Admittedly sprouts are an unconventional ingredient to incorporate into bolognese, but they tasted fine to me! I have to admit the dinner was very enjoyable.

Meal verdict - Success! Give the man a smiley face sticker!

Somehow, I do not think that my husband is going to be encouraging me to increase the amount of cooking I do in the immediate future... Just one question remains - should I be pleased?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Palm Saturday

There were two events on the calendar for Saturday.  In the morning between 10am and midday it was Messy Church, and in the afternoon and early evening it was the Quarterly Meeting of the local branch of our bellringing association.  So far, so good.

Happy and Sad face biscuit decorating
Then I had a bright idea... This is usually the point at which life gets interesting, as my 'bright ideas' usually complicate life.
"We had plenty of helpers last time at Messy Church. I think I shall take grandchildren Four (aged five) and Five (aged three).  You can go ahead, and we will walk."
However, I hadn't realised that Grandchild Five (aged 3) had completely eschewed the buggy, meaning that extra time needed to be allowed for communing with nature, as only a three-year-old can. Every passing leaf and insect must be examined and marvelled over.

Meanwhile, I checked the itinerary for the days ringing and realised that we were supposed to be at the first tower at 12:30pm.  The first tower was fifteen miles away.  It was agreed that the mother of Grandchild Four (aged five) and Grandchild Five (aged three) would come and collect them at the end of Messy Church, leaving us to depart to our ringing.

My plans received another blow, when the morning dawned to persistent rain, and the implications of standing in the rain examining every wet leaf and insect dawned upon me...

Then I didn't get up early enough.

End result - we all went in the car. DH went to pick up Grandchild Four (aged five) and Grandchild Five (aged three), whilst I gulped down my breakfast. They then came back and picked up the KHT and moi.
Grandchild Four (aged five) was chattering away.  Finally from Grandchild Five (aged three) came a solemn announcement,
"And I'm a big girl now!"

It was really interesting to see how they coped with it all. Grandchild Four (aged five) was very aware of his own limitations, even with a pair of left-handed scissors. All the activities involved following instructions and using skills he was not yet proficient in.  Grandchild Five (aged three) had no such qualms and had no concept of failure. She wanted to do everything the other children did, and she did. There was has no thought that her efforts would not be of the same standard as anyone else's. No-one cared that her colouring was more scribble. It was hers. Finished items go in a shoebox. No-one has time to compare - they move swiftly on to the next craft.

"I am just colouring in Mummy's beard..."

During the activities, there was time to chat
"I am just colouring in Mummy's beard" announces G5 (aged 3).
"Do you know anyone with a beard? I enquire of G4 (aged 5)
"Jesus has a beard!" chuckled G4 (aged 5)

They had only been to Messy Church once before, quite a while ago. G4 (aged 5) looked at the tables laid with paper plates and serviettes.
"Why are the tables like that?"
"We have a meal."
G4 (aged 5) departs to get his iced biscuits...
G4 (aged 5) ate the sausage from his hot dog, then a cake, and then finished off his biscuits.
Meanwhile, G5 (aged 3) took rather longer to consume her cake. Despite several cleanup operations during the cake consumption, she still managed to spread icing from her armpit to her nose.  A dozen wet wipes later and she is almost respectable.  I hope the rest came out in the wash...

At the appropriate time, they were collected by their parent and we were about to depart.
"Can you take the prayer tree back to St. J's?"
enquired one of the leaders.
"Yes, but as we are not going home, it will be going on a tour of Worcestershire first!"
The Prayer Palm Tree - based on the centre from a roll of carpet - was duly fed into the boot and over the back seat.

And so it came to pass that on the last Saturday before Lent, we took a palm tree on a tour of Worcestershire. Like many modern cars, ours has tinted windows. The salesman said it was to reduce the glare of the sun, but I think it is just so that people cannot see the random things that get carried around.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Primrose Trail

A couple of weeks ago I did an impulse buy of a tray of pale yellow flowers, which were displayed outside a garden centre.  Before you ask they were NOT daffodils. 
"Ok!" I thought to myself, "These will look rather nice underneath the trees at the bottom of the garden. If they like it there, they may even naturalise, along with the cyclamen and the foxgloves..."

I even managed to plant them before the cold weather set in - though not in the place I originally intended. When I came to plant them I thought, 
"These will add some lovely colour to the garden, but it is a pity to have them so far away," and so their new home was the rockery adjacent to the pond... where the pheasant can keep an eye on them 

Now six small plants in a winter-bare garden do not make much of an impact, especially when you plant them both sides of a rockery.  
Then I had a brainwave.
"I will buy some more!" 
And so it came to be that we set off on The Great Primrose Hunt!

We started in a garden centre the other side of Worcester. Now the sparsely filled displays in the plant section bore testimony that February is not the most popular time for purchasing plants. Who in their right mind wants to go digging holes in the permafrost? However, there was a good variety of plants of the primula family in a wide variety of colours, but they only had a few pale yellow. I succombed to a pot of pale blue bulbs. Before you ask, they were not daffodils, either!

Later,  as we were heading home, we did an impulse stop at another garden centre, which we had often passed, but never stopped at before. Again, plenty of pink, blue, burgundy, orange, you-name -it colours. Disappointingly, there were not a lot of primrosey looking primulas.

Finally we crossed the county boundary, visiting my favourite local garden centre. Here we discovered a wondrous vista of primulas in every shade imaginable stretched out before us. Surely THIS will be the place where we will find our primrosey looking primulas! Alas, the pale yellow ones had orange centres, so we discounted them...  

We returned home and admired the previously purchased primulas, only to notice to our horror, that they too had orange centres, just like the ones we had spurned!  We really should have taken a photo before we went - it really would have made life a lot simpler.

However, the trail hasn't gone cold. We have three options:-
A) We could return to the garden centre where we made our original purchases and buy some additional plants, providing they still have some in stock. 
B) Return to a garden centre or two WITH A PHOTO on my phone and identify the ones that match most closely to the plants purchased previously.
C) Buy some that look similar but don't have the orange centres, and ignore the fact that they are not all the same.

Who knew buying plants would be like a box of chocolates and we would want to avoid the ones with the orange centres...