Thursday, 24 May 2018

Bank Holiday Blues

Who turned off summer?

Yesterday we were enjoying the sunshine,
rationing the remnant of the water from the last of the water butts and rejoicing in being able to dry washing outside.

Today we woke to minor precipitation, not serious rain.
Merely half-hearted drizzle, that hadn't made the earth noticeably damp,
even after a few hours of feeble futile falling.
It was only 10 degrees C when I went to work this morning - a sharp contrast to the warm and muggy weather, to which we have become accustomed.
Definitely cardi weather.
Definitely not coat weather.
I am not giving up on summer yet,
even if summer does momentarily appear to have given up on me!

The weather apps were enthusiastically forecasting record temperatures for half term, seem to have gone a bit quiet.
Maybe they have added the words 'Bank Holiday Weekend' into the model, and all of a sudden reality kicks in.
A few days ago my phone was predicting wall to wall sunshine for days ahead.
Now it is predicting endless days of rain!
Over the last few weeks, 90% of the rain forecast has not materialised.
Today the 'drizzle', if you could call it that, was more akin to a cloud that got confused by gravity.

Ah well, I will keep watching the apps, and the skies, and see what happens!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Accidentally Creating Liturgy

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog on Tuesday I was at funeral training. But there was an interesting bit I forgot to mention.

The speaker was very easy to listen to, with a delivery style that kept you interested.
She decided to enliven the feedback sections, by giving a very brief description of the clothing of the person wishing to speak, was wearing
The first person to raise their hand was duly invited to speak with the following description.
"Lady in the blue patterned dress"
Delegates mentally note
'Lady in blue patterned dress'.

Then someone else raised a hand.
"Another lady,"
The speaker notes with some surprise -
"also in a blue patterned dress!"
Delegates mentally note
'Another lady in blue patterned dress.'

We come to the second section of feedback. I raise my hand.
"Lady in the black top"
"Actually it is blue!"
Delegates murmur
'Blue' and nod, sagely.
I make my point.

A gentleman raises his hand, indicating his desire to contribute to the discussion.
"Gentleman in the grey shirt"
Delegates whisper
"Greyey BLUE"

We have lunch,
consuming the sandwiches which we brought with us.
No attempt is made to replicate the feeding of the 5,000.
This is funeral ministry, not miracles.
There is deep joy when we discover coffee
and we are satisfied with that small miracle.
Listening is thirsty work.

At the allotted time we resume.

Our speaker continues with the next section - appropriately named the graveyard slot, and then we come to a point where further feedback is invited.
"Lady in pink top. It's cerise! You cannot call that blue!!!"
declared the speaker, an air of desperation entering her voice.
Delegates mutter
"Pinky BLUE"

Then a second person speaks
"Gentleman in the check shirt!"
Delegates all turn round and look at Mike
'BLUE Check!'

We move on to talk about times that bereaved people find difficult - Christmas, Valentines Day, New Year. A mention is made of the fact that some churches offer a quieter service in December.
"Do any of you know what name this service can be given?"
"BLUE Christmas" respond the delegates.

And THAT is how you accidentally create liturgy..

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Getting Serious

At the crack of dawn (8.15am), I headed off with one of my fellow Readers to Worcester, for a day focusing on funeral ministry. We were attending a course entitled 'Taking Funerals Seriously', which was run by the C of E, in a Baptist church - because it is a very good place for such meetings...

At the end of our Reader Training,  all eight of our group signed up to do the Funeral training. I had not originally intended to get involved with funeral ministry, but figured it would be easier to do the training while I had a lift available, and then see what happened. To be honest I wasn't sure if I wanted to be involved in this complicated part of life.
What did I have to offer those going through one of the most painful times of their lives?
Would they want to talk about the manner of their loved one's demise? I pondered, with a pinch of panic and portion of paranoia.

Being a mainly 'new town' parish, we do not get many funerals. Many of the local population are 3rd or 4th generation unchurched, and when faced with bereavement the local church is just not on their radar.

It was some time after the training concluded before I got the opportunity to take part in a funeral service. To my surprise, I discovered that I was quite good at drawing together a service, and leading a family through the difficult task of saying goodbye to a loved one.

Over the last few years, the funeral industry has got more complicated.
Funeral Directors want to finalise arrangements within a very small time period and often have their favourite people, who they trust to fill the slots.
At the same time demands on clergy have increased, so the messages do not always get through to them at a time when they can respond quickly.
Funeral Directors are increasingly selling 'plans', to help secure their portion of the market, and to reassure those who want to reduce the burden, that making funeral arrangements and paying for them, places on their loved ones.
Meanwhile, Readers, who may have more time to lead funerals, do so at the discretion of the clery.
It is all very complicated!

The church is losing its market share of the funerals, as it is often perceived as outdated, inflexible and too formal.  However, funeral services led by a Civil Celebrant offer no hope, just the message that the person they have lost is now a twinkling star, leaving those left behind devastated. Sometimes retired clergy fill in by taking funerals. This is fine if they are linked to a parish and ongoing bereavement support is offered, otherwise, that deprives the family of the continued support that the church should be offering.

The church needs to reclaim some of the ground it has lost, and reclaim its place helping the nation to say farewell, well. Let us hope that this training will inspire us to 'Take Funerals Seriously, before it is too late!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Gno Doubt About It!

KHT in cinema during the adverts...
I had decided to take the KHT to the cinema.
She was a bit put out when I put the suggestion to her yesterday,
as she quite likes it when we are already in town
and I suddenly announce that we are going.
"Wasn't that supposed to be a surprise?" she protested.

Overnight, she had obviously done some online research,
as she began the day by announcing the number of hours until the film started.
I then pointed out that we were going to the 2:15 viewing, rather than the one at midday - as that would have been too early to have lunch beforehand,
and it finished too late for us to leave it until afterwards.

But first, I needed to plant the spare strawberry plants which DH had brought back from the allotment,
to go in the 'new' strawberry planter,
to replace last years improvised model I made from 3 orange B & Q buckets with holes cut in them,
vaguely based on an online tutorial I discovered.

And I needed to hang the washing outside,
taking advantage of the glorious weather.

Also, I needed to hoover the stairs,
as they were looking unloved.

Finally, we were ready to depart.
DH dropped us in town and we made our way to Debenhams,
so the KHT could have one of their lasagnas.
Unfortunately, lasagne was not on the menu for today (oops),
so she opted for a panini (phew!).

After lunch we had time to wander around some of her favourite shops,
before heading off to the cinema to see Sherlock Gnomes.
The KHT thoroughly enjoyed the film.
To record the event for posterity I took a photo of her during the adverts (see top right).
An action she did NOT approve of...
"MUM! TURN YOUR PHONE OFF!!!" she whispered.
I also had a double baptism,
first by opening my own bottle of water,
and then by opening hers...
I don't think I quite mastered the art of opening bottles of water in the dark,
but as it was so warm it was not a problem.

Afterwards, we took the shorter bus route home, another treat for the KHT.
I tried to get her to buy her ticket.
The bus driver was rather bemused to have the money thrust at her,
rather than plonked in the tray, with an accompanying grunt.
The KHT also isn't used to keeping her balance whilst standing on a moving bus.
Her soundtrack would be more what you would expect from someone on a roller coaster,
rather than the 57.

The nearest thing to a rainbow I noticed all day, was a strange unicorn in Poundland.
Does that count?

I was planning on including lots of 'gnome' puns in this blog,
but gnone materialised, that I noticed...

Inevitable selfie in the Powder Room...

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Promises! Promises!

Driving home from church on Sunday evening and a sundog is clearly visible.
OK, they are not big like proper rainbows,
more like small paler imitations,
but they always seem special to me.

Just as we were getting ready to have dinner yesterday,
there was a knock at the door
and through the frosted glass,
a 'hi-vis'ed delivery person was clearly visible.
I went and signed for the parcel,
which sure enough was for me,
and was handed a large flat box.

Meanwhile, I was trying to remember what I had ordered - was it a poster or a flip chart?
None of these were likely.
I leant it against a side table, looked at it, and pondered deeply.
I had a vague recollection of ordering something, but what?

After a while, I remembered exactly what it was that I had ordered,
and I laughed.
I certainly did not expect that item to come in a large flat box!
I took a picture,
and uploaded it to facebook,
to see if any of my wise friends could guess what the box contained.  
Facebook did not disappoint.
Responses came thick and fast.
Sensible, logical,
predictable and profound,
interspersed with the bonkers and weird...
Pretty much like Facebook itself!

Was it a puzzle, or a picture,
flip chart or poster?
A glass bowl in pieces...
or a mini memory stick in a mega box - was this the voice of experience speaking?
If not a memory stick, a memory box, or a mirror...
Did the big box contain something for the smallest room
 - like a toilet seat, or flat-packed bathroom cabinet...
Perhaps the dining room was the destination of this item - was it a table extension or framed art?
Items for the KHT, like books or DVDs.
Blinds or a telescopic ladder? Slats or rungs - what is the difference?
A baby gate - do they ever mature.
Clothes airer,
or an empty box full of empty promises - that one made me take note!
Bag of sand
Gift card...
They were all trying SO hard, to guess the contents of my mystery box.
A large invitation to the Royal Wedding.
Just my luck if it had been, as it arrived AFTER the event! ;)
Something inflatable,
..or an electric blanket.
A blocking board, or cutting board
Crumbs, would they ever get bored of making suggestions!
A window,
or  Harry Potter themed merchandise...we were going the whole 'hog'warts here...
Keyboard or xylophone - I made careful 'note' of those particular suggestions!
Deckchair, folding table, umbrella or grabby thing...we were grabbing at straws here, not just clutching at them!
Paper, bubble wrap - I love the idea of bubble wrap arriving bubble wrapped...
Protest sign, or easel - presumably to paint your own protest sign on...
Various landmarks
a rug, or flying carpet...
Car mats, or LP's...

Finally, just as the thread degenerated into inevitable silliness, someone asked if it was fabric,
That is just what it was - a large piece of material, initially to be a rainbow in Open the Book.
Forget the empty promises, this was a significantly big and resolute promise.
Here it is in part of its glory. I didn't dare get the whole thing out, in case it came to grief before the big reveal on Wednesday morning!
However, I have absolutely no idea why it arrived in a box.
Previously, when I have bought material online, it has come in a plastic outer.

Meanwhile, the KHT was momentarily over the moon, as she thought it might be a replacement for her rainbow swimming costume she outgrew years ago. Unbeknownst to me she had seen an old photograph recently and had expressed her desire for a new one, and she thought that this was it!

Rainbow fabric, yesterday.
Rainbow sundog, today.
What form will the rainbow take tomorrow?
If you see any rainbows tomorrow, do let me know.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Looking For Maud

Feckenham Open Gardens Weekend is being held this weekend - an ideal opportunity to admire some seriously posh gardens in a nearby village.

The first garden we visited was that of The Old Rectory, where we were very taken with the pale blue and white flowers - possibly cosmos - which added interest to the sunken outdoor dining area.

Part of the main garden, looking away from the house 

The second garden we visited belonged to a beautiful Queen Ann house and was mind blowingly extensive to someone born in the suburbs. In addition to a large garden close to the house with borders,  there was an orchard, outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, plus a further meadow.

Looking out across the meadow.

The KHT was rather overwhelmed by the size of the garden and expressed her relief that she didn't live there. Fortunately not within earshot of the elderly owner, who was determinedly deadheading specimens in her border, as part of a never-ending fight to keep the garden under control.

Aliums, wisteria and tamarisk were the stars of the show. It appears to be a particularly good year for wisteria. One tip I picked up on our wandering is that they need pruning twice a year to acheive their full potential. DH is rather fond of them, so perhaps we will find a sunny corner to see if they like our clay!

A weed is only a plant in the wrong place. We did notice several of the large gardens following our lead and making good use of cow parsley.  The KHT was always quick to spot her favourite flower, forget-,me-not, and I did notice the presence of a dandelion clock that had slipped under one gardener's radar...

There is always so much to admire, even in the smallest gardens. Most had water features, sadly many involved pumps so were not wildlife friendly. We gain so much from watching our own tadpoles hatch and develop - though at least one of the ponds had newts.

Many had secluded seating areas, which looked very inviting.

Upon reaching the village hall, we stopped off for lunch and a welcome drink.

We live in a new development in a town. The property boundaries are straight and logical. Here, they are often irregular, with some houses having larger gardens, that wrap around their neighbours, with a flamboyant floral hug, whilst other properties have little more than a courtyard crammed with pots of floral extravagance. The result is that you never know what size garden you are about to enter.

Not all the gardens were open, and we got tantalising glimpses of properties that were not quite ready for viewing...

My favourite was the garden with scupltures, made by the very talented owner. I loved the greenhouse - an installation designed to bring light and brightness on even the gloomiest of days.
The pottery decorated statues decorated were perfectly placed in this wooded garden, where Adam and Eve have found their very own Garden of Eden.

The passion flower on the gate was a joy to behold and hinted at the delights within and the genius of the creator and curator of this particular kingdom.

At the rear of the garden, this mirrored installation reflected the surrounding trees. A labour of love for the owner, who had to clean every one of the 100 mirrored sections, as well as the mirrored sides.

When we reached the village shop we stopped off for ice creams, which were very much appreciated.

We walked down to Brook House, admiring the waterwheel. A trip down memory lane to the days when my parents would take our family on a circular walk from the village green to the mill pool.

The KHT was delighted to discover a 'Banksy' style artwork on the gateway of one house.

Again, the extent of these grounds made me very grateful for our modest plot, and that I do not have the responsibility of caring for these extensive grounds, complete with meadow walk.

There was a BBQ in the grounds of the Catholic church, both pubs were open serving refreshments and the village
green was a buzz of activity with displays, more refreshments and plant sales.

Further down Mill Lane, the cricket continued, oblivious to the floral festivities of the rest of the village.

The church was full of colourful displays, with a 'Celebration and Commemoration theme'. Some displays had rosettes. The KHT is admiring one of my favourite displays.

By now we had walked 11,00 steps and apart from a couple of refreshment breaks and the odd sit down to admire various gardens, we had been on our feet for over four hours. We contemplated another ice cream, but decided we would rather walk on to the field where the car was abandoned, than retrace our steps to the village green.

In all we visited over thirty gardens, but we didn't see Maud, or did we?

Friday, 18 May 2018

A Waiting Game

The KHT had a taster session booked, at a not too nearby college, so we decided to look around some shops and have lunch in the town closest to the college, before dropping her off. Unfortunately, the Taster Day has coincided with the KHT getting her first cold in ages.

We wandered into reception just ahead of the allotted time, expecting to see the tutors and a small group of students.
Instead, there is one other parent and student,
plus a couple of receptionists.
"I have come to enroll!" announced the KHT.
"No, you have come for a Taster Day..." I reminded her.
The receptionists looked at each other,
and we were invited to take a seat.
Frantic phone calls ensued.
Finally, the receptionist announced that the Taster Day has been canceled.
"You should have had  a letter or a phone call..."
"Well, we haven't had either!"
"The Taster Day will be rearranged for June, but don't worry, they are sending someone over from another college, to take the two students who have turned up, on a tour of this college."
"OK. Shall I come back and collect her at an earlier time?"
"Yes, that will be a good idea."
We agree that I will return at 3:30pm.
"But Mum!" interjected the KHT, "It says it finishes at 4pm," waving the letter outlining the itinerary.
"Yes, but you are now having a tour, not a taster day, so it will probably be finished earlier."
I departed,
leaving her with extra supplies of tissues,
but taking her wellies with me,
as the receptionist successfully convinced the KHT that she would not require them that afternoon.

We headed off to view a couple of churches,
returning just before 3:30pm, as agreed.

"Goodness is it 3:30 already?"
The Receptionist greeted me upon my return.
I took a seat.
Time passed.
No sign of the KHT.

Finally, I enquired of the receptionist if she told the Tutor I was returning at 3:30pm.
It transpired that she didn't.
4pm comes and goes.
Still no sign of the KHT.

"All teaching ends at 4:30pm.." said the receptionist helpfully...

Finally, she phoned the Tutor's mobile and is able to pass on the good news that they are on their way back to reception.

The KHT has had a wonderful time and even held a snake!

Now we wait, for the letter canceling the Taster Day,
and the letter rearranging the Taster Day,
but which will appear first?