Monday, 18 June 2018

Inside or Out?

The KHT had an appointment that required dropping her off at 1pm and collecting her at 4pm.
"What are we going to do?" asked DH
"We will find somewhere to go and have lunch," I replied, "I don't want my lunch at 11:30!"
"I thought you might say that" responded DH.

The KHT was duly dropped off at the appointed time, with wellies, waterproof, drink, cash and probably loads of other things she did not require. We set the satnav and made our way down narrow country lanes to a farm shop, which had good reviews online, and where I thought we could have lunch.
The only complication being DH's allergies. Apparently, he isn't gluten intolerant, but we don't know what the issue is. Following a gluten-free diet seems to keep him clear of most irritations, but he also seems to react badly to pepper. Having removed salt from most foods on health grounds, adding pepper to a dish seems to be the cheapest and most common way of enhancing the flavour.

The farm shop is based on an old barn. The disabled toilet is in a portacabin on the right-hand side of the building.
Fortunately, the previous occupant had helpfully left the door wide open, to let the next person know that it was vacant.
Unfortunately, this meant that the first thing you saw as you approached the premises, was a white porcelain pan... I am not convinced that this was the image the owners wanted you to have imprinted on your brain.

We could see that the cafe was at the right-hand end, as we could see tables beyond the glass door, which also bore a sign that said 'No entry'.
The next door was ajar, so we walked in, and then noticed the smaller sign on the door that also said 'No entry'. It was too late, we were in.
I enquired what gluten-free items were on offer. The lady thought and suggested "Jacket Potato!".

There were quite a few tables inside, but as it was so hot, we decided to eat outdoors. The sun immediately went in, the temperature plummeted and the wind got up. I regretted leaving my cardi in the car. The food was most excellent - one of the nicest jacket potatoes I have had in a long time. The salad included tomatoes and cooked courgettes, and didn't include coleslaw! Phew! Another positive was that they knew what a Flat White was...

Despite the disabled toilet being so prominently positioned, the Ladies was discretely tucked away slightly to one side, so you didn't feel that you were in full view of the car park. Although technically outside toilets, they were clean and well kept and not too draughty!

After lunch, we headed south, along narrow lanes, and by chance found a parking space close to the Avon, so we went for a pleasant walk along the river bank, admiring the boats as they passed by.

With less than an hour until collection was required, we headed south to the next bridge over the river and headed back north to collect a happy, but weary and peopled out, KHT.
As we drove off she enquired
"Has Dad got his 'idiot magnet' on?" 
Somedays when DH is driving he seems to find a succession of drivers who are behaving in unorthodox ways, so we call this his 'idiot magnet'.
Fortunately, we didn't encounter any bonkers drivers worthy of this epithet.
Tomorrow may be different...

Saturday, 16 June 2018


Nine months after we first gathered at a church in the Black Country, we came together again in the same place for the conclusion of the Mission Shaped Ministry Course - run by the Anglican & Methodist churches.

The course has included monthly weekday evenings, several Saturdays and a residential weekend. 
We have looked at many areas of mission, seen clips of amazing work, listened to inspirational speakers, and thought quite a bit about what we have done and what we think God is asking us to do.

In the first week, we watched a short film about A man who planted trees. Whilst it is important to remember that this story is allegorical, it was a timely reminder that we may not see results for some time, if ever. However, that doesn't mean that our work is not important. What matters is that God has called and we have responded.

Nine months ago we were a collection of small groups and individuals, who gathered together for a common purpose, but we remained as small groups within the collective assembly. It was not until we adopted the Biblical principles of gathering and eating together at the residential weekend, that the barriers began to be dismantled and we started to see each other as individuals, as we began to get to know each.

Now we have completed the course and a move on to the next phase. 
Just before the end of the session, we were all given beautiful cards from Lindisfarne Scriptorium, which bore the familiar words "Send us out in the power of your spirit to live and work to your praise and glory". These cards were not ours to keep. Instead, we were invited to write a blessing which would hopefully be given to another member of the course. The cards were gathered in and then, as we left, we had the opportunity to take one. The risk was that you could get your own card back! I didn't and I did feel blessed by the words inscribed inside the card that I received.

Later, as I looked more closely at the artwork on the front of the card, I began to appreciate the complexity of the illustration and the skill of the artist -  the feet on the road with flowers along the edge, buildings, stars, the fire of Pentecost, water, trees, sheep - in a kaleidoscope of colour. Different aspects of God's universe, in extravagant, intricate detail, despite being barely discernable to the naked eye.

The journey is over. Let the journey begin!

Friday, 15 June 2018

Whiter Shade of Pale

This is the third year since we moved into our house and the garden is slowly maturing.
Mature oaks stand guard, just beyond the southern boundary, shielding much of the garden from direct sunlight.

The obelisk, which we purchased a couple of years, no longer looks dumped at the bottom of the garden, as the planting is maturing. The white metalwork echoes the colour of the flowers surrounding it.

Wild rose grows prolifically in the local hedgerows, and we have encouraged it to grow within our garden as a deterrent - who wants to tangle unnecessarily with a rampant briar rose?

Now spring has passed, the mounds of small white flowers on the woodruff have faded away.

We have watched with delight as the foxgloves planted at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year, have matured.
In the evenings their campaniles of silent bells glow, as the setting sun sneaks under the heavy branches of the oak to illuminate their presence.

Soon their moment of glory will pass and the Japanese Anemones will take their place.

Last night I replaced the candles in the bottle lanterns. They really could do with a good clean to remove the film of sap and debris which has accumulated over the winter.

During the autumn and winter many acorns have fallen from the oak trees, only one managed to fall through the neck of a bottle...

As darkness fell, I lit the candles, and then waited until the last one had exhausted its supply of wax, before I went to bed.

On the other fence, the solar-powered lights bringing light to the darkness in gentle swathes.
It is fun to wait until it is dark, and then take a photo whilst deliberately moving the camera.

There are flowers in the garden of every hue - pale pinks, brilliant blues, mellow yellows, outrageous oranges, rampant reds, proud purples and burgeois burgundies. But under the canopy of trees at the end of the garden, it is the lightest coloured flowers that dominate, with their whiter shades of pale.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Carrots or Avocados?

I popped into a supermarket on Tuesday for some avocadoes, I mean carrots.
No, I really did want carrots -  unlike the self-service till shoppers who press the button for carrots, when they are actually buying more expensive items, such as avocados.
The problem is so widespread, that some supermarkets have sold more carrots than they have ever had in stock!

Morrisons, where DH does our regular food shop, has not had any of my favourite Chantenay Carrots for the past few weeks. I had also run out of  Black Cherry jam which Morrisons doesn't sell either. It seemed logical to pop into a rival supermarket on my way home from work, to make these, and a few other purchases.
What could possibly go wrong...?

There I was zipping around the store on my own mini version of 'Supermarket Sweep. Before I knew it my basket was full. I am good at impulse buys!
Having paid for my purchases I planned to put most of the shopping in my folding bag. However, it already contained my coat and water bottle. I shoved the shopping in as best I could, not wanting to cause a delay at the till - even though there was no-one behind me.
After taking a few steps I decided that I was unlikely to make it home without losing some of my purchases, so I decided to repack the shopping, whilst balancing the bag on a windowsill at the front of the store.
Wiser persons than I can guess what happened next. Inevitably one of the items slipped out of the bag and landed on the floor with a resounding crash. It just had to be a jar of Black Cherry Jam.  I picked it up, expecting to find that it had sustained a mortal injury, but the only thing that seemed to have suffered was the lid - which was now sporting a dent worthy of giving it 'street vibe'. It was destined to be opened within the next 24 hours, so I popped it back in the bag from whence it had escaped, and made a mental note to give it a closer inspection when I returned home.

As I neared the house I realised that the key I required was underneath all the shopping. Never let me plan something important, like a war...

After lunch, I decided to dig a new border out of the lawn, along the side of the summer house. I got out the fork and spade and tested the ground. The ground was not keen on this idea. I did a circuit of the garden - that took about 30 seconds. Was I going to give up on this plan, or succeed? I changed out of my purple slip-on plastic shoes - suitable for retrieving laundry, and moved up a notch to 'gardening trainers'. I started digging with the fork. The first clod came up without to much difficulty, and it was quite easy to shake the soil from the roots. Before I knew it I was making good progress. I must remember this determination thing - it is very effective!
It was warm. Digging is hard work. I wanted to rest, but I also wanted to finish before the washing machine beeped at me.

I kept going.

In the back corner, the ground has been compressed, as this provides the access to the storage area to the rear of the summer house. I didn't bother digging that part, on the basis that it will probably have a slab on it.

Now the digging is complete, I can see that it is actually the best soil in the garden! Not difficult, as most of the rest is heavy clay!

Now all I have to do is decide what to plant in my new border - Carrots or avocados!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Five out of Eight ain't Bad

On Monday morning we headed over to Packwood House. As we had less time than usual we took the opportunity to visit a National Trust property near to home.
Before we left I had been rushing around doing housework. I really didn't realise how warm it was until we got there! #shouldhavetakenahat

We started in the kitchen gardens. where I was very taken with the scarecrow. I think DH should have one on his allotment - as long as it doesn't look too much like me!

Here they grew strawberries in pots suspended in a frame - a set up I have not seen before.

We crossed the road towards the house, passing a particularly fragrant floribunda rose, with an aroma that caused passersby to pause, and breath in the floral fragrance - unless of course, they were sensitive to such scents, in which case they moved on swiftly and avoided lingering within the aroma zone.

In the gardens, the sprinklers were in action, trying to keep the gardens looking fresh.
I was tempted to step through the cascade of water droplets, but I resisted.

We followed the path around the lake, pausing to ponder in the art installation 'Prospect Room'. From the outside, it looked like a tatty shed, but inside the view through the walls was interesting - which I assume was the whole point of the project.

We did a quick tour of the Yew Garden, aka The Sermon on the Mount', which this iconic collection of ancient trees was laid out to represent. The KHT climbed the spiral path up to the highest point, pausing to wave enthusuastically from the foot of 'Jesus'.

We then beat a hasty retreat to the cafe before dehydration set in!

In the evening I met up with part of the group in whose company I spent my Thursday evenings for a couple of very interesting, challenging and enjoyable years. It was a long overdue opportunity to catch up with all their news. We plan to meet up once a term. I missed the last gathering - and that was nearly a year ago.  We start off with good intentions, and then they slip...

The eight of us went through Reader Training together followed by Funeral Training. Our backgrounds and personalities are very different, but we bonded well as a group, and probably had a lot more fun than the course tutors intended...

Sadly not everyone was able to be there and we missed those who could not make it. Five out of eight ain't bad, but eight out of eight would have been even better!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Counting Crosses

DH is churchwarden, for the third time!
Some people never seem to learn ;)

Agreeing to be nominated is the start of the process of becoming church warden.
You then have to be elected at the AGM.
Finally, you are required to roll up to a large service
and agree to practice true religion,
promote unity and peace,
look after the buildings and chattels of the church
and, when your stint is complete,
pass everything on to your successor.

The ministry dates back to the 13th century, and although many Churchwardens are mature in years, none are thought to be that old.
Actually, when I looked around at those gathered, many are retired, but there were an encouraging number who were relatively young.

Churchwarden charging churchwards
The service we attended was held at St. John's, Bromsgrove. A large church situated on the highest land in the immediate area. Not surprisingly the lofty spire dominates the skyline of both the town and surrounds.

There is very little room for cars in the grounds of the church, and the small number of places that were available were probably reserved for the great and the good, and those less mobile.
However, this was not a problem, as there is plenty of  street parking close to the church and we had no difficulty in finding a space.

One bemused resident looked with puzzlement at the cars lining the normally empty streets.
"There must be something on at the church" 
he pronounced, before realising that he had spoken loud enough for those parking their cars to hear!

I have probably only attended about five services at this church and several of these were many years ago.

St. John's is dominated by a large cross that hangs near the front of the nave.  I would love to know what it is made of
The KHT, however, was fascinated by the backlit cross in the alcove on the left hand side of the main arch.
We then started counting crosses,
those on the altar,
the ones incorporated in the east window,
the crucifixion window,
the small brightly coloured glass cross.
A large piece of art hung above the north aisle, incorporating various Christian symbols,
including a cross.
Would any other method of brutal torture and murder,
lend itself so readily to being incorporated into so many art forms?

There was a goodly number gathered for this annual service and there will be at least one more in the Diocese. Churchwardens are expected to attend, or make alternative arrangements to be admitted to office.

Afterwards, there were lots of familiar faces to catch up with and refreshments to enjoy.

The KHT was worried that she would get a hangover as the water she consumed was in a wine glass.
"The miracle in Canaan was a one-off." I reassured her, 
"I have not heard of another occasion when it happened."

"What about the Archdeacon's Charge?" you ask.
Well, there is a high price to pay - services to attend,
meetings to sit through,
forms to fill in,
returns to make,
faculties to apply for,
and hopefully, books to balance.
Someone has to do it, or ensure it is done,
and that is what churchwardens sign up for - knowingly, or otherwise!

The price may feel high in terms of time and commitment, but it is nothing compared to sacrifice given by the one, in whose honour the crosses are displayed.

Thursday, 7 June 2018


Tuesday - time to disengage myself from the monotony of the apparently never-ending laundry cycle, and do something useful - i.e. return to work!

I walked home afterwards to clock up some km towards 'hatching eggs' in Pokemon Go - sad I know, but it does encourage me to walk!

The exponential explosion in vegetation growth has not been restricted to our garden. This is one of the major footpaths and, as you can see, the branches are reaching out to shake hands with their neighbours across the aisle, like Anglicans shaking hands with those in the adjacent pew.
It is not a wood, I told myself, it is a living cathedral!

As I walked through the woodland, I was startled by a sudden noise, as some small animal or bird made a hasty departure.
I turned to try and identify what it was, but it was gone. All that betrayed the rapid exit, were some plants,
whose gentle swaying betrayed the passage of whatever it was.
I found myself pondering on the immenseness of time, and realised that compared to the life of the created world, my life was like that frantic flight - a brief disturbance, unnoticed by most.
Let's face it, within a few generations I will be no more than another name on a family tree.
No-one will remember much about me - what colour eyes I had, what makes me laugh, what songs I knew ALL the words to!
I have no right to complain. I can remember a lot about my own parents, though doubtless there is much more that I never knew.
However, my memories of my grandparents, particularly my grandfathers, is far more sketchy. I do remember my maternal grandmother doing a surprisingly good impersonation of Lena Zavaroni, though I doubt very much if it was her favourite song!

In the afternoon I sneaked off to one of the local nurseries to stock up on bedding plants. My previous visit was a bit early in the season, and there were a few gaps that I wanted to fill.  When we added the extra parking space at the front of the house, we rehomed the hebes into pots. Three years later and the poor things are potbound and in desperate need of some tlc, so I am in the process of replanting them, and adding some colour to the pots as they are vacated.

The garden centre was surprisingly busy - the car park was nearly full. I made my selections and left. Buying plants is a bit like ordering food off a menu - whatever your selection, you always think you have made the wrong choice when the food arrives and you see what others have ordered. I was reminded of this as I trundled out with my trolly of small plants, surrounded by flamoyant examples of mother natures bounty.  Forget green fingers, I was green eyed...

The table on the patio is now hidden under a profusion of verbena, lobelia, nicotiana and assorted small daisies.
Now all I have to do is find time to do some planting....