Wednesday, 29 March 2017

No longer the parent of a child

As midnight struck at the end of Tuesday, my role as parent of a child changed, for my daughter has reached her eighteenth birthday.

When my daughter was born, I fondly imagined that her birthdays would be marked by joyous gatherings and great jubilations, but such celebrations are a total anathema to her.  When she was younger, as her birthday approached, I would ask her if she would like a party, and she would decline with a look of absolute horror. If I am honest I used to think that a party would some how forge stronger relationships with her peers. The reality is because of her autism she has no need of friendships and all the demands they bring. She is far happier doing what she wants, when she wants, and not being hassled by others. Even family gatherings are complicated. She is always pleased to see her relatives, but en masse they are far too much for her.

Yesterday I asked her if she would like to go and see Beauty and the Beast.
"I would rather go and see Sing, at least THAT is a cartoon!" was her response.  Unfortunately Sing is no longer showing at our local cinema. I showed her the trailer of Beauty and the Beast, she watched with apparent interest, but declared that she still wasn't convinced that she wanted to see the film...

On the morning of her birthday she opened her presents. Her favourite was a large tome celebrating some anniversary of The Simpsons.  To celebrate her birthday we have purchased tickets to see Julius Caesar at Stratford next week,  which will be a completely new experience for her.  However, she was not really sure why she would want to go and see that....On the other hand she seemed a bit keener to go and see Beauty and the Beast today!

We arrive at the cinema and join the queue of one to buy tickets.
"And we are going to see Beauty and the Best." she reminds me.
"Great film," a dreadlocked guy behind advises her
"Oh really" she responds, looking impressed.

My daughter may have turned eighteen, but does not look it.
When it is our turn I ask for two tickets for Beauty and the Beast.
The assistant looks at me dubiously
"Two tickets?"
He looks at the KHT.
He looks at me.
"Two tickets?  You mean one and......"
He looks at the KHT "How old are you?"
The KHT NEVER voluntarily discusses her age.
Age has implications and brings expectations....
"Me? " she replies "I'm just a kid"
The cashier nods, satisfied that his suspicions are correct and she is NOT an adult, she is just a kid.
The KHT is satisfied, as despite the best intentions of her mother, no-one is seriously expecting her to be an adult.
I am satisfied as I offered to pay the full amount, but somehow saved £1.50...
The KHT LOVED the film.  Despite having real people in it, it also had a healthy dose of computer animation.

Thoughts I had whilst watching the film:-

Firstly, when the beast turned back into the prince, and turns to look lovingly at his beloved, I suddenly get a glimpse of another blonde prince and his darker haired princesss - Will and Kate? I am not a great fan of the royals, so they were not upper most in my mind, but I would be interested to know if anyone else thought that.

Secondly, parallels between Gastonand the villan of Holy Week.  Gaston - the guy who tries to get his own way, forcing events to the conclusion he wants, even betrays his friend by leaving him trapped while he goes off to be a hero (according to his own definition of the word), and tries to kill the one who is more powerful.  The Judas of the storyline, reminding us that when we are self-centred we too can be like Judas.

Afterwards I asked the KHT who was her favourite character.
Would it be beautiful Belle or the beast, I wondered?
Nope it was Chip, the teacup... (Watch the film to understand who Chip is...)
"Why Chip?"
"He is young and innocent."
The KHT did not relate to either the beautiful young girl, or prince/beast/prince, but to the character who was too young to worry about the complications of relationships between men and women, to the one who most closely matched her own character, young and innocent!

I may no longer be the parent of a child, but nothing has really changed. I am still a parent.

Thursday, 2 March 2017


"They are for a very important occasion"  the KHT advises the sales assistant.
"Ooh, are you going to a wedding?" she enquires brightly.
"No." The KHT pauses for dramatic effect, "A funeral!"

A lady the KHT knew through attending college, has sadly passed away.
"Am I the Chief Mourner?" she enquires.
"No, the family are the Chief Mourners. You are just somebody who knew her."  Yet, from our families perspective, she is the Chief Mourner, as this is also the first time that the person who has died is more familiar to her, than to us. Her preparations for attending the funeral, are taken very seriously.
"I must buy some suitable funeral clothes,"  she announces to my surprise.   Normally additional items of clothing are acquired, and worn, under great sufferance. The familiar and comfortable are greatly preferred. A pair of black trousers and a white shirt are duly selected, tried on and purchased, and will be worn with her black jacket.

A few days later and she drops hints about wearing my black boots, which I refuse. After all they can not be on both my feet and hers at the same time and are several sizes too big for her.  The KHT decides that she needs some new shoes and with great trepidation I find myself shoe shopping with my daughter. What can possibly go wrong? Experience tells me that this will not be a walkover.

A pair of slip-ons are selected. Feet are duly measured and a box containing size 3 shoes appears.
The KHT places her othopedic inserts inside her shoes, and attempts to feed her feet into the openings, in a manner that would have made the ugly sisters proud. The KHT is unfamiliar with the required technique of sliding feet into this style of shoe. The assistant produces a shoe horn. The KHT spurns this modern device, and attempts to force her feet into the shoes using all of her insubstantial weight. To the relief of the shoes she succeeds before they are entirely flattened. The assistant suggest that we move up half a size to allow for the orthopedic inserts.
"How about we forget the inserts!  commands the KHT.
The assistant returns with size 3 and a half, deftly fitting the inserts, before the KHT has chance to finish removing the offending items from the size 3 shoes. The KHT sighs and tries on size 3 and a half.
"Don't forget to allow room for your little toe which does not lie quite straight," I remind her. This may be true, but it is not appreciated.
"That. Is. Why. I. Hate Shopping. With.You!" announces the KHT.
Another battle follows between the KHT and the shoes, but this time it is less of a battle and the shoes are on.
"They are fine!" she announces, "We will have these!"  The trouble is that this would be her response  even if they didn't fit. You only get one shot at shopping with the KHT, so you hope you get it right first time.
With the shoes safely positioned on her feet she goes for a walk around the immediate area of the shop, followed by a longer tour, stopping to examine various items of footwear on the way, which gives me the opportunity to try and detect any impediment in her walking.  However many parents will have encoutered the strange walking technique accorded to unfamiliar footwear.  The suitablitity of the footwear is confirmed, then I remind her of the inevitable financial transaction required, before the shoes become hers.
"Now you need to pay."
"How much are the shoes?" she enquires of the assistant.
The assistant checks.  "£42.
A look of total horror crosses the face of the KHT.
For a moment she was tempted to say 'forget the shoes', but she wants them for the funeral.
That evening she is very keen to inform everyone of her shoe shopping exploits.
"You could always have worn brown boots," say I.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

It Isn't Supposed To Be Like This!

It isn't supposed to be like this...but I am not complaining!

A cursory glance at this ecclesiastical snapshot and you may have assumed that it was taken in the summer, but look again and you can see the winter bare branches of trees.  For this picture was not taken on a sweaty summers day, but in early February. I quickly took the shot on my phone, as I hurried in to ring at the second church we visited on Saturday afternoon.

Normally the weather on this date  is unremarkable. Dull, damp, cloudy with rain - temperatures close to average for the time of year - nothing to write home about.  How do I know?  It is my birthday - shared with Alice Cooper and Norman Wisdon...oh, and Dave Hargreaves!

My mother was advised to anticipate my arrival on my father's 40th Birthday.  However, babies rarely arrive on time and I was not about to buck the trend, making my appearance two days later. I have maintained this habit of being very slightly late for most occasions throughout of my life to date.

My father's birthday was Candlemas, or Groundhog Day if you are the other side of the pond.  Year after year we would compare the weather on our birthdays. Usually the 2nd of February was bright sunny and cold.  Two days later and the weather would have changed, to damp & dreary.  This happened nearly every year!  Given that our birthdays were in the coldest part of the year, you may have thought that one or other of us would have snow on their birthday, but no. I only remember one white birthday, and that was relatively recently. We don't get a lot of snow in this part of the Midlands, usually a couple of light coverings a year, with a more substantial deposit every few years, just to keep us on our toes!

My Dad's last birthday was just after the turn of the century, about eight weeks before he slipping away in his sleep after suffering a stroke, the way he would have chosen to depart this life without any great fuss or drama. Old habits die hard, and I still find myself comparing the weather on our birthdays.  This year the second day the second month began cold and cloudy, but later the skies relented and did brighten, as the sun put in a brief belated appearance.  Two days later and we had glorious Candlemas weather with the sunshine trying its best to convince us that spring had arrived, tempting us to ignore the low temperatures, discard our coats and dive into summer!  Sun on my birthday. Beautiful blues skies! Unheard of!

It isn't supposed to be like this, but no-one was complaining, least of all, me!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Window shopping

The KHT does not like new clothes.
She prefers the familiar.
The safe.
The ones that help her to look like the KHT.
Any new items introduced into her wardrobe are by careful diplomatic negotiation.  No good buying too many, they will NOT get worn.  For example, a jumper and a hoodie are sufficient for her needs.

Sometimes she will look at totally impractical clothing, safe in the knowledge that the wearing of them will not be expected.  Browsing through the jumble sale of M & S ladies clothing after several week of the sales, she spots a top which may well look great with the right combination of other items, I just lack the vision to see what they might be...

"Hmmm," says she "What do you think of this?
I play along,
"That's a nice top."
"Wait a moment!" she declares dramatically, "Is it see through?"
"It could be" I reply
"Let me check" she announces, in the voice of one who is an expert in these matters.
Sure enough her hand is faintly visible through the fabric.
"Just as I thought! I couldn't wear that!  People might see my..."
I nod.
"Your....." I agree
There is a pause for perfect timing.
Not too long,
not to short.
Her face betrays a prospect too terrible to verbalise.
Then the conclusion is delivered with a flourish
" stomach!" she declares triumphantly.
Safe in the knowledge that no-one could ever expect THAT to be exposed.
We do not buy the top.
Not that it was the right size for either of us!

Never a dull moment shopping with the KHT.

Monday, 2 January 2017

I should be in bed

Outside, unseen, the world is imperceptibly turning white, as the frost silently breathes a crystalized coating over any surface it can reach.  Mystical lines appear of the surface of the pond.

In the kitchen the dishwasher begins its baptismal cycle, removing the detritus of dining, ready for another day of gastonomic disasters. There is nothing new.

On the street bins like silent sentries keep their watch, awaiting the early morning arrival of the refuse collectors, who will race sure-footed along the street, defying the perilous pavements.  Too soon the reversing alarm and rumble of bins will disturb my sleep.

But first I must catch up on the news;  Turkey and Trump (both equally sad), lives cut short, stories of survival. I must check the weather (cold) and lose another game (predictable).

Tomorrow is the end of the Christmas holidays. Work and college recommence.  Meetings arranged. The Bank Holiday limbo has passed, real life recommences. We put behind us thoughts of Christmas and New Year celebrations.  But first I must admit defeat. Give in and climb the wooden hill.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2017 - the welcome visitor?

Happy New Year.  2016 - infamous for apparent consumption of celebrities, has been replaced by 2017.  This 'new' year does not yet roll comfortably off the tongue. It is the name of a new acquaintance - whose existence I have been aware of, but until now no direct interaction has been required. At the stroke of midnight, the new year burst into the room.  I cannot accuse 2017 of gatecrashing, for we held a small gathering in its honour. The arrival was anticipated, expected and certain, heralded with great celebrations.   Unlike Christmas, where mentions of the person whose birth is being celebrated, are tolerated by an increasingly secular society, but only if it stays in the category of 'cute'.  Most have no real desire to consider why Christ was born, and to mention his bloody and undeserved death at a time of celebration, would be considered unnecessary and irrelevant.

We embrace 2017 like a four leaved clover -  a talisman to give token protection against the death of our heroes and loved ones. The clock struck twelve, bad luck will change...  It is not bad luck, it is life in a fallen world. We are born, we live, we die. Our names are remembered for a few generations, unless we do something spectacularly good or bad... In time our very existance will cease to be remembered. Even our digital footprint will, in time, be deleted, eaten away, byte by byte, as space for storage, unlike God's mercy, is finite.

Today has been subdued, as our bodies try to compensate for the change in sleeping pattern as we celebrated the completion of one year, and the beginning of the next, and recover from the effects of food eaten long after we should have been asleep.

In the days ahead many of us will return to school or work, and after a few hiccups, 2017 will feel as familiar as its predecessor.  I would love 2017 to be a year of peace, of wise and fair use of resources, and for the world to make a concerted, united effort to begin to redress the damage we have inflicted on our planet, for the sake of future generations.  As C.S. Lewis says "You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream".  My prayer for 2017 is that we move from goals and dreams to action.  But how?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Seasons Greetings

December sees a flurry of crafty activity, yes Christmas card making gets underway again!

In November I am too busy doing other things to get stuck in, but as December advances, so does card making. Drifts of backing from double sided tape lie around me, deep and crisp and uneven....

I like my card to have some theological significance, so they usually feature a star. I favour simple uncluttered designs. This set are mainly wooden trees on a foil back ground, with glittery stars.
Once, made and written cards need to be handed out. Sometimes the recipient looks guilty because they have not got a card at hand to give back.  However that doesn't bother me. I do not give cards just to get one back. Instead I regard them as blessings to be freely given, rather than a mutual arrangement of contractual expectation, with a penalty of being blacklisted for non delivery.

People who receive a card from me are likely to fall into one of three categories:-
Firstly, I have a small list of people I like to wave 'hello'  to - relations and friends -  it is probably the only time in the year I do, and a time when my card is likely to be lost in a sea of santas, reindeers and robins. Perhaps my New Years Resolution should be to remember some birthdays in 2017, and to actually post some cards!

The second group are people I wish to say thank you to. People who have made time to help with projects over the year, particularly relating to Mission and outreach.

The third group are my neighbours.  We live in a relatively new development. I do not see some of them very often, we just do not go out and return at the same time.  Last year I made a point of delivering a card to the houses close by, and most of the others returned the compliment.  It is good to wish each other Happy Christmas, but it also serves the purpose of reminding each other of our names, because after 18 months it is a bit embarassing to admit that you have forgotten, again!

As I work through my list, there are inevitably some people I forget.  If I didn't get round to sending you a card - I am sure that you had lots more from other people.  Treasure the ones you do receive, they have been sent with love.