Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Last Day

The last day dawned bright and clear.
What shall I do with this last day of the year?

Let it rip and take a trip.
Walk a mile and climb a stile?
Walk through a wood, because I should?
Jump across a stream, fail and scream!
Climb a hill for the thrill
Drown my sorrow at the top of kilimanjaro?

Send a letter - to make things better.
Reply to every email - without fail!
Bake a cake for the old year's sake?
Write a novel whilst living in a hovel
Paint picture of a scintillating bewitcher
Share a joke with a funny old bloke.

Do the washing with loads of sloshing
Plant as tree in memory of '73.
Be a real high flier on a high wire
Write a play for each day of the merry month of May.
Go play 'Knock Door Run', because it isn't the thing that's done!
Swing from a trapeze - just please DON'T SNEEZE!!!
Cook a meal for a seal
Watch the sun go down over the town

Oops too late ;)




Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Morning Prayer

Deliberations from this morning Morning Prayer

‘As your living Word…may the light of your love be born in us
to fill our hearts with joy’
Lord, too often my light is hidden behind my human weaknesses and inadequacies. 
Replace my fear of failure with the joy that only you can give - Joy that is pure,
and not tainted by human agenda.

‘For as the earth puts forth her blossom,
and as seeds in the garden spring up,’
This verse seems particularly apt today. 
The plants in the garden have been fooled into thinking that spring has come early,
but I fear the harsh bitterness of winter still lies ahead. 
Snow can fall as late as April. 
Do not be fooled.
This is not Spring, but a false promise. 
However, if winter does not arrive,
then I fear that the damage that mankind has done to the world is far more serious that we can understand or admit.




‘Alleluia.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the faithful and in the congregation.’
Later I will gather in the congregation to take part in the seasonal song and liturgy of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, for an evening of delightful slap dash and tomfoolery. Though more serious in nature, may our ecclesiastical ritual contain the same feeling of anticipation and joy, for surely the company of heaven is greater than any theatrical enterprise,. We are here for a season. not all eternity.

‘It goes well with those who are generous in lending and order their affairs with justice,’
Lord, I think of those whose homes and businesses have been overwhelmed 
by stinking effluent polluted floodwater, 
and I wonder how we have allowed this to be possible.  
We cannot control the weather, but what decisions have landowners made that allowed such vast amounts of water to flow into these valleys? 
Why have we built flimsy structures on floodplains? 
The quick profit from our schemes is nothing compared to the heartache of those affected, who have lost so much, and the future cost of rebuilding businesses, homes and infrastructure. It was not just bridges and buildings that were washed away, but hopes and dreams also. 
Praise to those who are working to rebuild and turn the stinking mess of greed and failure into fresh opportunities and stronger communities. 

‘From the rising of the sun to its setting
let the name of the Lord be praised.’
As I sit here and listen to the wind roar in the oak trees, and watch the darkness slowly turn to the grey dawn.
I am again amazed at your power and glory. 
You who created darkness and light,
and ordained their patterns of behaviour.
You who are Lord of the wind and cloud,
who cause the ripples to appear on
the surface of the pond,
and the leaves to dance according to your whim. You, who colour the greyness of the dawn with infinitely more than 50 shades
 and love us enough to give us free will, not bondage.

“Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.”
There is nowhere we can go and hide from you, omniscient God.
You care more about our salvation than our dignity


‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
upon them the light has dawned.’
Lord, thank you, that you sent your Son Jesus to earth, not that I might have a new lens for my camera (useful though that is) but  that we might be reconciled to God.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.’

Thank you.






‘May God, who has called us out of darkness
into his marvellous light,
bless us and fill us with peace.

Amen.’

Monday, 28 December 2015

Limbo in Lurgy Land

For as the neighbours of Zion have now seen your capture,
so they soon will see your salvation by God,
which will come to you with great glory
and with the splendour of the Everlasting. Baruch 4:24

Ugh! Is this the 2nd or the 3rd day of Christmas?  I have lost count.
I awoke from the depths of sleep, disappointed to discover that yesterday’s sore throat was still present.  I staggered down to breakfast to discover the morning half gone, and my husband itching to undertake some great garden project.  I don’t know about the neighbours of Zion, but the neighbours of Daffy Towers witnessed me hostage to deep discussion about location of paving slabs, stepping stones and water butts.  After the recent rain the garden has all the resilience of buttercream - walk across the lawn and you expect the ground to ooze out in to the surrounding gardens…

A trip to B & Q followed, where we remained unconvinced as to what  we required so we headed off to Buildland…which we found, but were not convinced that it was open (Bank Holiday).

The afternoon saw me huddled under a blanket with a hot water bottle and book, whilst my husband attacked vegetation and took advantage of the relative dryness to re-sand the path…


This season of waiting, between Christmas and the New Year, a time of snuffles and sore throats, limbo in lurgy land.  We find ourselves ourselves stranded between festivities, captured by viruses encountered during our celebrations, awaiting the glories that we convinced ourselves lie ahead in 2016. While we think of those for whom the present is hopeless misery - refugees and victims of war or flood - we look forward to a time when these things will no longer have power over us.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Migrating...


Fern looked outside
"Thank you for my warm, secure home.
For the services I receive,
which, as a resident of this place, I am entitled to!
I also thank you, Lord, that I am not self-satisfied and complacent.
I can clearly see that there are many out there who would like to be where I am.
In fact, many have travelled long distances and risked all.
Transported in vehicles, and then abandoned to their fate.
Often having to endure a long wait before they are given the opportunity of a new place to be.
Some are close by,
Others are further away.
Many have settled in and have found a place to be,
within sight of the place I call home.
I do not understand why they chose to be there,
out in the cold mud,
but I am not oblivious to them.
Maybe someone could help them find a new place to live.
Elsewhere.
Not here.
This is my home.
The place where God put me.

We cannot just let them all in!
Their numbers are infinite.
We do not have the infrastructure to cope!
Their mass is simply to great.
They would not fit in - literally!
They sing strange lament of hunger, cold and weariness.
Allowing them in would put me in danger,
they would bring diseases,
which my poor system would not be able to cope with.



A Christmas tree - how nice.
Imported of course,
but very tasteful!

No point in skimping
Christmas only happens once a year!












Now I must stop pondering about ferns, plants and oaks
and ponder on some of the more difficult issues of the day,
like how do we solve the problem of Calais?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

In the garden

Wednesday was dry,
and even the sun made a surprising,
but sadly brief, appearance.
The temperature was mild,
and so I found myself lured outside.
My husband was waging war on the leaves that drift down from the oaks along the southern side.  As I sit and write this today a fresh fall of leaves mock as they slowly reclaim the lawn once more.

Our front garden is small and compact, so I value every inch.
We turned part of it into extra parking for visitors, but a flower is unperturbed, and added pots - small light weigh ones, which are moved around, according to how and where we need the space.
I spent some time carefully removing the dead seed heads from the plants in the pots.

Gardening is one of those times when I feel closest to God.
As I tidied I found myself praying for my neighbours.
Then my attention was taken by the lobelia,
which even I have to admit,
is well past its best.
Hints have been dropped for some time about it needing to be removed,
and yes it is looking rather straggly in places,
but I found it hard to pull up plants while they are still flowering.
As I looked at the small delicate flowers, I thought of each and every person,
and how they matter to God.
They are not perfect.
They all have flaws.
Yet each and everyone is still important.
I know the lobelia are coming to the end of their season.
They are unlikely to make it through the winter.  Yet underneath there were new fresh shoots.
I got the grass shears and gently pruned, removing the sections that were straggly and growing yellow.
As I did this, I reflected on how God is at work in the world,
and how we need to be willing to let go of the old and familiar
in order to allow new things to take their place.

Then God said to me "You are being a bit reckless, 
gardening in your work clothes with your best scarf on! 
The one you take such delight in.
If you don't watch out you will be snipping off those lovely tassels, 
because you are so busy focusing on the task,
 that you are not looking after yourself!"
"It will be fine, " I said, and carried on with the task at hand.
Then I noticed one of my tassels was no longer attached to the scarf.
"Yes, Lord, you were right, but I didn't listen"
Not for the first time :(

I  rescued the hassle and took it inside,
meaning to reattach it later.
Alas when I took a closer look I realised that more than a hassle had been chopped off!
No-one will notice.
Only I will know... but I will remember.

In all the busyness of our Christmas preparations it is easy to forget that the baby was born to be a sacrifice...
...for us...
and in all the spending and celebrations
it all gets overlooked,
a small detail a busy world cannot see.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Yellow?

I spent Sunday afternoon planting daffodils in the garden, investing in the future.
The weather was cold but sunny.
If I am honest I did not relish the prospect of an afternoon outside.
Hibernation would have been my first choice. However, my home is new.
I cannot rely on the endeavours of the past.
If I want to see yellow flowers in the garden in the spring, then I have to be prepared to start digging - aching wrists or not.
Have I ever told you about Redditch clay!  How it mocks my ageing body!

On Sunday evening I logged on to the final service in St Pixels.  Mark had volunteered to write this and his years of involvement and passion for sharing his faith online, were evident.  It was a great delight to see so many familiar name and avatars logging in, like a roll call from former glory days.  People who have challenged me, shared their stories with me and given me a much wider understanding of the church, than I would otherwise have had.  The chatrooms of the past were a place where it felt very safe to share.  Words that our lips may have struggled to acknowledge and shape, flowed through our finger tips. I have lost track of the number of people and situations I have prayed for online. I am very grateful to everyone who has journeyed with me.  `It was exciting, challenging and a huge amount of fun!

If it was so wonderful, why did it come to an end? Many of us sought St Pix at a particular time of need in our lives.  Most of us now have different support structures, our needs have changed and we have different demands on our time.  As a group we were too small to keep investing in rapidly changing software. Creating worship events took hours. The burden on the few was too great for the number of people we were reaching. Sadly, we realised that we had reached the point, where what we were doing was no longer sustainable.

Is that the end of Pix?   I don't think so. I think the network of people that makes up St Pixels, will remain.  Facebook is the place where most online social interaction takes place. Dedicated chatrooms are a thing of the past. Like daffodil bulbs something will remain and in time new shoots will appear if we invest in the future.

As we assembled in the chatroom for the last time, I did wonder if we were doing the right thing, but in my heart I know that the future is going to be different.  For this to come to pass we must not hold on to the present, but instead to look forward to what will be.

The future is bright, but is the future yellow?  Time will tell .
Meanwhile, thank you everyone.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The end of the road

February 2007, and I was browsing the net looking for an online prayer group.  I had heard that such things existed, but I was uncertain as to how this would work.  However, in order to engage with the group I had to pick a name by which I would be known...  I looked at the names of those posting...there already was a Peace Rose and I think a Christmas Rose. I can't remember the exact name of the 2nd Rose, but I figured that two 'Roses' were sufficient.  Looked outside and saw a daffodil and the rest, as they say, is history!  I never intended to stay a 'Daffodil'. I thought the name was OK until I thought of a better one, not realising that I would be stuck with the name of that bright and brash spring bloom....

September 2007...
"I can't believe that after all the times you have warned me about internet safety, that you are going to meet a load of strangers off the internet..." was the verdict of our son, as we set off down to the naval base at Yeovilton for our first meet, passing armed guards on the way in.  Avatars were transformed into people, as we transmogrified from our virtual selves into the people we were.  Most of us were quiet introverts, with a few extroverts added in to enliven the mix.  The day included a tour of the base by minibus, which the driver enlivened by pretended to be a harrier jump jet taking off.  Luckily he put the brakes on before we reached the end of the runway.... (Tina will correct me if the mists of time corrupt the memories of the day...)
On the way home Daflet 4 quietly pondered on the events of the day..."So where exactly is St Pixels?" she asked...

When I joined Pix I was looking for a social network as much as a church.  I never thought I would bother with the worship, but soon it became a regular part of my daily routine.  Before long I was helping to lead the worship...  The chatroom was always open and there were lots of interesting people to meet and lively conversation.  I would sit at my computer, roaring with laughter, to my husband's irritation. In the end the only way he could regain some sanity was to join....





Spring 2008 and the Humphrey family roll up to their first residential weekend at Morley, accompanied by 40+ people we have never met, 6 we have, and a film crew.... What a fantastic time we had and what lovely people we met!








Meets numerous and varied followed - Kew, Crich, Eden, Cheshire,  Oxford, Aylesbury, Buckfast...Wherever you went, you were never far from a Pixie or two, so it wasn't hard to organise a meet.






However software doesn't last, and Facebook has largely filled the gap that once St. Pix bridged. We have tried to keep pace with changing software, but St Pix chatroom is retiring, its duty done.  The last service will take place on Sunday evening, so I do hope that those who have been party of the community will roll up, and give thanks for the road we have travelled together.The last service will be Sunday 9pmGMT repeated 6 hours later for USA/Australia The chatroom can be found here 






What does the future hold?  We will still exist, as a vague network of friends, connected through the Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Beyond that who knows?  Meanwhile I have met some amazing people, made some great friends, had a great deal of fun, and learnt a huge amount about God, formally and informally, my faith has grown and I gained a much broader understanding of church.




Friday, 20 November 2015

Tales of the unexpected 675439

"Snow is forecast overnight!"
"SNOW!  It won't snow!  It is only November!
"It has snowed in November most years while I have been living in Redditch..."
Reflecting back, today felt far more wintery.  But snow? Already?
I didn't really think that would happen this year!

Update Facebook status
"So is it going to snow overnight"
The reply comes back "Somewhere, yes"
Sigh.  Yes, somewhere it will snow, but will it snow here!?
Word soon reaches us of snow in Lancashire,
with snow in Cheshire hot on its heels....
Other sources report snow down south.
We are surrounded!
Inevitably a few snowflakes begin to flutter,
half-heartedly dancing in the light of the streetlamp,
like reluctant husbands, dragged on to the dance floor and waiting for the song to end before they can return to propping up the bar, duty done.
Sure enough the snow soon stops.
The ground starts to dry.
They think its all over...

A short while later, the next flurry begins, with more serious intent.
The borders are soon half hidden by a covering of snow.
I fetch in the geraniums I potted the other day.
The winters here are too harsh for them to survive outside.

As the day ends I am left wandering what will happen tomorrow.
I am due to go on a quiet day,
but the access is up a poorly maintained farm track.
If snow lies the access will be impassable.
So we wait to see if tomorrow the world will be white,
or if it has,
like my foolish dreams,
melted away!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Dissect my life

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
  2. Consecrated, as in 'holy'?  
  3. Hang on, that has SERIOUS implications!
  4. Holiness demands purity, 
  5. and, if I am honest I am more human than puritan!
  6. Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  7. ...ceaseless praise, even when life is crap?
  8. No, I can't do that.  Praise, yes.  When I feel like praising, yes.
  9. Ceaseless?  You are having a laugh,
  10. at least I hope you are...
  11. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
  12. So, I can only do 'good things'...responding to your will... like a spiritual robot....
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  13. I guess 'swift and beautiful' is better than 'slow and ugly'. I better get training...
  14. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
  15. I love to sing :)  but always?  That is quite demanding...and if I am singing 'only for my king', does that rule out non-religious songs?
  16. Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  17. Good point. If my words are not loving, and worthy of you, what really is the point? Lord, help me to me kind and considerate in my speech. Help me not to rush in, without thinking, but to wait for your guidance - after all, you are outside time!
  18. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
  19. I can't pay the parish share on my own, but with a bit of help from my friends, and with God doing the calculations, our money will stretch much further than we imagine.  Yes it is hard, when costs go up, and unexpected bills arrive.  However, you know before it happens and I am sure you have got a solution. I just need to make sure I am listening when you call my name!
  20. Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  21. No more trying to fight my corner, but submitting to your will.  Only then will I be really free.
  22. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
  23. Handing over...
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  24. Come, take your place in my life.
  25. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
  26. Do not let me hold anything back, not my money or possessions, my fear or anxiety, my life - in all its weakness.
  27. Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.
  28. Amen.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Going For A Song

We moved into our new home in the summer.
Understandably people ask us how we are settling in.
We are feeling quite settled,
and that we now have the right furniture in place,
but the odd stack of picture frames reveals that the household is still in settling mode.
Hopefully, we will now be moving on a stage
where we feel certain enough about the placement of the furniture
to commit to putting some hooks on the walls.
Due to the construction of the house, this is no light undertaking.
My husband is recognising that the days when he could just launch into the brickwork with his electric drill, are over, as a more cautious approach is required.

I had planned to spend today on sorting and gardening,
but the sight of a rainbow reminded me of the world outside,
and so we headed off in search of treasure!

Leominster was our chosen destination,
as we hadn't visited it for a while and it has a good selection of second hand/antique shops.
We have been searching for a metal framed mirror to hang above our wooden mantlepiece.  We have seen several that could do,
but not one that we felt was right.





After browsing a few shops, we popped into a tearooms/antique showroom for lunch.
As we walked in a couple departed.
" I don't mind coming back later to collect it..." said the woman.




We had our lunch and then explored the antique centre,
which rambled over several floors.
Suddenly I turned a corner, and there was an art deco style mirror,
with metal patterned corners (tick) 
and had bevelled glass (tick).
"I bet it weighs a ton!" However, it was surprisingly light (tick)
It looked rather dusty, so we gave it a quick rub, trying to ascertain its condition under the coating of grime.  It cleaned up nicely (tick).
After months of sporadic searching, had we finally found a mirror worthy of our living room? Arghhhhh!
This was not a decision that would have the luxury of several weeks of cogitation.
It was going to be a 'buy now or never' decision.
"I wonder how much it is, it doesn't seem to have a price on it!"
Hmmm.
We needed the mirror not to be wider than the fireplace,
or it would look top heavy,
so we enquired about the dimensions of the object of our attention.
"I am afraid I have just sold that mirror,
but I haven't got round to marking it as sold.
It was reduced to £29.."
So close.
So very close, and going for a song!
Ah well, that was one decision we didn't have to make!
I have a pretty good idea that the couple who left as we arrived, were the lucky purchasers!

We toured several more antique centres,
climbing steep stairs,
walking over creaky floorboards,
and delving into basements,
but all we saw were but a pale reflection of the mirror that got away...

I did spot a potential Christmas present for Barry though.
I wonder how windy laments would go down with the new neighbours....?



That really would be going for a song....

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The weekend is over

Friday was a mad day.
A day of looking forward, with Christmas preparations, followed by an impulsive trip across two counties to see beech trees that had shed their leaves, rusty dried tears of a season past.

Later that evening, Paris was wounded by cruel assassins, in the name of ideology.  Beautiful lives brutally ended, by a callous cascade of life destroying bullets.

The weekend limped on, but the shocking events from Friday night were never far from our thoughts or lips.

Now the weekend is slipping away, and soon the new week will begin.  We will think of the ones who will not be returning to work or study, to friends and family - whose names we will soon forget, but whose loss leaves a jagged bloody wound in the lives of those who mourn.

There have been, and will be, other atrocities.  That does not diminish the pain of those who grieve.  Instead we despairingly reflect, the pointlessness of acts of terrorism.  We have no answers, just prayers for a change of heart, by those who seek to further their own agenda through acts of such wanton destruction.

Tomorrow we will see the sun rise once more.  We will give thanks for the day, and vow to use it to make the world a better place. A responsibility passed on by the strangers whose lives were stolen on Friday 13th.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Sacrifice

This morning I awoke with a song in my head - one that I had not thought of for years.

I racked my brains, whose was that haunting voice whose plaintive lament stirred memories from the past?  In an instant I knew.  It is strange how the past remains deep within us, in a filing cabinet within our memory storage, waiting for the day when it might be required!

We pinned on our poppies and headed off for the Brigades service at a nearby church. We were were reminded that responsibility for war cannot just be pinned on the politicians, and that the origins of war lie deep within all of us, the attitudes we take, and the prejudices we permit to perpetuate.

On Saturday night my daughter and I watched on iplayer part of the annual Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall. We admired the precision marching, tried to identify the people the cameras thought were important. and heard of sacrifices given and lives changed for ever.  

Every November, we remember those who laid down their lives for others.  We have no idea of the horrors and fear they faced. My parents having lived through the Second World War, saw no glory in conflict, in lives cut short, at the whim of those well away from danger.

Each December we celebrate the birth of a baby, born to bear the burden of our wilful sinfulness.  A fact we conveniently forget in our tinsel-embellished extravaganza of excess.  There is a part of me that wishes that Jesus did not have to be born, was never required to bear the burden of our greed and failure. I wish that we had all been perfect.

What was that song I awoke to?

No More War 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Not a day to remember...

At the stroke of noon on 5th November, the maternity ward in my local hospital closed.

Fortunately I live in a town where there are a high proportion of older people, so we don't really need a maternity unit....
We have excellent transport links to the Worcester, where expectant mothers are now expected go to give birth.
These days everyone has access to a car
Travelling to Worcester is an easy journey,  and there is plenty of parking when you arrive.
Worcester Royal has plenty of spare capacity so there shouldn't be any difficulties.
The closure has been well planned,
and families have every confidence in those who have made this decision.

Unfortunately only the first sentence was true.  Yes, at noon the Maternity wards at the Alex closed, for the foreseeable future, as there were insufficient doctors to ensure the safety of mums and babies.  The decision was made last week, with expectant mothers finding out from social media.   Transport links to Worcester are not good, and 20% of families in the town do not have a car.  Parking at the hospital in Worcester is also a nightmare.

Continued uncertainly about the future of some services at the Alex in Redditch has made recruitment difficult. Staff morale remains low. Earlier this year all 4 A & E consultants simultaneously resigned, as they felt conditions at the hospital meant they felt they could not do their job.  Rumours of bullying of medical staff by managers persist, though officials claim they found no evidence..

Redditch is a town with a young population, and Mum's to be need to get to hospital without delay.  No-one knows how many Mums and babies will be put at risk by the transfer of deliveries to Worcester.  Whilst no-one wants to see a further reduction in services at our local hospital, it wouldn't be so bad if the hospital that we are increasingly being directed to, was able to cope with its current patients.  Unfortunately Worcester Royal is already overstretched and patient care is suffering.

My mothers generation had access to midwives to support them through their deliveries, which were often at home.  Unless urgent action is taken to recruit the staff to ensure that babies enter the world with adequate care, then the only babies born in Redditch in the future will be those born at home, or in unplanned deliveries outside Poundland.

All in all not a day Redditch will fondly remember!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Planning Ahead

"Do you think that Dad would like a motorised scooter for Christmas?  
You know, one that moves on its own...
He could write a letter to Father Christmas...
Dear Father Christmas,
I would like a motorised scooter for Christmas
Love Dad
...and then he could add a bit saying that he had been good."
"Do you think he has been good?"
"Well, he could always add a few exaggerations.  Father Christmas will never know..."

Log back near the end of December to find out out if Father Christmas comes up with the goods..or maybe he will decide that Dad has not been good enough.
Time will tell.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Reclaiming The Date

Having returned from a fabulous half term in Sussex, I am trying to put the final touches to our 25th Anniversary service, which is the following day.  It is amazing how long it takes to tie up these last few lose ends.  I have an anxious moment when I try to remember which version of The Creed we agreed to use, before I remember that we are singing Graham Kendrick's version! Phew! (Though we sing it in a rather rockier, less syrupy style :O )  The doorbell rings. I go to answer.

In the second before I answer the door, I spot some coloured lights and remember that it is Hallowe'en.  What is a good Christian supposed to do?
a)  Tell them that you disprove of Hallowe'en and that anything glorifying the devil is wrong?
b) Refuse to answer the door
c) Join in.

In the past I have fudged the issue, by saying I don't do Hallowe'en, but still gave sweets as they had gone to the trouble of dressing up.  This year things are different.  It is the first year in our new house.  I open the door, to see two suitably glad figures, nervously holding buckets, with parents hovering close by.  I admire the costumes and chat to the parents. They are really pleased that someone has finally answered the door and given a reward to their offspring, as most of the houses nearby appear to be in darkness, even though it is early.  During the evening I meet a procession of my new neighbours and have some good conversations.  Most of them will regard Hallowe'en as no more than an opportunity to dress up and get some sweets.  There is a time for talking about the darker side of Hallowe'en, but I did not feel that this was the occasion.  This was an opportunity to meet some neighbours, to see 31st October in a more positive light and reclaim Hallowe'en!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Across The Border

Bodiam Castle has been on my bucket list since I first saw a picture of the glorious approach across the moat. As we were staying in East Sussex and the weather forecast was good, it was an obvious destination.  However, as we headed off murky clouds slid furtively across the sky, obscuring the sun.
And there remained.
Resolutely.

Despite the gloomy and frankly disappointing weather, I still got some interesting shots.

...some featuring my favourite model...
but it was frustrating, knowing how much better my pictures would be, if only they were bathed in golden sunlight.  
Yes, mist, frost, snow or rain would all add mood to my shots, 
but the unrelenting grey murk that Mother Nature had perversely decided to deliver, just did not impress me!  
From time to time the cloud would thin, and we would wonder if the sun would make an appearance before we left.
Having had our fill of vertigo inducing battlements and hauling ourselves up and down spiral staircases, we retreated to watch a short history of the castle.  It was very interesting, but left us feeling as if we would never ever feel warm again.  We retreated to the cafe to defrost before heading off to explore Tenterden in Kent.  
Finally the sun decided to break through
,
and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours exploring this pleasant town.  
The gentle sunshine illuminated the stone walls of the parish church with bright patches of colour.

The KHT was very taken with the railway station


Unfortunately there were no trains running, which surprised us as it is half term in many places.

As we returned across the churchyard we were surprised to see a wheelchair, lurking in the churchyard.  I have no idea why...

Heading back towards the Sussex border, we were surprised to see the bank of cloud, still lurking.

Never mind, if the sun did not smile in Sussex at least the fish in the moat showed their faces, 
as they competed with the ducks for the bread so generously distributed by the tourists...

Thursday, 8 October 2015

That's Entertainment?

On average seven women and two men are killed by their partners each month in England and Wales.

Last night I witnessed a murder.
Add to this the shooting of a suspect,
abduction of a child,
theft from a deceased person,
sale of a child into slavery
and a training school for pick pockets.
Mix in a few song and dance routines and a pub with a decidedly non p c name
and the whole thing magically becomes entertainment...

Yes, last night I took my daughter to see a production of Oliver, and she loved it.
This was no Disney version.
It was dark and gritty, with cockney accents to boot.
The children's chorus were a delight as they sang "Food glorious food" with gusto.
The Artful Dodger was delightfully artless.
Nancy sang with passion.
The Doctor was cynical.
Grandfather was idealistic.
The Undertaker was delightfully melancholic.
Bill Sykes was intimidating, oozing unpleasantness - sadly we have all known someone who made us feel that uneasy.  We watched in fascinated horror, as he toppled down the stairs after being shot, wondering exactly how far he was going to fall and would he really make it into the orchestra pit...

Yet as I watched I was aware of the darker side of society that the story illustrated.
Poor Nancy - a victim of domestic violence.
Murdered by the one she thought loved her.
Grew up in a pick pocket gang.
Was it only the proceeds from petty crime that were taken from her?
Where and when did she lose her innocence?
Maybe she never really did.
In my daughters eyes she sacrificed herself for Oliver.
"It's no different to the Bible!" observed the rational one, on hearing my misgivings.
Yes, there is violence galore in the Old Testament,
and turn to the New Testament for the greatest sacrifice of all.
Now that is what I call a twist...

Monday, 5 October 2015

"Join our congregation..."

Come on in.
Just push the door open
and make yourself at home.
The seats are comfy,
padded bench seats,
or individual chairs if you prefer.


Come on in.
The place is cosy and warm.
No nasty draughts
whistling around your ankles
or neck.
Take off your hat,
unwind your scarf.
You don't need to wear a coat in here!


Come on in.
Listen to the babble of cheerful voices,
small group discussions on the topics of the day.
The groups organise themselves,
they don't need a leader.
They show pastoral care,
discussing operations
vacations
and promotions.
And the group over there
came straight from Aunt Vera's funeral.
They knew the right place to come!

Come on in,
There is plenty of history,
tastefully updated.
We like to preserve the past
but cannot afford to compromise on comfort.
After all our building need to be fit for purpose,
we are not a museum,
we are need to meet the expectations of the visitors of today.

Come on in.
I hate to mention the word money,
but I am sure you understand
but we have bills to pay,
and future developments to finance.
So dig deep into your pockets
and avoid any embarrassment!

Come on in.
Not all our drinks are alcoholic,
though our coffee isn't what we are known for!
There is plenty of room for improvement.
Gluten free?
Certainly!

Come on in.
We are open every day
until late in the evening,
when we will be encouraging you in your leaving.
Don't you lot have homes to go to?
Have a safe journey
and come again soon!

Come on in.
The service is swift
but admittedly may not be what you are used to.
You may have had experienced something different,
before you saw the light
and stepped through the doors
into the warmth of our congregation....
at Weatherspoon's...

"join our congregation"

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

It all comes back to haunt me...

A few years ago I stopped opening the majority of the post I received, on the grounds that most of it was rubbish. I could detect the interesting ones - the rest I ignored. I still remember a member of my family discovering an item of post I had not bothered to open.
"Aren't you going to open this, it says you have won!"
"Nope"
"But you have won £1,000!"
"No I haven't. It is the Readers Digest so it will be an invitation to go in a draw that I won't win.  Open it if you like..."  And so she did...and upon reading she discovered why I hadn't bothered opening that particular item of post.

In the past I would find interesting items in my email account - messages from friends, important information. I usually read my emails as they arrived.  These days I find it hard to spot emails I actually want to read, as my inbox is so clogged with rubbish.   Having moved house I seem to have gained a whole crowd of followers eager to communicate with me, but I have all the flooring and furniture I require so their messages are wasted on me.  I just delete them unread.   I should have  created a new account instead of using my main account when purchasing items, or researching possibilities, but I didn't. More email addresses require additional passwords. More information for me to forget!  And so all my enquiries come back to haunt me, and clog up my inbox in the process!   Sometime I may just get round to disconnecting from these companies.  Meanwhile just when did emails get to be so boring :(

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

There is nothing new

Today's Open the Book story featured God's people grumbling and moaning their way through the desert.

Fast forward a few thousand years and God's people are still grumbling.

"The music is too loud"
"Too quiet"
"Too modern!"
"Too (yawn) old fashioned.."

"Uses modern technology"
"Still uses mouldy books"

"Has a leaking roof, and no loo"
"Has a loo, but can't pay their Parish Share"

"Wonders why there are no young people in church...but doesn't want to change a thing.."
"Complains that there are no families regularly attending church, but grumbles LOUDLY about the lack of respect shown by Baptism families"

"Serves fair trade coffee, because they think they should - even though everyone hates it..."

"Disagrees with the preacher sharing his political views, but thinks that he ought to address current issues."

"Thinks that the previous incumbant was far superior to the present one"

"Thinks that 10 minutes is the perfect length of a sermon."
"Is of the opinion that 20 minutes is not long enough for a preacher to engage with a topic"
"Wonders why anyone bothers with sermons - they are boring!"
"Likes a 5 minute nap in the middle of the service.."

"Complains about the lack of heating, but is outraged at the thought of tithing..."

"Prefers the church as it is, so does not see the point of mission?"

"Thinks that Good Friday is too depressing and should be quietly forgotten."

"Approves totally of the 10 Commandments, and pops into Tesco on their way home from church..."
"Thinks the 10 Commandments are good rules to live by, and then proceeds to destroy the reputation of half of the church members over Sunday lunch"


Can anything change?


Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Way

The way - a film staring Martin Sheen or a choice we make?
This was the question I asked myself, as I sat in the Conference Room at Holland House on Saturday evening, while watching a film...

As the story of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage unfolded, I was struck by the parallels between the Readers' Weekend I was attending and the story the film told.

Just as the pilgrims travelled from diverse locations before commencing the trail, so we had to leave our homes before our weekend could begin.

Like the film, the group was diverse, and we gathered solely for the purpose of journeying.  Some had gathered many times before.  Some only travelled part of the way with us.


Food played an important part as we shared together, meeting familiar faces, as well as getting to know those we had not met before.

The scenery was not as stunning as the landscape that provided the backdrop to the film, but it had its own charm, with the River Avon providing the western boundary to the beautiful gardens.











There are numerous chapels and holy places on the trail, and so we gathered at regular points during our weekend, to draw close to God, through corporate prayer and personal reflection

All journeys must come to an end and so we departed, like the pilgrims returning to our separate homes, delighted to reflect on all we had learnt and experienced, remembering the laughter, feasting and comradeship we had shared.

Just one problem, I have no idea where I left my jacket. I hope it didn't fall in the river...

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Grate Expectations

"Look, I am sorry! I didn't mean to..."
"Mean, yes that is a good word to use!
Mean!
It certainly was mean of you to prematurely end my life!
Years of faithful service I had ahead of me.
Now all that lies ahead of me is the scrap heap!
There is no place for sentimentality.
Forget the memories, the meals, the years of faithful service...
Forget the road ahead,
it has turned abruptly into a dead end,
and all because of your carelessness...!"



"I said I was sorry. What more do you want me to say?
Would it help if I was to do the same to myself?"
"Help?
Help?
Look matey I am beyond help!
I am broken.
Broken beyond repairability.
I have no future, it has been stolen from me.
Stolen needlessly at that!
Oh I could weep!
"I wish there was something I could do to put things right"
It is a bit late to think of that!
You should have done a bit more thinking before..."
"But you can still be used..."
"And that makes it OK does it?
I can still be used...
Oh, I may be for a while,
especially while folks still feel sorry for me,
and try to make it work.
I can milk that one for a while.
But, sooner or later I will be quietly sidelined,
and replaced with something that isn't ugly and broken,
with something that is safe and efficient,
not ancient and has to be handled with care!"
"I never meant all this to happen. I wish you would believe me!"

"Actually I do believe you."
Sigh
"The problem is not you, but me!
I have never accepted my own mortality.
I never made plans for the future,
or considered what would happen in the long term.
All I was interested in was the present,
and the role I had.
I looked inwards,
not outwards,
and what I found was pretty hollow.
Imagine a life where all you do is take chunks off others.
It's hardly kind is it?
In truth we are all just here for a season,
we just have no idea how long the season will last.
I wanted to last forever...
Grate expectations, or what?"

Monday, 14 September 2015

Lessons I learnt today

1.  Storms pass.  The insurmountable problems, sometimes disappear.  They haven't gone, they are just lulling me into a false sense of security.
2. New lights don't always work.  Neither do the electrics after the fuse has blown, until action is taken.
3. When the fuse is tripped, that means the internet doesn't work either...until it all resets...
4. I cannot please everyone.  People have to work out their own happiness.  I am not really responsible for global warming, the ice age, third world debt and odd numbers of tomatoes. Though, if it satisfies some folk to think I am, then I can play along with it for a while....
5. Even when I am right I am wrong.  Not quite sure how that works.  It just proves that life really is illogical.  Accept it.
6. Even the most boring garden, looks more exciting when festooned with weed suppressing membrane - kind of like Christmas come early, but without the glitter and sparkle!
7.  If the oven is turned down, and no one remembers to turn it back up again, then dinner will be late! Even later than anticipated...
8.  Real friends give constructive criticism and make me laugh. Not everyone is on my wavelength.  For the sanity of the world this is probably a good thing!
9.  There is no such thing as a quick trip to Solihull, especially if I come back via a supermarket...
10.  Always root for the underdog, especially in politics!
11. No one actually knows where Bill's mother lives.
12. As well as investing in other people you should also investing in yourself. 
13.  The missing section of the duvet will always be where you have put it, even if you are not very good at looking.
14. Buying a card is not the same as writing and posting it.  The path to the postbox is paved with good intentions - most of them mine. (Happy Christmas everyone, in case I forget...!)
15. Not every situation justifies bursting into song, but an 80% success rate is both commendable and irritating...
16. Birds and squirrels are not toilet trained. Remember their droppings are really just fertiliser.
17 is an odd number.


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Bridge or Abyss?

Reality - college begins tomorrow
The KHT anticipates that her translation to 'virtual reality' 
will mean that this no longer has any relevance for her.
And all I can do is watch on, 
helplessly, 
and pray.
Pray for her safety and protection.
Pray that she won't get hurt.
Pray that she will arrive safely.
Pray that I have the strength not to intervene, 
but to trust,
and for that trust not to be misplaced,
or naive.
I know that if I do intervene, 
this day will still come,
for there will still be a day when I have to let go.
Parenting does not get any easier, 
especially when your child has no sense of their own vulnerability.

So I stand on the edge of an abyss of unknowing,
There are no words I can say that will broker a solution,
for the language I speak is not one she wants to hear.
I am irrelevent.
Only a divine solution will satisfy,
and I am a mere mortal,
and what do I know...

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Congratulations!

Since we recommenced ringing last spring our activities have been triggered by events within the church - practising to improve our skills, ringing for services, or ringing for weddings.  The bells have also been rung by visiting ringers, and although not part of our immediate church family, we feel that there is a connection, as they are part of the wider ringing community.

At various times since the band reformed we have received communications urging us to ring for various landmarks, but either we have felt no real connection, or they have fallen on days when we haven't been able to raise a band.  This evening we gathered and rang call changes, especially Queens, to mark Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest reigning monarch in the realm, wrestling the crown from Queen Vic.  Our ringing wasn't perfect, but we made the effort and took part.  Then we marked the event with a photograph...with some special 'rope' decoration to mark the event....





The old bellropes had been stored in the room above in a large sack - you never know when they will come in useful...

Philip attempted to carry them down, and failed...
He lost his grip and the sack tumbled down the staircase before him - falling through the open doorway and depositing themselves on the floor of the Ringing Chamber.

The tail of the "Q" is the miniature bellrope that hung in the kitchen at the old house and was accidentally left behind when we moved.  It was passed on to my husband when he went to collect a package delivered there in error.




We do not normally ring on a Wednesday evening. I wonder if anyone who heard the bells realised why we were ringing.

Which leaves the question "What will be the next important national event that we ring for?"

Saturday, 5 September 2015

In The Gap

Where does summer end and autumn begin?

The heating has been off, but the evenings have been cooler recently, triggering a discussion about when the heating should be put on.  My husband decides to alter the settings on the boiler, and accidentally resets the washing machine back to zero, delaying the wash by a good 20 minutes. Finally, the machine whines to the end of the cycle. I hang the washing and we wander off to the local library, where I was a member for many years until we moved to the other side of town. I haven't really used a local library for about 5 years, and now we are much closer to the branch library it seems right to rejoin.

We register, and the KHT spots a 2p on the desk.
Her eyes light up
"...erm is that anyone's 2p?" she enquires.
"It is the key to our toilet" the Librarian explains helpfully
The KHT looks at it suspiciously, "So it isn't really a 2p, it is a key?"
"It is a 2p and we use it like a key"
At 1pm the library is closing for the day. We successfully negotiated the self-service check out, as there is no other option. No rubber stamping, or glares from a disproving library at your unsophisticated choice of fiction. A machine reads the card and registers your book titles, and at the push of a button prints out a receipt telling you when your fines will begin to accrue.
"When we get home you can make a note on the calendar, so we know when we have to bring our books back before, or renew online."
Over the years I probably have paid for a new library in fines, so I know the importance of getting this right!

The day warms up so I open the door into the garden.
Immediately a frantic wasp is investigating the window blind...
I leave him to his explorations and go and weed the front border.
There are several pots each containing a white hebe, accompanied by geraniums, lobelia and other brash annuals.
The two in crock terracotta pots are not flourishing.
So I replant them into less aesthetic, but more pragmatic plastic planters complete with reservoirs....  They are completely pot bound.
I hope they forgive the disturbance, and appreciate their fresh new soil, more regular water supply, and space to grow!

The sun breaks through the cloud,
I pause from my labours to appreciate the beauty of this September afternoon.
Over on the allotments, smoke billows up.

Oak leaves have fallen from the trees above,  contrasting with the fresh green of the still growing grass.










On the patio, a potted shrub is undergoing a sudden resurgence,
with a second flowering of small delicate pink blooms.










The sweet peas, however, have been disappointing,
showing much potential,
but failing to produce a single bloom!
One bud that showed potential,
has been dined on by some predator,
and hangs its head dismally in shame!







The lawn is looking ragged and unkept.
One man went to mow,
and soon the beautiful stripes are restored,
hiding the numerous undulations,
at least until you walk across it,
and find yourself lurching alarmingly! Interestingly children seem unaffected by the contorted contours!

The Japanese Anemones,
purchased from a church fun day,
hold their own - mocking the paltry attempts of the sweet peas...









Against the fence on the eastern side
four sunflowers turn slowly to seed,
while they wait they peer over the fence by the garage and keep an eye on the neighbours...
Amusingly these beauties were given to me by my next door neighbour before we moved...





Autumn officially begins on the 23rd September,
but in my garden today it felt like it had already arrived,
overtaking summer,
which gives no real impression of wanting to linger.
So we live in this gap between seasons - enjoying the sunshine,
and anticipating the colours of autumn.