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.


Friday, 16 December 2016


Today wasn't Wednesday, but Wednesday was too busy with things that HAD to be done, and sadly the things we normally do, like go and have lunch in M & S cafe, went by the way...

Today was not Wednesday, but we had time to do the things that we did could not do on Wednesday, and so we did.

The KHT knew that a visitor was returning, so she waited to see the visitor arrive, and depart, for completeness is important.  Then we set off for lunch.

The KHT carefully selected her seat.
"Wouldn't you rather sit by the window?"
"Oh no, " replied the KHT, "I want to sit beside the Christmas Tree!" and smiled a smile only the KHT can smile, a smile that lights up her face in a way no camera can easily record.

Our food duly arrived.

Then suddenly tragedy struck....

The tree was gone!

The KHT was not impressed, as she was left with a view of a display of biscuits....!

Me, I wasn't bothered. After all I now had a tree beside me....

All the best laid plans....

Monday, 28 November 2016


At our evening service on Sunday we read the set readings and then had a time to ponder on them.
My daughter illustated this passage from Matthew....

Matthew 24:15-28New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

15 ‘So when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation,”[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 

17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 

18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 

19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 

21 For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.
22 ‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 

23 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 

25 See, I have told you in advance.26 ‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it.
 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Breaking the silence

It seems so absurd
when you are searching for the first word
Maybe I could throw a rope and lassoo my previous blog
and             hang        the      words   as   if     from        pegs        randomly     spaced       for   effect
Would punctuation be required
or would I leave the reader to interpret the words as ever they chose
Is truth strictly defined
or open to interpretation

There is no regular metre to these words
they flow
and stumble

In 10 years time all this will have disappeared
Trapped within outdated software
where one day
some digital archaeological geek may suddenly stumble
discover my fault of introspective ramblings
and leave
bewildered and none the wiser
leaving only a digital footprint
that he may chose to erase
but why bother

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Grate Expectations

A normal day - well as normal as any other day would be! We set of to Shropshire on a church hunt. Destination Battlefield church, named after the bloody conflict of the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, when thousands were thought to have perished on this site - a location spotted on a previous trip, and to which we had intended to return at some point. Today was that day.

I took many pictures of this landmark, with beautiful hills behind and dramatic sky scape flanked by the advancing development of Shrewsbury. Despite the nearby development, it was still a place of peace and quiet.  Any traffic noise I do not recall it, as I was struck by the calm and stillness of the place now, compared to the violent bloodshed and chaos of the conflict over 600 years ago. that gave the place its name.  Close by is a visitors centre, where people come to enjoy lunch, oblivious to the bodies that had fallen just a field or so away, for no smell of bloody flesh or agonising cries of pain remained to put them off their dinner. I confess that I too dined there, without giving the location a second thought...

Inside the church was atmospheric, sun streamed through the beautiful stained glass, including one which fulfilled the scripture of Mark 15:24 "And then they crucified him—and threw dice for his clothes." I do not recall seeing dice on a church window before.

Afterwards the photo that I keep returning to, was not of glass, or stone or hills.  Instead it was one of the gratings in the floor.  I love the neatness of the repeating pattern, worn by the many feet that have walked down that aisle, in times of joy and sorrow, to take part in acts of worship, to look at the historical records, or just to explore. I confess that I had happily trodden on many of these gratings in the past, oblivious to any architectural merit or design.  Now I find my eyes, and lens drawn to them, I cannot unseen them, I seek them out in each and every church I visit.

Stanton Lacy, Shropshire

Bromfield, Shropshire


Deerhurst, Glos had 3 different patterns, this pleasing circle design. The added splash of green looked like a stray piece of oasis, dropped by the flower arrangers...

There was a plain diamond pattern and this, which is the most complex that I have observed so far...

I wonder what determined the patterns used in a church - was it a whim from the foundry that shaped the metal, or were the patterns designed by architects?  Were there standard patterns and widths, or was each one uniquely designed and created for the space it had to fill?

Floor gratings can be unnerving. We rely on them to stay in place. Beneath them we glimpse pipework, and occasionally wiring.  We avert our eyes, not wanting to see too much. Heels can get trapped in them, coins dropped noisily on to them, maybe to roll harmlessly away, or disappear down into their darkened depths. What dust and spiders lurk beneath these decorative shields?

Now I have seen these metal gratings, I can no longer ignore them.  My eyes are drawn to glass - be it plain or coloured,  carved wood, banners, altar clothes and other linen, but also down to the floor.  Is it tiled,wood, concrete, tiles, flagstones or carpet?  Does it have any metal gratings, and what tessellations lie beneath my feet?

When I walk into a new and unfamiliar church I have expectations, grate expectations!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Is September the New January?

September unsettles me.  Whilst the rest of the world rushes forward into the next academic year, I look backwards with longing at the days that are have passed.

Two weeks ago summer surrounded us. We were on the beach on a glorious August day.

Today is dull and overcast, with occasional glimpses of the sun, as it mocks us through the sullen blanket of cloud, reminding us of what has been. Whilst it is officially still summer it feels as if autumn has descended upon us with an enthusiasm that I am not yet ready to share.

My daughter is on self-appointed 'leaf duty' and attempts to pass the mantle on to me, via text, after she has departed to college. I leave the leaves to lie like dried tears upon the grass, having no desire to go and remove them.  The mower can do the job far more efficiently than I could, but even that can offer only a short respite before others take their place. It is a pointless, thankless, never ending task.  Above the garden pigeons and magpies roost in the dense canopy of the oaks that line our southern boundary. In the summer the trees provide welcome shade for the bottom half of the garden, but come the beginning of September and the approaching equinox, the sun is no longer clears the topmost branches, and the shade reaches menacingly towards the house.

My daughter welcomes autumn with joy, and looks forward with eager anticipation to colder weather. She is pleased that the summer is over, and bemoans any return to warmer temperatures. Maybe there are career openings for snow people?

There will still be some sunny days.  The leaves will turn to beautiful shades of gold, red and orange. Berries will ripen in hedgerows.  I will enjoy the seasonal changes, but inside I will long for the next summer and the sound and sight of the sea.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Ode to Lobelia

The cat, it was said
preferred lobelia instead
to delphiniums (blue)
and geraniums (red)

This was just as well, truth to tell,
for delphiniums (blue) were being devoured
By gastropods, in the wee small hours
who have a taste for flowers...

The cat slept all day.
Not in a bed of hay.
But in a floral border
which is really out of order!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

In The Garden

A year on and the garden is looking a lot less like a section of field barricaded behind a fence and more like a garden.  Our plans change and develop as we discover something just don't look right and others work surprisingly well.

It is amazing how a small alteration can make a significant difference.  Moving a large planter closer to the gate balances the bird bath, and frames the path to the back gate.  The change was made to stop the cat hiding behind the planter to ambush the unsuspecting birds, rather than part of a design, but it completes that corner in a way we never envisaged.  A few slabs weaving through a large border, transform a haphazard flowerbed - the subdivision providing the eye with a route to follow.  A shrub liberated from a large pot and added to a border balances the other planting. Slowly things take shape.  Plants that do not flourish, are transplanted, giving them a second chance, with different levels of sunlight and water.  The raised bed that was filled mainly with home made compost looks like an advert for Growmore.  In time we will dig and add compost to the other borders, in the hope they do as well.

The back corner with the trampoline remains unloved.  The trampoline is rarely used now, and soon it will go and we will replace it with a summer house or greenhouse.  This corner gets the last of the suns rays.  It will be good to sit and watch the end of the day from a sheltered spot.

Is a garden ever complete, or does it continue to evolve, as plants develop and grow?  I find myself reluctant to come to the end of the journey. Maybe next door wouldn't notice if I demolished the fence and annexed their land...On second thought perhaps not, for they have a dog...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


A careless or ill chosen word.
Unrealistic expectation.
Social engagement often feels more like land mine clearance -
how many people can I offend in he least possible time?

I am part of the invisible generation -
too old to be trendy,
too young to have acquired any considered wisdom,
yet too close to the battles of life to easily dismiss the bruises.

The balancing point between right and correct leaves little margin for error.
Get it wrong and a flood of built up pain and anguish washed over you,
Wave after wave of incrimination and anger overwhelm.
Forgiveness and grace drown within this murky tide.
It is pretty depressing being a sinner.
No time off for good behaviour.
No year of Jubilee lurking in the wings to rescue and restore.
This is real life.
Forgive those who punish
but don't punish those who forgive,
for that is not the aim
of the game.

I am the leper
The untouchable
The outcast
The wastrel
The pharisee

I am the foolish
The disorganised
The tardy
The dreamer
The unrealistically optimistic
The pessimist - I mean is there any real choice?

Do not bother to identify too closely with this traits,
or I will lose the only redeeming crown of originality
Then all I can do is rely on the empty tomb for my salvation.

Friday, 29 April 2016

On the Trail of the Elusive Bluebell

April has been even more changeable than usual,
particularly during the second half,
which has been peppered with sudden short wintry showers.
We long for warmer days and stillness,
but they do not appear to be in any hurry to arrive!

The forecast was fair,
for the morning anyway...
So off we went on a bluebell hunt.
The weather was better south,
so after googling "bluebells, cotswolds"
we set of for "Foxholes" near Burford.

It was an interesting and diverse woodland,
with a variety of trees
and included areas of beach and oak.
However, the bluebells were past their best
and only the last of the many flowers remained.
Despite this we could still imagine how majestic the swathes of blue would have been.

The KHT loves exploring,
though she does find that progress is slower when I accompany her,
as there is always so much that I want to photograph...
So much beauty to appreciate within the woodland...

...and beyond.

Soon it was time to head out of the wood...

..and back down the track, taking advantage of the puddles to clean our boots...

We observed the darkening skies and headed off to Burford for lunch.

Within minutes of entering the cafe it started to snow, this was followed by hail and a loud rumble of thunder!

By the time lunch was over the skies had cleared again!
This is England in April!

The woods were very beautiful, with much to observe and admire and only the faint sound of traffic to remind us of the busy world beyond its boundaries.
Whether we can resist visiting again before the bluebell season next spring remains to be seen!

Friday, 22 April 2016


The day stretched ahead of us,
a thousand possibilities and very few probabilities.
The only problem was that our possibilities and probabilities were probably different.
"What are YOU going to do today?"
"I thought WE might go out..."
"Where do YOU want to go?"
" I thought WE might go to Hidcote...
"But I want to build a wall...."
"Why don't you build a bit of the wall, 
then we could go out
..and eat out so we don't have to rush later."

Later - 
"Hmm it is rather grey. 
Hidcote deserves sunshine, 
or better still rain then sunshine, 
so the flowers look their best...
in photographs..."
"So, where do You want to go?"
"I don't know."
"I suppose you want to go to The Robin Hood"
"We could go to a National Trust place....
I know we could go to Webbs..
I prefer to eat at The Robin Hood..."
"When do you want to go?"
"It depends what time I can book a table..."

And so the wall was built AND we went out for lunch...

Some time later....
"What are you going to do with that yellow plant in the corner?"
"What yellow plant in the corner...is it a dandelion?"
Looks at the offending plant
"That plant looks green and a bit red...."
"Well. That is nearly yellow...

What are you going to do with it?"
"Can't it stay there it looks rather nice...?"
"No, its blocking the path."
" Ah, good point. 
Well it needs to go in a flower bed.
 Probably the side one."

We head in different directions.
Take different routes.
The incompatible becomes compatible.
Peace reigns.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Past Meets Present

Once I ran around the field where now my home stands.
Summer PE lessons out on the field are a distant memory,
as is the school that once housed over 500 pupils.
Only the name of the longest serving headmistress lives on
in the name of the close.
In fact none of the schools I attended still exist.
Two out of the three buildings remain.
The exteriors mainly unchanged,
but the interiors have been remodelled to reflect the needs of modern educational establishments.
However, the names have gone - they have been rebranded.
My past has been erased while I am still breathing.
I question what this does to the sense of community.

I was born into a small town of around 30,000 souls.
The town centre streets,
where rain dripped from soggy canvas canopies,
and downpipes deposited the midlands rain,
to run rudely across the pavement to the freedom of the gutters.
Now replaced by an ugly construction of concrete steel and glass.
With doors that close out the cold winds and casual vagrants.
I never did get to go through the revolving door of the 'Hungry Man'.
It was bulldozed by progress long before I was old enough to drink.
The magically named 'Unicorn' suffered a similar fate,
only to be replaced by a row of mundane retail units.
Every town should have a Unicorn.
Maybe a place with greater discernment would honour, not slaughter, such a beast.
The name lives on and slides down the hill
towards the woods where bluebells flourish
but only in the spring.
Maybe if you stand still and listen carefully
you may hear the hooves of mythical creatures running free,
despite the departing traffic on the A448
from those who seek enlightenment
within the hallowed halls of Touchwood
or at the tills of Merry Hill.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Wake Up Call

"Are you getting up?"
"In a moment. I am just having a dream about an earwig..."
"Why are you having a dream about an earwig?"
"Well, it lives in this huge houseplant that is in the hall,
next to the stairs..."
A green lush houseplant so tall that the top of it is above the level of the landing.
However, I am not the only one who likes the houseplant,
as it has become home to an earwig and a variety of other insects.
I didn't plan on my house becoming a wildlife sanctuary
Maybe I need to replant this upwardly moving vegetation in clean sanitised bug free potting medium ...with NO wildlife.

What does the plant want?
To be an ornament,
or to be part of an ecosystem?"

I don't like earwigs.

Fortunately there is no space for any plant this tall to live in my hall,
but I am watching the ferns closely for any infiltrators...
or growth spurts...

Maybe watering them will help?