Monday, 11 December 2017

Memory Lane

Saturday's sprinkling of snow was the dress rehearsal for Sunday's generous blessing. Both were quiet days, but for different reasons.

On Saturday the sun shone, flooding the kitchen with warmth and brightness. We pottered and prepared for Sunday, which would be one of the busiest days in the church year, and just enjoyed the sunlit peace.

Most of the leaves have now fallen from the mighty oaks just beyond our boundary. We have lost the canopy of leaves that shelter the garden during the autumn. Light reflecting off the snow further enhanced the brightness, even during hours of relative darkness.

Three o'clock in the morning seems to be a pivotal time in weather predictions. I wonder if the reasoning is that we will all be tucked up in bed and no-one will be awake to assess the accuracy of the forecasts. Who knows what time the snow actually began, but we awoke to the most significant snowfall for several years.

Access to the church is up a hill,
or a long steep hill.
Alternatively there is a very steep hill.

Many of those who live close enough to walk, would not want to risk hip and wrist. For the first time that I can recall we cancelled our services, as did the majority of the other churches in town. We all stayed home, and watched the flakes falling relentlessly from the sky. I felt like I was trapped in a computer-generated graphics file with no escape from the visual confetti.

Snow often triggers nostalgia, as we recall snowball fights and other snowy exploits from our youth. In 1964 my town was selected to be a 'new town'. I am always amazed when I go elsewhere and see factories adjacent to houses - in Redditch this doesn't happen. Development was planned and zoned. We had one of the first shopping centres, miles of footpaths with underpasses, lots of trees and an excellent road system that bewilders visitors. However, there was a price for all this investment. The town centre of my childhood was bulldozed - covered over by concrete, steel stuctures and slippery floor tiles (which have since been replaced).

A facebook page has recently appeared, sharing old photographs of the town - places I never knew and some I had forgotten. One photo that impacted me showed the rear entrance from Woollies onto Walford Street.  I had completely forgotten that these doors had ever existed, or that they came out close to the market. Seeing the photograph reminded me of the time I got left behind in Woolworth's when my mother, distracted by my younger brother, accidentally left the shop without me. I remember standing inside these doors, sobbing at my abandonment. My Mother soon reappeared, retrieved and admonished me for not paying attention! The building remains, but the rear now has an elevated goods access to the first floor of the building, the doors presumably bricked up. Walford Street has long gone, but the name lives on in Walford Walk in the Kingfisher shopping centre.

I cannot deny that there are advantages to having an indoor shopping centre, especially during the winter months, but I wish they had just provided roofing above the streets and let the town gently age, instead of inflicting such an abrasive facelift, and in the process, eradicating the past so abruptly.

Back in the 60's, new towns were needed to provide replacement homes for those living in slums. New schools were built, some of which only lasted a couple of generations before being declared surplus to requirements. It is over 50 years since the first new houses were built by the Development Corporation. Ideas on town planning have continued to evolve. The brutalist architecture, that replaced the Victorian streets, feels strangely appropriate for a change imposed by an unelected and unaccountable organisation. Change would have happened anyway, just not at such a pace, and without such apparent disregard for the past. The planner's legacy is a town with good facilities. We have much to be grateful for, but those who knew the town before, have memories of places that were indescriminately wiped off the map.

We hanker for the past, appreciate the present, and look forward to the future.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Songs For A Snowy Day

Thursday we went to bed expecting snow. I woke up around 7am, and there was nothing of note, just a few faithful flakes had settled.  Then, in the next hour or so, a myriad of celestial crystals came cascading from the clouds, covered the ground and half the schools in town suddenly shut up shop for the day!  Tough call for the schools involved, as more snow was forecast.  Being in the landlocked Midlands it is not often that we get significant amounts of snow.  It is important to keep the schools open for those who need somewhere to go, but I am all in favour of giving children the opportunity to experience playing in the snow, when possible!

Tesco is not far away as the crow flies, but we went by car to discover how bad the roads were.  Radiant sunshine meant the white stuff was swiftly melting away.  Entering the store we passed a mother with two school age children. As they passed us their faces lit up with great joy
"It's snowing!", they cried excitedly.  Their mother was not sharing their joy...

We too walked out the store to find the snow was falling once more and were very glad that we had not been seduced by blue-sky thinking, and walked...

Community Carols were scheduled for 4pm, but as the Library - who were hosting the event, didn't open till just before midday, no rushed decisions could be made.  As it was all set up, it was agreed we would go ahead, and cut the event short if the weather deteriorated.

This year we had changed the format - less technology, a mixture of the sacred and secular and moved from the wind tunnel outside the Meeting Rooms, to the relative shelter of the canopy outside the library.  As the allotted time approached, folks started arriving in dribs and drabs, gathering beyond the cordoned area, which replaced the staging used in previous years. Five cones and a bit of tape was far quicker and easier to set up than staging! Less chance of anything going wrong too, as the whole construction was held together by faith and numerous plastic ties! Song sheets were passed around, deep and crisp and even, and off we went. Santa got stuck up the chimney, but Jesus Christ still triumphed!

As we sang it snowed, magic flakes spiralling to the ground - the perfect backdrop.  Fortunately we were sheltered by the canopy. The mikes and speakers of the PA were was shrouded in plastic to protect them from the elements, but still worked. I have no idea how or why, but they did. It was freezing, but fun. We sang our way through the songsheet. How the keyboard & clarinet kept going, no-one knows!  Afterwards,  we all piled into the library for hot chocolate and mince pies. The Guides offered biscuit decorating, to raise money for their forthcoming trip - always a popular attraction and much more tempting than a mince pie!

The very thing that we feared would be offputting, was the icing on the cake! Serenading snowflakes with seasonal songs - superb!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Snow or No Snow?

The week has rushed by in a flurry of preparations. Music had to be chosen by midweek in preparation for the services on Sunday, which include the main carol service. Meanwhile, we continue to watch the weather forecast with a mixture of anticipation and dread.

Anticipation, because it has been a couple of years since we last had any proper snow. In fact, we have lived in our current house for well over two years, and have yet to see the garden with more than a sprinkling of snowflakes.

Dread, because quite frankly we do not want the inconvenience. Snow is magical, but jolly inconvenient.  It is the run-up to Christmas. We all have plans and much still to do. After all the preparation we do not want to be disappointed.

The forecast currently predicts snow from 3am to 7pm, but it is only a possibility of 30-40%. It could miss us entirely. We would all get on with our plans, relieved, but feeling slightly cheated, as beautiful snow scenes fill our news feed on social media.

Often we do not get the extremes of weather forecast. Is that because they predict the worst case scenario, or have we just been very fortunate? Who knows!

So I go to bed, to dream of magical snowflakes drifting down....who needs to count sheep!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Winter's Tale

Advent Sunday
In the morning the first candle was lit on the Advent wreath, always a sign that the countdown to Christmas has just got serious. In the afternoon we had our Christingle service and it was lovely to see new faces, as well as those support this service each year. One visitor was a girl who grew up in the church and had brought her children back so they could share the experience she had when she was their age.  It was really lovely to catch up after many years.

For many years the Christingle service has been an opportunity for the younger members to take part and it was great to continue the tradition this year.

Monday morning was beautifully sunlit - a great day for photography!  We had considered going to Hereford, but we were late starting out and need an early return, as I am working this evening. Leamington was our chosen destination.  The sat nav was set and we departed.  Then we changed our minds, and decided to go to Stratford instead. Our journey was further complicated by the fact that 'Voice Command' appeared not to have heard of Stratford. Maybe if we had addressed it in Shakespearean English, it might have been more forthcoming.  Maybe not.  Well, we knew which roads to take, so the satnav became the sackednav.

Halfway there the sun disappeared and the interesting clouds won. However, we were not going to be deterred. We selected Stratford because we wanted to do the walk by the river, clouds or no clouds!

We parked, then crossed the river towards the theatre. Workmen were dredging the canal basin. We were advised that the spoil was being taken to help construct the new Marina, scheduled to open in 5 years time.

On our wanderings we discovered the site of the new marina. Locals observing the work down river were verbal in their opinion of the local council, and it wasn't complimentary.

When we were back by the theatre we noticed filming was underway. No idea what for... If you recognise anyone let me know.

Lunch was at a branch of a chain of eateries.  The waiter was very enthusiastic and greeted each of our orders as if it was the best decision he could possibly have made. My companion ordered a toastie
"Great choice!"  
I ordered tomato quiche
"Ah Tomato!" he declared, as if had made the very quiche himself.
After he departed I expressed the opinion that he may well have been an out of work actor.

Well, it was all downhill from there.  My request for a 'Flat White' was interpreted as 'tap water' It was delivered by different member of staff, who checked who the tea was for, dumped the water in front of me and legged it. I then caught the original waiters attention
"Excuse me, I asked for a Flat White, and I seem to have tap water. " 
My companion reckons that 'tap water' and 'flat white' sound the same.  My thought was that he was so busy affirming us in our choices, that he didn't actually listen.  The next problem was our food. We were adjacent to the food hatch. The chef rang the bell when food was ready to be taken to tables. Everyone was so busy clearing, welcoming and taking orders that no-one was delivering the food. The bell rang once, twice, three times. Still, it sat there.  My companion accosted a passing waiter.
"Excuse me, I think that is our food waiting and it has been there a while!"  Our food arrived with apologies. Now salad and heated lamps do not mix....  Basically what should have been hot, wasn't and what should have been cold wasn't. I also had the coleslaw that I had requested not to have....
Did I want to add a service charge? My response was lukewarm to say the least.

There were a couple of shops we wanted to visit, and a few purchases were made.

Confession time.
I nearly overran with the candle yesterday, and today it didn't get lit, as it was a chaotic teatime, with people going here and there. Tomorrow is another day...

Saturday, 2 December 2017


No sooner is December here, than the Christingle service is imminent! This triggered the recruitment of a top team of church decorators, recruited at short notice, to ensure the place looked suitably seasonal for our Christmas visitors.

Our star decorators soon made a discovery, that I am sure they made last year - real trees are spikey! They prefer it if you respect their personal space - get too close and you will find out exactly why they are called pine 'needles'!

 We also discovered that:-

  • It is probably easier to start fitting the lights from the bottom of the tree, not the top.
  • The top shoot could not possibly bear the weight of a star.  
  • Lights may be trodden on multiple times but by some miracle, still work.  Do not rely on this to be so.... 
  • Decorations shatter when knelt on....

The finished tree is a joy to behold. It has not been dressed, rather it has been festooned with a cascade of snowflakes. lights, tinsel and baubles.  A delightful expression of joy, and will be much admired by many over the next couple of weeks.  Well done guys! I LOVE IT!

Meanwhile, stars have been hung - including the 'Lynda special', which is suspended from a hook in the ceiling at the centre of the church and gently winched into position. It rotates gently in the air currents, as if monitoring the presence of the Holy Spirit. Lights brighten the Foyer, which is often quite gloomy.  Random angels are dotted around the church. Shelves have been fitted into the window alcoves, lanterns and candle holders have been installed. Meanwhile, Dawn has constructed two boxes of Christingles for the service tomorrow afternoon at 4pm - plug...

In the afternoon the KHT and I visited the Christmas Fayre in the church hall, while DH was off playing his bassoon at Coughton Court. The KHT does not currently have a membership card. Instead, if she joins she can have a free ticket for her carer.  As anyone who is likely to be her carer is already a member and at times want to visit NT properties without her, then this is actually completely useless for families like ours. I asked if she could have the free membership instead, but they would not allow it, which was very disappointing.

Pick your own...
In the evening I started the annual grand double sided sticky tape project. Yes, it is time to start making Christmas Cards. I hate the point when you are about to start and are apprehensive that the results of your labours will look like something produced by a child in Reception Class. I am never that happy with the first few, then I start to see how the colours can work to enhance each other.

I starting making my own a few years back, when I failed to find any I liked on sale in the shops. This year's colour is blue - so far.  Yes, I am still obsessed with tree/star combinations, as I do wonder if the star passed over the tree(s) that were used for Jesus' cross.

Meanwhile, we have finished the second day of December and are still on track.

Unheard of.

Maybe tracking my candle burning progress is actually helping me remember to be a responsible Advent Candle user...

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Advent of Advent

Not the green door...
For the wages of nuts, seeds and drinking water, we can admire the antics of three squirrels and a variety of birds - robins, thrushes, tits, nuthatches, starlings, jays, blackbirds, goldfinches, wrens, dunnocks, sparrows, pigeons, magpies, even the odd woodpecker, plus others I have forgotten.  DH put the last of the nuts out earlier in the week, so this morning we headed off to Webbs Winter Wonderland in search of further supplies. The entrance was not looking as inviting as usual - encased in wood, as if renovations were taking place. Apparently, they had been visited by ram raiders. At least they left the trio of singing reindeer behind...

Our visit to Webbs also gave the KHT the opportunity to explore their Christmas section, of which she thoroughly approves.
She gazed in wonder at the cute snow scenes.
We gaze in disbelief at the prices - £200 for that tat???
Having just liberated a dozen boxes of decorations from the loft - we know that we already have more decorations than we need, so we were well able to resist the temptation to buy yet more. However, I do have to confess to buying a new smaller Father Christmas earlier this week, which will look great on the mantlepiece. The four-foot tall version, purchased at the Gift Fair at the NEC a few years back, will probably go to the local charity shop this year, and make someone very happy.  Sorry mate, you are so last Christmas!

Then DH left us in town, so we could gaze in wonder at the decorations in the shopping centre, and do a bit of shopping. A lovely small present purchased for the youngest granddaughter, a pressy for the oldest granddaughter, and gifts for two of our favourite mature citizens...

The KHT has once more vowed to never go clothes shopping with me again, after she accidentally purchased a much needed item of clothing...  Her consolation prize was a trio of Christmas CD's, one of which definitely has potential, and I bought an Advent Candle....  Now the Advent Candle is usually the point at which I realise my magazine-perfect Christmas is not going to go to materialise, as I either mislay the blessed thing, and we spend all of December playing catch up - and failling, or forget it is lit, and burn down past day five on the first day of December...

Phew! So far, so good!

At the allotted time DH collected us up from town, before departing for a music rehearsal.  I assembled the Christmas Tree whilst the KHT reminisced about the good old days.
"Remember the old tree, it could stand on the floor... "
I say nothing. I just remember that the old house had higher ceilings, and quite often we didn't use the bottom part so it could stand on the end of the dining table in the bay window.
"Our old tree didn't come with lights already on it, we could choose our own lights..."
I remember how often the lights failed.... and remind her that it is all progress.

The KHT opens the first door on her advent calendar, the candle is lit.  Advent is under way.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Tuesday I was delivering angels to local houses, in the form of an invitation to our Christmas services. Our church is a modern six-sided building, based on the plan of a Swedish cinema. It lacks bells, smells and stained glass. It has no tower or steeple, just a stainless steel spire with a cross on top. It looks like a church if you know what a church can look like.  However, if your expectation of church is a Norman or Gothic pile, then you could easily drive past and just see a red-brick building...  If we want visitors to our Christmas services, then we have to remind the local community that we exist, and so we deliver invitations to our Christmas services.

If I am honest I have to admit that walking up to strangers homes is a bit scary, but I have had some lovely conversations with people I have met. I always tell the people what I am doing and ask if they know where the church is.  To date, I have not encountered any negativity.  If people are not interested they can just put the cards in the bin, but we always get visitors to our church as a result of delivering these invitations.

Wednesday morning saw us in school for Open the Book - acting out Bible stories for First school children - great fun.  This week the story was the Lost Sheep.  The KHT was trying to get her head around the implications of this story
KHT - So, if Jesus was the Good Shepherd, who was the bad shepherd?
Me - It's not really a story about a Shepherd, it is a story about us, and how no matter how far we have wandered off and done our own things, God never gives up on us.
KHT - What if the sheep don't want to be found?  What if they are quite happy doing their own thing, and do not want to be rescued?"
The KHT doesn't have a problem with Jesus. Her problem is that she wants freedom, but only if it is safe.  Like the sheep, she lacks the ability to adequately assess danger, and resents the limitations that have to be placed on her to keep her safe.  At the same time, she wants to be safe.

Thursday, more leaflet delivering. Despite the sunshine, it is bitterly cold, much colder than Tuesday! I am wearing gloves, but my hands still ache with the cold - triggering memories of soggy woolly gloves and snowball fights from my childhood. We pop in to Tesco to warm up. Actually we pop in to Tesco because we have no bread, not a lot of milk and I fancy some sausage rolls... We leave with three bags of shopping.  There is snow to the east of us, but none here.

The KHT is making plans for tomorrow, when the decorations come out of purdah and the loft.

Barry is also going down with a cold.  Three days in and I am bored of having a blocked nose , and long to be able to breathe normally.  Hibernation feels like an attractive option...

Monday, 27 November 2017

Christmas - Shopping and Planning

Less than four weeks and it will all be over... so I thought I better get started!  Off to Solihull we went, in search of suitable seasonal purchases.  I did find a present for the youngest grandson, and a gift we hope will interest the oldest one.  Something I hope will be to my husband's taste, was also purchased - but I cannot divulge details at this stage in the proceedings....I have also begun sneezing :(

A rather cute Christmas decoration was bought, which may be revealed on Friday morning, and not before! In our house Christmas is banned until December. This becomes a bit tricky when Advent Sunday falls in November, but that is only the start of Advent. According to the church calendar, Christmas does not begin until Christmas Eve, staggering to a conclusion at Candlemas on February 2nd.  Meanwhile, the world has rushed madly on, into the next few seasons. The only Christmas folks may consider, is the next, and not even that if they can help it!

A diversion to Hobbycraft enabled the purchase Christmas Card making supplies. Long live double-sided sticky tape...

After an unusually early tea, we headed out to a meeting to make arrangements for Community Carols on Friday 8th December - less than two weeks away!  It doesn't seem a year since we rolled up in the shopping centre, only to discover as the darkness fell, that the lights were not working.  After ten months of chipping away at officialdom, they have finally been fixed. Many thanks to the electricians who sorted out that nightmare!

We had planned to attempt a Quarter Peal this evening - which is a set length of ringing.  After weeks of juggling diaries, we had finally got six ringers committed to being in the same place at the same time, and the tower was available. Then news broke of the Royal Engagement, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, so there was a consensus that our ringing should be in celebration of this happy event.  After a couple of rocky starts, the ringing settled down, and we were able to claim our Quarter Peal. Whatever my views on the Royal Family, I wish the couple a long and happy marriage.

In the last days of November, we look forward to the hope of Advent, of counting down the days of December, and the gaudy brightness of Christmas decorations.  Maybe this year there will be peace on earth.

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Home after an amazing weekend at Holland House, for part of the Mission-shaped Ministry course.
We covered so many topics in 23 hours:-

  • Spirituality
  • Gospel & culture
  • Engaging with your community
  • What is church 
  • Handling setbacks
  • Small groups
  • Worship
  • Prayer. 
If it sounds exhausting, it probably was!  However, the material was so well written that we were constantly being challenged, inspired and encouraged. Time limits did not allow us to cover all the material in each module, which leaves us with plenty to work on before we meet again.

One session included chocolate & theology. I think most of us loved the concept, but as it was sandwiched between cake and dinner, I was grateful that twirl bites were on offer. You can always manage one (or two) of those!

Holland House is a familiar venue, as for the last four years I have attended the Readers Weekend held there. This was the first time I had stayed in the older part of the house. The staff kindly left a large Pooh Bear in our room to keep us company. The KHT was disappointed that I did not plan to bring it home.

Don't look down Pooh...!

Opposite our room is a Winnie the Pooh themed toilet, and I am now starting to regard the Bear in a completely new light...

It was strange being at Holland House with a group of people the majority of whom I didn't know, but we were all in the same boat, so that made it easy to chat.

The food, as usual, was excellent. Despite being conservative with my portions, I still ate far more than I normally do! Three cooked meals a day, is two more than I am accustomed to consuming!

We did get a few hours free time on Saturday afternoon, to allow all the information to percolate. My husband had never seen the river, so we duly clambered down to the landing stage, but no boats passed by.

We wandered on, up the main street of the village, crossing the road according to the vagaries of the footpath, before heading back to the sanctuary of our room, and I had a sneaky nap, while my husband read the course notes. We are very different...

On Sunday morning we were divided into eight groups and given a few minutes to put together elements that would combine to create a short service of Holy Communion within our context. DH & I were given 'senses', and borrowed the large basket of fircones from beside the fireplace in the lounge. We felt they would link in well to the intercessions - world-shaped - many parts the body of Christ - unique - imperfect like us - contains seeds...  
We put on our coats and went outside. For the confession/absolution element, we poured water over our hands and dried them. I was glad the water was warm! We repeated scripture, listened to music, prayed for those in need whilst holding a fir cone in the palm of our hand. We shared the Eucharist. We felt the wind, were grateful for the sun, looked up at the trees circled around us and returned to the warmth of the building.

After a final session, it was time to head home as the light was fading from the sky. Strangers transformed into fellow travellers, both physically and spiritually.

At tea time on the first day, I discovered I was sat next to a lady whose son had autism.  Later my husband and I were chatting with two other ladies, both of whom had experience of having autism in their households.  The next morning, autism came up in conversation at the breakfast table, and one of the speakers had a son who was autistic... I may not have physically taken my daughter with me, but autism accompanied me in a way I did not anticipate. Life is full of surprises!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Follow That!

The travellers departed on the next leg of their vacation, and we got on with our Wednesday.  The only evidence of their sojourn is a jar of apple butter jam and trail of Hershey's kisses wrappers, which despite our best intentions, seem to have been trodden all around the house. One lies accusingly on the landing. Only the hoover can buy their silence...

Starring the clothes horse and moi...
Next up is 'Open the Book' and the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.  A typical Wednesday - except it isn't, as their Ofsted inspection has only just begun.  A long and stressful couple of days lie ahead. The staff are doing their best to make everything feel normal, but there is an air of palpable tension, mixed with optimism. We pray that the inspection will be fair and reflect the school which has welcomed us so warmly every week, for the last five years or so.

under there is mud, but where?

I wander home, through the woodland, the landscape changed by fallen leaves that obscure the pathway.  I find myself walking on the mud beside the path, unable to discern exactly where the tarmac lies beneath the swath of golden brown.

Above me, the canopy has been stripped away, and a window opened up to the skies above, revealing the fine tracery of the arboreal architecture.

In the evening a group of us from church went to see Sister Act at the local theatre.  A harmless story of some nuns thought I, who has only seen Sister Act 2... Every time there was any expletives, I took a sneaky peak down the row to see if anyone was suffering from outraged sensibilities....

As for my husband, he was just waiting for them all to sing" I will follow him..." mainly I suspect because I have sung it rather a lot over the last few days. Look on the bright side dear, we didn't arrive before 7pm, so the car park was free - even if the tickets weren't... Well worth the money though, a great evening!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Colours of Day

Monday was grey, but dry. We headed over to Worcester for a walk by the river, before browsing around the shops.  In a rash moment, we decided not to use our usual car park, but to travel further into the city and park near the river.  However that car park was full, and so was the next and the next... We finally ended up on the roof of the multistorey opposite the cathedral.

We then walked the circular route past Diglis Hotel, over the footbridge and back up the other side, before heading into town for lunch.

Even the normally vibrant autumn foliage, seemed subdued and understated.

The Cathedral reflected darkly from the dismal depths of the Severn.

My purchases were a t-shirt - which hopefully will be suitable for wearing when bellringing, a pair of gloves and a small present each for the oldest two grandchildren - but I cannot tell you what, in case Father Christmas reads this blog, and accidentally lets slip...

On the way home, we attempted to visit two B & M stores in Worcester, in search of an elusive item.  We appeared to have to pay for parking at the one in St Martin's Quarter, so that did not get our custom. We then crossed town to for an unsuccessful visit to the store near St Peter's, which was a Home Base in a previous life.  I last visited this building back in 2000, in search of louvre doors for built-in wardrobe my husband was constructing...  After car parks and B & M Store visits, my chauffeur is now even better acquainted with the geography of our county town!

Tuesday was also grey, but then we into school, to do the last session after school club with Keystage Two and the final instalment of the story of Jonah.  The children's crafts were certainly not grey, as they made 'worms' out of pipe cleaners and beads from Flying Tiger - I knew they would come in useful someday ;) Have a bonus point if you know where the worm comes into the story WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP!

There was more colour later in the day from Hershey's Kisses, courtesy of a globe-trotting son, who made a flying visit as part of his travels during Thanksgiving Week. We loved the Christmassy colours, and the snowdrop snowflake patterned ones were everyone's favourite, as they were mint fondant.

This time next week the KHT will be dropping hints about Christmas trees!  I am so not ready for Christmas, but then I never am :/  Perhaps THIS will be the year of the gift tokens - think of all the wrapping paper I would save!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Blessings from Heaven

Sunday was a joint service at Christ Church, followed by lunch.  Yours truly was down to lead the intercessions. Unlike last week, I remembered to print them off and take them with me.

According to the order of service, the intercessions were supposed to follow on seamlessly after the sermon. I had a bit of a heart attack moment, when the Vicar said "Amen" about 5 mins in. I thought he had finished speaking and was poised to leap to my feet, in an understated Anglican sort of way. Fortunately, I realised that he was just emphasising a point, before I left my seat....

It was good to worship together as a parish, and to share lunch afterwards. The service was a joint effort, with folks from all three churches taking part in a beautiful fusion of traditional and modern worship.

Twin poops
Afterwards we came out to discover that we had accidentally parked our car under the flight path between the sports hall and the shopping centre. Our car now fully displayed the evidence, on the windscreen, the bonnet, the roof, the doors (both sides).  No part of the visible exterior of the car was left unscathed.  Note the 'blessings' on the windscreen, and the row of birds lined up above the silver car, ready to carry out their next round of target practice. Bizarrely, the car next to us appeared unscathed. Perhaps they thought a green Jaguar posed a greater threat, that a benign blue Ford.

Queueing for a turn at target practice.

A close up of the birds on the roof...

DH was definitely not amused, to the extent that when we got home, he went and got soapy water and a cloth. Still, at least the car got an unexpected clean!

Three Have A Surprising Day South

On Saturday we headed south to meet up with the Open University Society of Bellringers. Last time we rang with them was back in 1995 in Oxfordshire!  Over the years we have visited a variety of towers with these ringers, from large influential churches such as St Martins in the Fields and the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, to small village churches. Today we were heading for Bedfordshire and it sure was a day of surprises.

Surprise No. 1 - Despite leaving later than planned we were still early! Having completely forgotten to take sufficient cash with us, this provided the opportunity to pop into the village shop and get cashback..

White Lion?
Surprise No. 2 - Getting out the car and seeing this white creature carved into the hillside.
I assume it is a horse, but it could be a lion. I couldn't find any information online about it, but then I wasn't really sure as to the precise location of the carving.

Surprise No.3 - There was a loo in the first church. Small, but essential detail, and made the coffee even more welcome! Thank you to the local tower captain, who took time to come and make drinks for a bunch of strangers.

Surprise No. 4 - The first tower bells were more difficult than I anticipated. A 9cwt ring of six should have been easy to ring, but they required more effort than their weight suggested. I did wonder if they were still on plain bearings.

Surprise No. 5 - How busy a small place can be. Our second tower was Toddington, a bustling village, where it was very difficult to find anywhere to park, but we did :)

Not Woburn Abbey
Surprise No. 6 - Pershore Abbey has bells.
Tewkesbury Abbey has bells.
Westminster Abbey has bells.
Bath Abbey has bells.
Woburn Abbey does not have any bells, being a stately home, not a church. However, we did ring at the parish church. A majestic 24 cwt ring of eight complete with a partial moat or haha..

Surprise No. 7 - Woburn Church was full of shoeboxes!
There were hundreds in there - at the ends of pews, against pillars, on the chancel steps, round the font. I have never seen so many shoeboxes, even in a shoe shop!

Surprise No. 8 - We had to leave via the crypt.  The KHT was very excited, she thought she had located a secret dungeon!

Surprise No. 9 - We found a pub serving lasagne that had room for about 16 people, who wandered in without a prior booking... The pub we went in was The bell, opposite The Bell. Well, where else would ringers go?

Surprise No. 10 - How wet it was. I had not taken much note of the forecast, as we planned to be indoors, or travelling for most of the day.  It was quite a surprise when it started raining, and the rest of the day remained damp and drizzly with limited visibility through the murk. A pity, as what we could see of the countryside was very beautiful. Even through the greyness, the autumn trees were a joy to behold

Not a Flat White
Surprise No. 11 - They do not know how to make a flat white in Woburn... Not wanting vast quantities of liquid, I ordered a coffee to go with my meal
"Can you do a flat white?" I asked. The waitress didn't bat an eyelid.
"Filter Coffee" she muttered under her breath, gave a satisfied nod and I KNEW I was doomed :).
"Can you do a Latte? asked my husband
The waitress gave him a look, as if he had asked for something totally impossible, but she duly brought him a latte.
Me, I got filter coffee with a jug of milk.
Fine - just NOT a flat white!

Surprise No. 12 - There are a lot of really big houses in this area. Not just one or two, but lots of sizeable country houses.

Surprise No. 13 - Finding the church at Cranfield.
Not Cranfield Church
As we headed into the village I spotted a spire, and it was right where the satnav indicated the church would be.
Great, we rejoiced, that was easy to find.
Then I thought
"How on earth do you fit a 17cwt ring of six in there?!!!"
Answer - you don't.
I do not know what building it had been in a previous life, a school possibly. Now it was housing.
We turned around and looked...
Cranfield Church

"Ah, there is the church!"
Now that looks more like the sort of tower that would take a heavy ring of six!

Surprise No. 14 - Beautifully carved angels inside the church.
I couldn't decide if this one had an early version of an ipad or an x-ray machine, or what..

We arrived at the last tower at 3:30pm. We rang, and enjoyed a ringers tea - sandwiches, sausage rolls, pizza, etc.,. The KHT tried a pickled gherkin, but was not impressed...
Then we had a meeting during which the constitution had to be updated...
By the time we emerged it was well dark and we had completely forgotten which direction we had approached the church from and, more critically, where we left the car. Amusingly, we were not the only ones in this predicament!
I recalled the spire. DH used his car keys to locate his vehicle.

The only surprise might be that we didn't ring any 'surprise'.  Others did, so I suppose that makes up for it. They were going to ring spliced Cambridge, Norwich and Bourne. But they hadn't got enough ringers who would admit to being able to ring Bourne, so they omitted that, which made it Bourne free... (groan).

Time to go home, so we did.
No surprise there....

Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter Wanderland

Thursday came and went and included a trip to the place of miracles, where order was restored to my hair. I hibernated and blamed my malaise on the passing UFOs,
flying by in tandem,
as they do...

Evidence of passing UFOs

Friday, however, was light and bright. All was well with the world. Then we discovered that the KHT's repeat prescription for anti-allergy meds had disappeared, somewhere between the kitchen table - where she had just signed it, and the car.  We weren't going anywhere until that little mystery was solved. I checked my bag (twice). The KHT checked her bag and her coat pockets. I checked my desk (twice). We all checked the kitchen table. The prescription had vanished into thin air. Dear Husband (DH) finally tracked down the missing item, in a bag left behind in the KHT's room...

Twenty minutes later we finally depart to our first stop - the chemist, a mile away.
Step two was dropping off some paperwork.
Step three was exploring Hartlebury Common on a beautiful sunny morning.
Having examined the map at the information point, we set off vaguely in the direction of the viewpoint.


The cattle kept a close eye on us.

In the shade, the frost still lingered.
The KHT was fascinated
"Ooh look it has been frosting!"
She touched the fragile white coating, which to her surprise, instantly melted at her touch.

The KHT in 'looking into the depths' pose.

We wandered down to Hillditch Pool, a beautifully sheltered sunny spot. A couple of women sat on a bench, taking a break from dog walking. enjoying the peacefulness of the place and the unexpected warmth of the November sunshine on a frosty morning.


Hartlebury Common is an area of heathland close to the River Severn, and is surprisingly sandy. As you wander around you could easily forget that the sea is 100 miles away!

Walking back it was definitely warm enough to take my coat off, as I could feel the sun upon my back. The only fly-in-the-ointment was a man, who appeared to be unable to control his dogs that growled at us, encouraging each other in their aggressiveness. The KHT does not understand dogs and cannot work out what they are going to do. The last thing I wanted was for her to be bitten by a pug and fellow canine thug. Why do dog owners assume that any woods or open land is solely for the purpose of exercising dogs? People love these places too and should be able to wander freely without feeling intimidated by badly trained dogs.  From the poo bags abandoned near the entrance, within feet of the bins, it would appear that the dog owners do not hold the place in very high regard.  One bag was abandoned in a tree. What had the poor tree done to deserve that?

At lunchtime, we visited a nearby Garden Centre, that we have visited before, and purchased a very substantial circular plant support, for a very reasonable price.

The last time I remember visiting the Common was on a church outing nearly 40 years ago! We stopped there to have a picnic before going on to Stourport on Severn for the afternoon.
Where do the years go? It is a mystery!