Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Open handed

There was a particular poignancy about taking communion in Zac's last night after Sean had quickly related the Easter story.

A group of people, a community, so diverse in so many ways, joined together by a common thread. Whether people are still searching or have found something of what they're looking for, we're all needy and reaching out, to give, to take, to pray.

And Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross to enfold us all. Thank God.

Lenten thanks 43

We're going to Devon today to see GrandDaughter! (And Daughter and Son-in-law.) (And HollyDog and Charlie the cat.)

They said yes!

At the end of February Husband received an email saying there was to be another voluntary redundancy scheme in work. He sat down, did his sums and decided we could afford it so he applied.

A few weeks went by before he heard from his boss that senior management had, after much arguing and with much reluctance, agreed to pass his application on to the relevant people.

Last Friday he had the email saying he'd got it. Yay!

After working away a lot over the years, he's spent the last year working from home. He hasn't been enjoying work for some time and has been longing to retire and enjoy himself in the garden. And he was 60 last December. If his application had been refused he would have been one disgruntled employee; as it is he is a very happy Easter bunny.

Officially he finishes at the end of April but he has this week off and isn't planning on doing much between now and then. He is absolutely delighted.

Me, I'm a little ambivalent. I'm thrilled for him and having him at home won't be strange as he's been constantly on the premises for the last 12 months. I am a bit concerned because ever since he applied he's been saying, 'You won't be able to do/buy/enjoy that: it's too expensive!' But we'll cope.

No, the real reason for my uncertainty is the larger step it means. The change from employed to retired and all that implies. Getting old I suppose.

But my Lenten thanks 42, for yesterday, is for Husband's coming retirement.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I was just listening to um, what was it called? Word of Mouth, maybe? It was on Radio 4 anyway (so it must be right).

According to the professor on it, the idea that nouns are objects, verbs are doing words, and adjectives are qualifiers, was an outdated Roman-derived theory that isn't true. I think that's what he said.

He - or another expert on the programme - also said that Fowler (of Fowler's Modern English Usage) didn't object to sentences ending with a preposition and that Strunk & White's Elements of Style, beloved by Americans, is full of errors.

My world is so shaken that I've had to stop ironing and come and sit down.

Christian terrorists

I saw this on Mimi's Facebook post:
I am horrified.

Isaiah (whose name I always struggle to spell) lived about 750 years before Jesus and he foretold the Easter story.

‘ … he (Jesus) was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;’

‘ …he was led like a lamb to the slaughter …’

‘… the punishment that brought us peace was upon him …’

These so-called-Christian terrorists no more represent the message of the gospel than the manipulative televangelist in his mansion with his own private jet. God must weep over what is done in his name.

Lenten thanks 41

I’m really thankful that I started going to Thrive circuit training several years ago. I was wary at first but enjoyed it so now go twice a week. Enjoyed? Is that the right word? I enjoy the 3 minutes of relaxation we get at the end; I enjoy coming home and eating dinner; I put up with the pain of exercise.

I would have written this last night after Thrive but I couldn’t get up off the sofa.

We began a new circuit and it includes hill climbing, which means an exercise bike at top resistance, and standing to pedal for 1 minute. That probably sounds easy peasy to cyclists and anyone who hasn’t done it but by the time I got off my legs had turned to jelly. I had to run a couple of laps just after and I honestly thought my legs were going to collapse under me.

But I’m thankful I started going and that I continue to persevere. I don’t feel as if I’m getting any fitter but, at least, it must stop me getting unfitter, which I surely would be without that twice-weekly exercise. My life is so hectic at the moment I don’t even seem to walk George all that often.

And, of course, I’m thankful that I can still exercise, that my body hasn’t seized up altogether. (Although last night the evidence was to the contrary.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

You're having a laugh

I got into work this morning to find this on the wall:If Alun had still been working with me I'd have blamed him ... but he was in church yesterday morning ... so he could have put it up ...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lenten thanks 40

I am so thankful for my dishwasher!

I don't know how we've managed for 31 years, bringing up three children, without one. We must have been washing dishes ALL the time.

I resisted one for years - much like I resisted a microwave - but it's wonderful. It gets the dishes clean just like magic. I don't understand how it does it but it does.

Let's hear it for luxury white goods!

What did I come in here for?

A nice sunny afternoon and I was able to go out and do the first bit of hoeing of the year.

I'm a bit disappointed that more of the perennials I planted haven't survived. This may, in part, be down to my inability to tell the difference between a weed and a perennial that's just thinking about waking up. But I say, 'If you don't want to be treated like a weed, don't look like one.'

My plum tree is still alive though and the raspberries. In fact, now I remember, that's why I came in: to find out when I should have pruned them and whether I can do it now.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay

'This afternoon I'm going to chop down the tree that's hanging over the greenhouse.'
'I'm pretty good at getting trees to fall when I where I want them to.'
'But you can come out and film it.'
'In case it falls on the greenhouse and then we can send it to You've Been Framed, and get enough money to buy a new greenhouse.'
Husband paused. 'Then again you're insured for a lot more; if it fell on you ...'

There speaks a confident man.

The road to hell ...

In prison this morning I tried to shake hands with a one-armed man.

It reminded me of the time I opened a hymn book to the right page and then carefully placed it in the hands of a blind man.

On my gravestone they will write, 'She meant well.'

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy birthday, Younger Son!

Lenten thanks 39

My baby is 25 today!

He's currently midway through a degree course and is aiming high and doing well. Like me he's willing to work hard at things he enjoys. Also like me, he tends to be easily distracted!

He's obviously gorgeous, as all my children are, and is funny and creative. He's quite quiet - except when he's drunk. (The good thing is that he's a very cheerful drunk!)

He's an inventive cook, reads a lot and knows more about Harry Potter than any person I know. We've come through some trying periods and emerged unscathed. It's taken him a while to find his way in life but he's on a good path now and has dreams that he's working towards. Like his brother he didn't rush into relationships but now seems to have found a like-minded spirit.

All in all, I think life for Younger Son at 25 is looking pretty good

Husband tries to make things better ...

and superglues the teapot lid.

And my new granite worktop.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lenten thanks 38

Today I'm grateful for ... my job. Yes, I know I grumble about it, and I've even been known to say a word or two about my bosses but that doesn't mean I don't value it.

It all started a long time ago. I don't remember exactly when but I was at a low point. I think it was coping with babies flying the nest along with the ever-increasing anxiety Ifrom which I was suffering. My friend, Janet, who was Linden's administrator then, asked me if I could help her with a few things. She meant on a weekly basis and that she'd pay me.

As the church grew and its activities increased so did the administrator's workload, and eventually the Trust took me over, so to speak, as Assistant Administrator and paid employee. I've carried on, with growing responsibilities ever since, until last year, when Janet retired and I became Administrator-in-chief (not really -in-chief). It's a part-time job, 10 hours a week, and it's just enough for me. Enough to keep me sane but not enough to drive me mad.

And really I owe it all to Janet. She saw the state I was in and 'created' a job for me, paying me out of her own money, and always being on my side. We've had ups and downs as boss and employee but our friendship has survived.

Like any job there are bits I like more than others. I enjoy the creativity of the movie notices, posters, magazines and such; I dislike insurance, invoices and, I suppose, most administrative jobs. Really it's a good job I was doing the job before I was taken on by the Trust: nobody in their right mind would pay to be an administrator. I wouldn't even get to the interview stage.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Uh oh!

Hoover just spat out a red hot ember. I don't think it's meant to do that.

I'd better watch Grey's Anatomy instead of hoovering.

Lenten thanks 37

Yesterday it was George so today it has to be Harvey.

Subversive witness

I saw this mentioned on Facebook, on a post by Nick Temple.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, an advocate for the poor and marginalized, was assassinated thirty years ago while giving Mass in El Salvador. He was an outspoken critic of the military government and no-one has ever been convicted in connection with his murder although a UN-sponsored commission concluded it was the work of a right-wing death squad. The current President of El Salvador yesterday issued an official apology.

"Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down."

"The church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being . . . a defender of the rights of the poor . . . a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society . . . that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history."

The inevitable

Take 1 Christmas present teapot.
Add 1 Husband.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smart or lazy? The jury is out

We can't decide if George is very smart or very lazy.

Picture this. We're in the woods when we meet a lively little dog. He wants to play chase. He runs up to George and then runs away. George chases him - for about 5 seconds, then he sits down. Little dog continues to run for a short time then goes back to George who chases him again for 5 seconds then sits. And so it goes on, little dog doing ten times as much running as George.

Now does this mean George is lazy - as I suspect - or very smart - as Younger Son insists? 'He knows the other dog will come back to him so why bother chasing?'

A third possibility has occurred to me.

Sometimes George and I play chase. He will come to me with a ball and I'll get up and get chase him - for about 5 seconds. Then I go and hide and wait for him to come looking for me when I'll leap out and say, 'BOO!'

Maybe George is copying my behaviour without the hiding, leaping out and saying boo bits. That would explain it.

In praise of Vivaldi

I think I've written about Vivaldi baking potatoes before. (They are absolutely delicious.) Now Sainsburys sells Vivaldi boiling potatoes as well. Vivaldi mash is simply ambrosia, food for the gods. Seriously I could sit down and eat a plateful of it.

It used to be King Edwards for roasting, Desiree for mashing and any old big potato for baking. Now I do it all with Vivaldi.

I should be being paid for this advert!! But it's been such a revelation.

Birthday boy

Lord give us percy and meace

For your information, that is a Yamaha Drag Star 1100 motorbike. Oh you could tell! Oh bother, I've just noticed I took this photo before I realised that Baz is spelled with a z. (I changed it later, after Ric, Sue and Husband all pointed it out to me. Ooh, and now Blogger is telling me it should be s!)* * * * * * * * * *

Tom and Dick came to Zac's last night. Our study on the sudden deaths of Ananias and his wife was lightened by the accompaniment throughout of a deep rumbling snore from Dick. At the end Sean told us that Dick had come especially because he wanted us to pray for his father, Harry, who's very ill in hospital. And that he wanted us to say the Lord's prayer, which we did. And all the while he slept.

I just think it's wonderful when someone so unexpected asks for prayer - and that he knows where to come to ask. I believe God listens out for the cry of the unloved and the unlovely.

The seriousness of the situation was lightened again when Sean prayed for Harry ... in prison. Last time he'd seen him he'd been in prison so it was an easy mistake to make. Afterwards I told Sean about the time I'd led the men in prison in saying the Lord's Prayer and I'd got the words wrong; Sean then admitted to the occasion when he'd prayed for percy and meace. It's good to know I'm not the only one. (In spite of what some people seem to think!)

Lenten thanks 36

I'm really thankful for Wednesdays.

It's the day of the week when I don't have to be anywhere or do anything at any particular time. So it always feels like a day off!

Although I enjoy the things I have to do and the places I have to go, not being restrained gives a certain freedom. I usually spend the time cleaning or something just as boring but that's okay. I can slob around doing it. (And keep popping back to the puta to share my thoughts with the world!)

Hey ho, hey ho, it's off to work I go ... in a minute. Or four.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lenten thanks 34

I am really grateful for people who commit to things - and then stick to it! People I can rely on like Janet and Di, who do what they say they will.

It's increasingly rare these days it seems. Even in church, getting people to commit - and hang on in there when something that appears more interesting comes along - is hard. Someone once told me to never expect anything of anyone because then 'you won't be disappointed.' That is such a disconnected way of looking at life - I was going to say cynical but the person who suggested it was an elderly and very sweet lady without an ounce of cynicism in her - and one that goes against my nature.

I am trusting (probably too trusting). I believe what people say to me. I assume they're going to tell me the truth. And I expect people who say they'll do something do flipping well do it.

(Sorry, I'm trying to put a rota together and, as I wrote on Facebook, I might as well cut out the middle man and go straight to banging my head on a brick wall.)

Who's that knocking at my door?

Yesterday morning I decided that instead of going to the temple of God I'd pay homage at the temple of Mammon (Sainsburys). I was just leaving the house when I was pounced upon by Jehovah's Witnesses. 'Oh no!' I thought. 'It's a sign: I should be in church!'

I didn't really. But it did make me smile in a sort of 'serves me right' way.

I suppose the JWs have worked out that good Christians will be in church on a Sunday morning so won't be at home to argue with them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Husband of mine

Husband was telling me about his walk yesterday with George. 'There must have been a race for young girls going on,' he said.
'Young? Children do you mean?'
'No, in their twenties I would think.'

However it is possible he could be wrong about their age. 'I saw the first runner,' he said, 'and thought what a muscular chest he had.'
'He had?'
'Yes, it wasn't until I saw the others that I realised he was a girl.'
'Oh dear.'
'It wasn't my fault: they were all thin and had no chests to speak of. Except for one who had big boobs. And I don't know what she was wearing but she wasn't jiggling at all.'
'You paid close attention to her chest then?'
'Well, yes. I was thinking about asking her what bra she was wearing; I thought you could do with one.'

Lenten thanks 33

I'm very thankful for Daughter-in-law. She's beautiful and intelligent. She's gentle and caring. My brother-in-law described her as 'charming'. She's softly spoken and appears calm but I suspect that, like me, she frets about things. I want to say that we love her just as she is and that we're delighted to have her as an important part of our family.

I've written about Elder Son being indecisive and soft. I used to worry that he'd end up engaged to someone terrible because he didn't want to upset her. I'm so glad he waited and found the right girl for him.

Happy anniversary!

I was thrilled to be invited to a party last night to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the UK chapter of God's Squad. It was an amazing gathering of about 200 bikers consisting of God Squadders who'd come from abroad as well as all over the country, members of other bike clubs and Hell's Angels.

The photo shows Howie, the President of the UK chapter with the celebratory cake. (In the past Howie and I have compared the merits of different skin care products.)

Lenten thanks 32

It's got to be rugby, the game, the passion, the spirit. It's not like football where supporters of opposing teams are separated - just as well too as we were with Younger Son and Girlfriend who happens to be Italian. It would have been terrible if she'd had to sit in a different part of the Millennium Stadium!As it was we found ourselves in a section that was mostly Italian. Except for the loud-mouthed Welsh morons behind us. I suppose in a crowd of seventy-odd thousand there are bound to be some but it was, as Younger Son said, enough to make you support Italy.

I'm not sure why this contingency of Italian supporters was in bathrobes ...
This is James Hook just about to score a try. Excuse the blur: it's hard to keep a camera still when you're jumping up and down.
Wales won the game but really the best bit of the afternoon was probably the singing of Bread of Heaven.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lenten thanks 31

Oh dear, I seem to permanently be one day behind in my thanks.

In Zac's and in prison I see some of the results of drug and alcohol addiction. Thankfully I don't drink and I've never used illegal drugs. I say thankfully because knowing how impossible I find it to resist Maltesers it might have been easy for me to go down the same road. I'm not making light of addiction.

As a young mum bringing up three children, there were times when I thought, 'I wish I drank because I could do with a drink now.' Lots of mothers will have felt that and most will have not become alcoholics, but for a proportion of the population it's not that easy.

That's why, I'm grateful for people like Furtheron. He's an alcoholic who hasn't had a drink for a number of years. (He's writes openly on his blog so I'm not divulging any confidences.) Now when he attends AA meetings he is able to support others who are struggling. He and other like him who know what it is to have been to the very edge are the best ones to stand alongside the desperate. They understand.

That was my day

I had a funny sort of day yesterday.

Betty's right indicators aren't working again so I've had to resort to the old hand signals. On my way to work I had to turn right off a road. I slowed down, merrily sticking out my arm in the rain. The bus coming from the other direction stopped next to me, the driver wound down his window and said, 'Yes?'
'Ooh,' I whimpered. 'I'm only signalling to turn right.'
The driver laughed.
'But thank you,' I said.

Now I'm scared of signalling in case someone less understanding stops so I'm back on the 'planning my route to only turn left' routine.

Then I closed Betty's door on my toe.

I told Steve when he phoned. He said, 'I've never heard of anyone doing that.' I'm sure it's not that unusual: things like that happen to me all the time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A busy day

A Welsh bag of leeks.
It took six onions before I started crying.
Three big sospans of cawl bubbling away.
(Cawl, Welsh lamb and root vegetable stew.)

Lenten thanks 30

I am so thankful for Elder Son (seen here with his new niece). He's funny and gentle and thoughtful. He's supportive and encouraging to me. He's quiet in company he doesn't know well and doesn't make loads of friends easily but his friendships are real and solid although his easy-going nature sometimes means he gets taken advantage of.

People who know him have said he's so laid-back he's practically horizontal. He doesn't get ruffled and is a very hard worker - he works ridiculously long hours in London. He's clever and thinks deeply but don't ask him to make a decision!

He has a very sensitive nature and tends to bottle things up except when he's at a rugby match. He's creative and has more ideas and plans and dreams than anyone I know.

He was very fussy when it came to girls - 'Isn't there a single girl in the whole of Birmingham university that you fancy?' - but he knew what he wanted and he found her.

I also happen to think that he's extremely handsome but I would say that, wouldn't I?

Lenten thanks 29

On Tuesday at Zac's Martin, biker, put his arm around me and said, 'You're all right, you are.'

Yay! I've made it!

I had the feeling that Martin was always rather suspicious of me so his approval is worth a lot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Call me shallow ...

but it's hard to focus on a bible study when the lad sitting next to you is scratching all evening.

It was very full again in Zac's last night. We're regularly getting 30 people - in a room that's made for 29. And it was a little chaotic. Several were under the influence - one young man said he'd dropped acid (is that the right terminology?) before he'd come in and Jerry, after several weeks of being what is sober for him, was ... not quite so.

And Ruby, well, Ruby was not quite herself, and was very enthusiastic with her hugging. Nigel bore the brunt ... I mean, came in for particular attention, while Ric and Martin both left early to avoid it. (Yeah, yeah, they said they had excuses but we know the truth.)

But the fact that so many people come either regularly or occasionally, that, on the whole, they sit quietly, participate openly and honestly, and are polite, seems to suggest a great need, not just of the place, the evening, the coffee, but of something much more. We'd say it's God although they may not recognise that.

But when they find respect and acceptance in Zac's, it's the spirit of God inspiring it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What was making the bubbles in my tea?

The farting cow.

I'm a tree hugger

I was tree hugging today.

Husband told me that he'd heard that an average adult arm span (from fingertip to fingertip stretched out I mean) could surround a tree that's 75 years old. So I had to hug a tree, didn't I?

The biggest/oldest one we could find must have been about 150 years old. Which means it would have seen all the industry that used to be in the woods: the coal mining, brick making and arsenic ... um ... factory. It's all gone now leaving a beautiful valley that nature has reclaimed.

Look at these!

A thank-you-for-looking-after-me present from GrandDaughter!

Three wheels on my mini

Minni is a jolly clever little car. Not only does she tell me when to change gear, how many miles I can go and all that stuff, Husband now tells me she has magic tyres. If one gets a puncture you can continue to drive on it. And because of these magic tyres she doesn't need a spare.

'I thought I should warn you,' Husband said, 'in case you get a puncture and start looking for the spare to change it.'
'Husband, how many years have we been married and how many tyres have I changed in that time?'

Feminists, look away now.

If I get a puncture I stand by the car looking pathetic until a big strong man comes along. I mean, honestly. Husband has seen the screws falling out of the stool I put together; does he seriously expect me to drive on a tyre I've fitted?

What's making my tea bubble?!

Lenten thanks 28

I'm very glad that someone once, at least 22 years ago, gave me the recipe for date flapjacks. It's a well-used recipe as you can see from the page in my notebook.

Date flapjacks are one of the most moreish cakes you can get. They're Younger Son's favourites and one of mine too. And I've never met anyone who hasn't liked them, even people like me who say they don't like dates.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lenten thanks 27

I love Betty Beetle! Driving her makes me smile. It's true I haven't been out in her for a while: she's not a cold weather car. Not only does she lack heating, there's a gaping hole where the radio used to be that the wind whistles through. But the last few days I've driving her around and it does make me happy. I don't know what it is; it must be fairy dust.

One old lady locked in the lavatory

Actually it wasn't the lavatory but the bathroom.

For 5 minutes I struggled with the door before I shouted for help - I was already late for work. Husband came upstairs and said, 'Lean against the door.'
'I've tried that!'
'No, do it again now.'

It seems that, as well as leaning against the door, we now have to lift it up at the same time, in order to unlock it.

I think I'll just prop my dressing-gown against it in future.

Still it wasn't as bad as the time I got stuck in the downstairs lavatory and had to call the gas man to let me out.

Interviewing George

George and I are being interviewed for Coffee with a Canine website. I've been sent the list of questions and I was doing well until I got stuck on two of them.

a) Name one of George's good points.
b) What's George's most embarrassing moment?

I'm struggling to think of any a) and to choose from the many b).

I'll let you know when it's up ...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mothering Sunday

I've had a lovely day. Breakfast in bed, church, lunch then a walk on the beach with Husband. Back home to some blogging before Younger Son cooked dinner for us: salmon and crab parcels followed by cannelloni stuffed with plaice and sun-dried tomatoes. His own creation and very yummy it all was too.

Lenten thanks 26

A lot of years ago, when campaigners were still fighting the legalisation of abortion, I was sitting in a car that pulled up at traffic lights behind another one, and I was able to read the sticker on its back window: If abortion had been legal then would you be here today?

I was born in 1952 to an unmarried woman. It was a time when illegitimacy was very much frowned upon, when women who had babies out of wedlock were regarded as if not harlots then 'no better than they should be'.

My mother was 30 when she had me - hardly a foolish girl. The man who fathered me was a barrister. I don't know for sure but I imagine my mother wasn't considered good enough to be a barrister's wife.

Abortion wasn't legal then but there were ways and means, and if abortion had been legal would she have got rid of me? I don't know but I don't think she would have. I hope she wouldn't have.

My mother died when I was 19, before I got to know her, before I ever wondered.

Today, Mothering Sunday, I can say I'm grateful to be here.

What granny taught me

Lenten thanks 25

Still catching up with myself, for yesterday, I'll give thanks for friends and acquaintances. The photo shows Diane, at the piano, who hosted and played for our musical soiree last night, with Janet and Mike, our generous donors (they paid for the charity auction lot - music and supper for 8).

It was a pleasant evening but I'm not very good at just listening to music. I like to be able to move around or sing along. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to think about while the music playing. There's only so much an unmusical person like me can ponder on a piece of music. So I started wondering what everyone else was thinking about and how nice Janet's dress looked, and then I noticed that, because of the way he was sitting and the angle of the light, Husband's shadow looked like Homer Simpson - and that made me smile, which probably wasn't appropriate as Diane was playing the music from Schindler's List at the time.

But still it was a jolly evening and I was grateful to be invited.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lenten thanks 24

Driving home from Devon yesterday I was listening to Leaders of the Pack, a cd consisting of female singers from the 60s. I'd walked back to happiness and stopped in the name of love before Freda Payne started singing about her Band of Gold, which is all she has left of her marriage.

(Somehow I've underlined and bolded this paragraph and can't get rid of it.)

It made me think about my band of gold. It was put on my finger nearly 32 years ago and it hasn't been off since.

In itself the ring isn't important. Much like the cross of Christ it's just a symbol, but they are both symbolic of love, its power and its value.

I'm grateful for these two symbols and what they remind me of.

And that was yesterday's thanks.

Just time-ticking

Just doing a bit of blogging while counting down to the Wales Ireland game. I've had to change my fantasy first team AGAIN as Ryan Jones (my favourite and Wales captain) is injured and not playing. As I said before, judging by the number of players who were in my team who then got injured, I have the touch of death. Maybe I should have chosen Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland captain) and then he'd be out today. But I refuse out of principle to have in my team: I don't like him. I've read that he's very single-minded and he doesn't appear to have a sense of humour if an Irishman without a sense of humour isn't a contradiction in terms.

* * * * * * * * *

Tonight we're off to a musical soiree!

A couple of months ago there was a charity auction and friends of ours bought 'a musical evening with light supper for eight', and we're invited. I feel very Elizabeth Bennett although Mrs Bennett is probably more me.

* * * * * * * *

I have yesterday's Thanks to write (I know what it is I just haven't got down to writing it yet) as well as today's (as yet undecided).

Oh yes, and I think it's a good job I've come home. Husband, Mr 'I don't like gin; I'm a malt whisky man', has taken to drinking gin and tonic in my absence. In cocktail glasses.

A worrisome turn of affairs.

* * * * * * * * *

P.S. Ireland 27 - 12 Wales
Lacklustre. Let's hope England wins later on this afternoon. (And I must be feeling bad if I say that.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Yes, you're right ...

I did forget my hairbrush.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And birds do sing, hey ding a ling a ling

Because GrandDaughter is still in a lying-back position in her pushchair, my running commentary on the 'ickle lambs and the woolly pony, the snowdrops and the silly car driver who should have slowed down is largely irrelevant to her.

So I focused on something she could see: the sky. A few little clouds wandered into her line of vision so we played 'See what you can see in the clouds'. I got quite excited as I could see an elephant. GrandDaughter looked skeptical until I explained that it was all because of perspective that his head looked so much bigger than his body.

I think she found it easier when we saw real catkins and I explained about spring and baby birds (who go tweet) and baby lambs (who go baa). I was about to tell her about a young man's fancy but thought better of it.

Lenten thanks 23

Today GrandDaughter and I were having a little cwtch on the sofa and, for what must have been 3 whole minutes, she stared intently at my face as if she were trying to memorise every detail.

It was a wonderfully precious moment and I am so thankful for it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lenten thanks 22

I missed Zac's last night as I was down here in Devon, and I do miss it. It's a very important part of my life.

It started off as 'pub in a church'. Sean and Lorraine, a local singer, used to run Sunday night gatherings in a Swansea pub, then a few years ago Exousia Trust, which was set up to support Sean in his ministry to bikers and the ragamuffins of society, was able to buy an old chapel, which now serves as the base. It's where we meet on Tuesday evenings for bible study (tribal gathering) and where coffee (and soup) bar happens on Thursday evenings for rough sleepers etc. A local charity working with the homeless also used the premises to provide breakfast each weekday morning.

Those are the regular events but lots of other things happen at Zac's Place too on an occasional basis like a health clinic, first aid classes for Big Issue sellers and music gigs.

But, although it serves a purpose, the building isn't Zac's as such. Zac's is so much more. It's a community of people, very different people, at different stages in their Christian life. Many view Zac's as their church; some have come from regular churches where they've been discouraged, cold-shouldered, told what to think or do or wear - or what not to. Or they've never been part of a church but are seeking something that they can't find anywhere else. Many are on the very edges of society.

It seems that everyone who comes to Zac's find the thing they are looking for, whatever that might be. Acceptance, understanding, tolerance, love. They won't find judgement or condemnation though, if they ask, they will hear truth.

Visitors have often said that there's just something that feels different and special about the place. It could be the atmosphere but I think it's the presence of God.

Learning new skills

GrandDaughter has been poking out her tongue; her parents have been saying that I taught her.

Today Daughter's friend, another young mum, came to visit and she was impressed with the tongue-sticking-out. She said, that according to the book she'd been reading, it was an acquired skill.

So today GrandDaughter - who loves me again - and I have been working on raspberry-blowing and thumb-sucking (but don't tell her dad!)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lenten thanks 21

I am very grateful for the new Severn Bridge. It cuts off even more of the journey from Wales to the West Country than the old Severn suspension bridge used to, and far more than the old drive all the way round through Gloucestershire. Not that I remember that. Any trips we made to the West Country when I was a child were made on the train - the smelly old steam train that went through the tunnel under the river. You had to make sure the windows were closed when you approached the tunnel else your compartment would be filled with smoke.

That's a photo I found on the internet: I'm in Devon and don't have access to my photos of the bridge. Not only am I grateful for the usefulness of the bridge, I appreciate it for its beauty. It's a truly lovely creation, with fabulous lines and colours. I am in awe of the design and engineering skills that went into its construction, not to mention the actual feat of building across fast-flowing tidal water.

And now I'm safely in Devon and GrandDaughter keeps crying at me! I am feeling very unlovely.

Don't leave home without it

Husband said, 'You should have enough fuel to get to Daughter's. At least you should make it to the end of the motorway.'

I'd just come over the bridge and the first sign I saw said Exeter 71 miles; Minni said I had enough fuel to do 68. Don't panic!

Next sign said Exeter 64 miles; Minni was saying I could do 70. Hey, I'm making petrol again. (Yes, Husband, I know: diesel!)

By the next sign we'd evened out and both sign and Minni said 49 miles.

We were two junctions off leaving the motorway and within the space of 1 minute Minni's 'number of miles you can do' gauge dropped from 21 to 13. And as I was approaching the last but one junction we were back up to 19.

Now I knew it wasn't 19 miles to the next junction, where I'd leave and go straight to Tesco's petrol station, but the way Minni's gauge had been going, should I cut my losses and get off early and try and find another garage?

Should I? Should I? Shoul ... oops, too late.

Well, we made it to Tesco's with a few miles to spare but I'm never leaving home without filling up first again!

Monday, March 08, 2010

What I should have said

I was lying on the floor after circuit training, supposed to be relaxing, and all I could think of was what I should have said to someone this morning.

It's so annoying when that happens.

I'd been telling someone - let's call him Charlie - how I'd been struck by the simplicity and power of the early church (as I blogged last Wednesday), and saying how far we'd come from that ideal. I also mentioned how impressed I'd been by the fact that people were attracted by what they saw.

Charlie pointed out that those were different days and there was no social services and that the church is no longer the first port of call for those in distress. And that, if the church was being born now, it would look different. From that he somehow got on to these mega and very theatrical churches like Hillsong and Willow Creek, and how some churches are attractional when they should be incarnational.

And, as usual, I ended up thinking, 'Yes, you're right; I'm wrong.'

But now I want to say, 'Why? Why would it look different?' I mean obviously it would look different physically but the underlying basis, the caring and sharing, and the teaching of Christ are still the most important and the things that would attract. And that the early church didn't 'attract' in the way grand productions and flashy shows attract, but they attracted because they were incarnational. Because they were living a life that said Jesus.

So that's what I should have said.

I always used to think Charlie was very clever - and he is very good at articulating and arguing and debating - but I've realised that he's very well-read and gets most of his arguments from books. That's not necessarily a bad thing - but it's not original.

Right, so I got that out of my system. Husband said I should phone Charlie and tell him but he'd only come up with other arguments and I'd end up losing again. So I'll just settle for blogging.

Lenten thanks 20

I am grateful for my son-in-law.

He and Daughter have been together for about 12 years now, and married for 7 of those. He is devoted to Daughter and shows it. He is a hard worker who's doing well in his career, and he loves his own daughter to bits. He's a very hands-on dad and does his fair share of changing pooey nappies as well as cuddling.

He's very athletic and a keen cyclist. Back in 2008, on a wet and miserable day, he took part in L'Etape (the amateur stage of Le Tour de France). We went to France with them and the first sunny day after the event we drove along the same route, up, up, up, into the mountains to the Col de Tourmalet, so Son-in-law - and we - could see where he'd cycled and just what he'd achieved. Up in the clouds, we were impressed.

Son-in-law is willing to learn and open to advice - especially from his father-in-law about whisky and DIY! That's the only problem really: he's picking up his father-in-law's sense of humour. They say daughters choose men who are like their fathers ...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Lenten thanks 19

I'm grateful for this beautiful sunny spring Sunday morning.

Lenten thanks 18

Gosh, Saturday went without me noticing so, in retrospect, I'm grateful that George only got each of us up once in the night, and that the butter didn't make him poo all over the house.

(Look, I said, this gratitude list would be random!)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Oh George!

I started making a big Christmas-style cake this afternoon. I put all the fruit to soak in brandy - a bit more, okay, maybe twice as much, than it said in the recipe as 6 tablespoons didn't look enough - and then I put 1 pound of butter in a large mixing bowl with brown sugar. Then I left the bowl on the work surface while the butter softened.Which is where George came across it. Note how he's carefully licked out ALL the pound of butter and left the sugar ...

If he gets us up in the middle of the night he will be doubly unpopular.

Why you shouldn't buy a toilet seat when you're depressed

I sit on the lavatory and ...

the seat collapses under me.

I look in the mirror and think, 'What's the matter with my hair?' Then I realise it's not my hair; my hair looks fine. It's my face that has seen better days.

Yes, I'm having a fat, old and grumpy day.

Which is not the right day to go and buy a new toilet seat. Because I come back with one that is ... (I would put the photo here but Blogger doesn't let me move photos around any more - so see next post) black and SPARKLY!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Lenten thanks 17

On Monday evening we started a new circuit in Thrive (circuit training class). It was mostly okay except for one particular exercise.

For this you had to squat down - as someone once described it to me - 'as if you're doing a poo in the woods'. Then you had to leap straight into a star jump.

And we had to do this for 60 seconds. Go on, you try it.

As luck would have it, my regular partner wasn't there so I was paired with the woman who, in 2 weeks' time, is doing a 30-mile sponsored run. And she kept talking to me, which would have been okay if she hadn't been asking me questions and expecting answers.

Monday night is the - I was going to say 'easy' class but it's not so instead I'll say I also go to Thrive on Thursday, which is the 'advanced' class. This week I missed it as I was in Devon. Husband, who went, told me, 'It was hard.'

I am so very grateful I didn't go to Thursday Thrive this week and I won't be going next week either as I'm back in Devon.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I wish for to go to Widdecombe fair

HollyDog, Grand-Daughter and I went for an explore this afternoon. We decided we'd follow a lane and see where it went: it didn't go anywhere. Probably my own fault for choosing the way, at the crossroads, that wasn't marked as leading to anywhere.

In fact it did lead somewhere: to Flock Mill and Old Heazle's Farm, which in turn led to a quick rendition of Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare, all along down along out along lea .... And Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

We didn't mind not getting anywhere as it was a beautiful sunny afternoon to wander the peaceful Devonshire country lanes. We saw little lambs, a fat pheasant strutting across a field and a hare.
'How do you know it's a hare?' HollyDog asked.
'Because it looks like one.'
'What's the difference between a hare and a rabbit?'
'I have no idea.'
HollyDog looked at me rather skeptically. 'That then puts your identification of the hoppity thing into doubt I believe.'
I shook my head, 'It's March!'

(I had to explain about March hares and I don't think she was convinced but as neither she nor GrandDaughter, who was asleep, saw it, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that it was a hare. So there.)

I'm writing this in Daughter's office. Their garden backs onto a churchyard and tonight is bell-ringing practice. I do love church bells.

And now I'm going downstairs to have a cup of tea and a cookie - yes, in spite of saying, 'If I never see another cookie again it will be too soon,' I made some for Daughter this afternoon.

Lenten thanks 16

I am very grateful for my peeler.

I've had the same style one for years - the sort with a bit of string wrapped round the handle. The original one had its string renewed so many time before it finally gave up the ghost. My father-in-law, after seeing me use it one time when they were visiting, kindly bought me a new super-whizzo peeler ... but I couldn't get to grips with it.

I finally found another one the same as my first love - although without the bit of string.

I am reminded how much I love my peeler after struggling with Daughter's.

It's the simple things that make life simple.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Oh yes and ...

I got two marriage proposals last night on the strength of my cookies.

They only love me for my cooking ...

Lenten thanks 15

I am so glad I passed my driving test way back when. If I had to retake it today I dread to consider the result. Not because I'm a bad driver, you understand! But because today's test includes parallel parking.

I will drive for miles to find a space I can just pull into.

And if I hadn't passed my test I wouldn't be able to drive to Devon today!

Yay! I'm spending the next 3 days helping to look after Grand-Daughter while her mum does some copy-writing work. It's a hard task but someone has to do it ...

Yay! Yay! Yay!