Monday, December 31, 2012

Zac's 2012: reflections from the floor

I read a quote recently about New Year's eve. It was something along the lines of 'the world doesn't stop at midnight for a few moments, there's nothing special about it, but yet,' and it's the but yet bit that got me.

There is nothing special about this man-made date but yet it does offer opportunity to pause and think, about the past year and the one to come. So it's in meditative mood that I consider 2012 in Zac's Place.

It was a year in which nothing changed and everything changed. We ended as we began doing a weekly bible study (tribal gathering) during which anything can and sometimes does happen. Like a couple rolling in, midway through the study, dressed only in the paper suits they'd been given after the police had taken their clothes for forensic examination following a stabbing. Just another week.

Consistency isn't really a word I'd associate with Zac's yet there has been some this last year. Whereas when I first started going the 'congregation' would change on a regular basis we now have our core band of regulars who come, plus others who are frequent visitors as well as the the caller-inners. And our regulars are a real mixed bunch: from those who've been Christians for as long as they can remember to those who've rediscovered what they once had to those who are still searching;  from those with a good knowledge of the bible to those who can't understand why we keep talking about Jews; from those with a strong faith to those with none; from those who are fairly obviously messed up to those who are better at keeping it hidden. The one thing we all have in common is Zac's. And I suppose a spiritual thirst.

And it is these people that make Zac's what it is, that give it its character, that colour it red and purple and black but never grey. It's for these people - and because of them - that Zac's exists, to nurture, encourage, pray for, pray with, stand alongside, feed, respect and love. 

In a world where many fail to find either respect or love, Zac's offers a safe refuge, level ground, a place where the weary can rest, the weak can find strength and the unlovely find love.

Getting several mentions in one of the Archbishop's farewell speeches as well as being promoted nationwide as an example of alternative church as well as interviews with Sean on BBC radio and Sean speaking at various unlikely conferences has given Zac's a fame (in some circles!) of sorts and if more places like it rise up then it will be for the good but what happens outside isn't really what matters inside, from the floor. 

2012 was the year that Avril and Kay were baptised - and Avril is still clinging on, desperately. It was also the year that Baz, one of our stalwarts, died suddenly. Other friends associated with coffee bar at Zac's also died. But others have gone to rehab. Like any year it's been a mix of good and sad, funny and tragic.
Baz and Di celebrated their 25th anniversary in Zac's a few years ago

Just like the mix of ragamuffins that we are: crazy, bad, hopeless, hopeful, angry, determined, upbeat, downbeat, weak, wounded souls. Souls who need cherishing. But blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

A new year and a new adventure begins tomorrow. We're going to try having a monthly Sunday meeting, something some of us been keen on for years, to meet a need for those who find 'normal' church an unwelcoming or untruthful place. Sean is going to be taking time out to write his book leaving others of us to run occasional studies in his stead. And those are just the planned changes. God only knows what He has in mind for Zac's in 2013 but I have a feeling it will be wonderful, amazing, encouraging, and life-affirming. And I want to be in there for every bit of it.

Happy New year, Zac's! I look forward to enjoying the adventure with you all.

Leaping dolphin

It was Daughter-in-law2's birthday just after Christmas so we took her a birthday cake when we went to Devon at the weekend. From this angle you can't see that the dorsal fin is more like a side fin ... but if you think about it too much you'll notice that there's something not right. 
I think I shall rename D-i-l2; I'll use the Italian to refer to her. That's ... pause while I look it up ...
Nuora (according to google).

We went for a belated birthday lunch to the Sea Trout Inn in Staverton, a little village in the middle of nowhere. At one stage we thought we wouldn't get there as we faced a flood but, undeterred, Husband ploughed our way through it. The journey back was less eventful and as it had finally stopped raining we took a brisk walk around Brixham harbour.
Looking cold, with the Golden Hind replica in the background.

P.S. Very nice food at the Sea Trout.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jiggery pokery

Yesterday, after Elder Son, Daughter-in-law and GrandSon1 had left I felt a little despondent. Also, it's difficult, when you've spent the last weeks rushing around maniacally, to stop. The answer was obvious: get out a jigsaw.

I haven't done a jigsaw for ages and I do love them - but they are addictive. A few hours pass like minutes when I'm engrossed. So today, as it had stopped raining, some fresh air was called for. 

There were loads of surfers enjoying the post-Christmas swell. (But time enough to diet after all the chocolates have gone.)

Right now it's back to the jigsaw.

Why Husband will have a lonely old age

We had a lovely Christmas. Just wonderful. And because I could still remember the horror of night-time vomiting I was very careful not to over-indulge. It is now, however, becoming a more distant memory.

The only television we watched was Strictly and after that we played a Logo game. After a disastrous start I eventually won the third and final game. Let's face it, I would have insisted on playing until I did.

Uncle gave me Chanel No 5; Husband gave me Angry Birds computer game. Which explains why Uncle is enjoying his old age surrounded by attentive widows. I'm not going to say anything about Husband.

P.S. Husband asked me to say that he also gave me Plants versus Zombies computer game. He doesn't want you to think that he's mean.
P.P.S. He says it's for my own good. He's read that playing computer games keeps the brain alert and stops it atrophying. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Immature I know but

I had to take a photo of these bottles of beer.

Husband came to the prison carol service this year. It was his first time inside - probably because I'd never invited him before - so it was interesting for him to see what I get up to. (Thinking about it, some of the people I mix with have dubious hygiene habits so could possibly explain where I picked up my bug.)

The mayor of Swansea was in on the second night and he went round and shook hands with all the inmates. I've never seen a mayor do that before and I was impressed. Slightly less impressed with the fact that he asked Husband how long he was in for ...

Straight after the Tuesday night prison carol service it was back to Zac's for our carol service. Not quite as busy as last year's but a good crowd and a lovely atmosphere.

Desire costs

I decided to treat myself to a good quality pepper mill and, as they seem to come in pairs, a salt mill too. I was going to put it on my Christmas wish list but left it a bit late so when I saw some on special offer in Debenhams I didn't hesitate. 

Well, actually, I did. I went home, told Husband and asked if he wanted to buy them for me for Christmas and he said, 'Why didn't you just buy them?' So I went back the next day ... and they'd gone up by £5!

I'm almost embarrassed - but not completely obviously as I wouldn't be telling you if I were - to say that, even with the special offer, they cost £30.

My granny would turn in her grave..

I hadn't realised at the time that they were electronic; I just wanted some with a really good long-lasting mill action. And - wait for it - they each use 6 batteries! I can see I'm going to keep paying for my desire.

Be careful what you wish for

Remember I was grumbling about Husband having a worse cold than me? Well, we got home from Devon on Thursday night feeling fine, went to bed where I slept for about 2 hours before waking and spending virtually all the rest of the night with my head down the toilet.

Husband had a slightly dodgy tummy but wasn't sick and I would happily have changed places with him!

The worst thing about it - apart from the hideousness of vomiting on an emptied stomach - was that Elder Son and family were due to join us yesterday for a long Christmas break and we had to put them off. We're also missing Carol's 60th birthday champagne breakfast today, even though we're feeling better, in case there are any nasty little viruses hanging around. (I don't think it's the dreaded norovirus but rather just your average virus.)

So today we have to get Christmas tree - yes, I know it's only 3 days to Christmas but I've been busy, okay?

One plus to come out of sitting around feeling sorry for myself all day yesterday is that I watched White Christmas again. I do love that film.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'm making a list ...

and checking it twice. Waaaahhhh!!!!!!! Number of hours needed to complete all items on list is far greater than number of hours in day. My granny's words come back to me: don't panic, think of the Chinese.

Why should I think of the Chinese? Are they particularly good at not panicking? Do they have much to panic about? I neither know nor care. I don't have time to think of the Chinese. I'll blog instead.

GrandDaughter didn't find her birthday gifts of clothes very exciting - I'd have been delighted if someone had bought me knickers with purple fairies on them - and as I've bought her more clothes for Christmas I thought I'd better find some toys to go with them. A full frontal attack on Toys-R-Us was called for. I figured if I got there early I'd miss the crowds so at 10.15 (early for me) on Sunday morning I was pulling into their car park. 
'It's worked, I'm here before the crowds,' I told myself as a comparatively empty car park greeted me. I got out of the car and walked to the automatic doors and waited. And waited. I'm always suspicious when doors don't open: is there a button I'm supposed to be pressing? Are there people in the control room watching me on their monitors and laughing? (I'm not at all paranoid.) I moved around a bit in case i hadn't set off a sensor then I noticed the opening times.

It didn't open until 11.

I ask you, what sort of toy shop doesn't open until 11 on a Sunday before Christmas? Toys-R-Us for one, that's what sort.

And Smyths for another, as I discovered when I drove to the out-of-town shopping estate.

It was 10.33 now. I had two people to visit but knowing them I guessed they wouldn't appreciate me turning up on their door so early. Instead I drove to the posh garden cum gift centre and spent half an hour oohing and aahing over the pretty things - and gasping at the prices. 

When I got back to the toy shop they were queueing at the door.

But I was, for once, decisive, grabbed some toys, and paid at the customer-less till. So, eventually, it was a successful trip.

Unlike my search for celeriac yesterday.

Is there a world shortage of celeriac? Or is it just Swansea? I'd decided to make celeriac and bacon soup for Zac's carol service tonight but as of right now I don't have any celeriac. How does leek, potato and bacon soup sound? 

I'll be rushing from the prison to get to the carol service tonight. The prison carol service happens on two nights to allow more guests and inmates to attend, so my boys have to do their thing again tonight. They were good last night. Very good. A few mistakes but it didn't matter and they sorted themselves out and the congregation appreciated them, gave them a good round of applause.
My only concern is that tonight they'll be cocky following last night's success and be even less manageable. 

Waiting for it to start last night, D, who was sitting behind me, prodded me on the shoulder and said, 'Do I have to go up there on my own?'
'I can't f*****g do that.'
'Yes, you can.'
'I can't. I'll have a panic attack.'
'No, you won't.' I looked at the others. 'He won't, will he?'
'Nah, and' to D, 'you can't f*****g swear in church. Oh, sorry, miss.'

It's no wonder I have grey highlights.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My role model

I had a meeting yesterday with Sean, Steve and Martin about Zac's. Sean is planning to take some time off next year and he wants a back-up system in place - and he wants us three to be the back-up.

I can understand Steve and Martin being on the list - they have obvious strengths - but my only obvious strength is my ability to make cakes. But then I am a Welsh mam. Whatever the problem the answer is food. Has your girlfriend finished with you? Have a cake. Don't have anywhere to sleep? Have some soup. Someone died? Have a lasagne.

I came to the conclusion that we were - or at least I was - the best of a bad job from amongst a church of damaged souls. If there were anyone else, I tell myself, then you wouldn't be on the list. Blogging friend, Furtheron, will understand; that feeling that one day, soon, everyone will realise the truth about you, that you're not really fit for the job. So I was pondering this while walking George today.

And it occurred to me that Jesus could have had his choice of anyone and he chose what must have appeared to many to be a bunch of losers. And his main hope was in Peter. Peter? I ask you. Was there ever a man who tried so hard and made such a mess of things. (I've said before that he's my hero but maybe that's where I'm going wrong, modelling myself too much on him.)

The hope of Zac's is that it will be a close representation of the early church, a model that isn't much in evidence in some mainstream churches these days. Led not by expert teachers, theologians, lawyers, counsellors, but by the imperfect and flawed. So I'm going to hang onto that, that if Peter was good enough for Jesus there's hope for me. And when that little voice in my head gets louder and tells me I'm rubbish I'm going to try and quieten it with that thought.

And I see part of my role as being the one who comes up with stupid ideas that can be adapted, moulded and shaped by the others into something doable. But unlike Peter I must try to think first and act later.

Christmas fever

I've had a bit of a cold for the last few days. I don't often get ill so I make a meal of it when I do. But guess who also got ill? Yes, Husband, and, of course, he's worse than I am. So I haven't even been able to enjoy a few days of feeling sorry for myself and being looked after.

Anyway I don't have time to be ill. Although I may have Christmas fever: I went into town this afternoon just because I had to go shopping and buy stuff. It didn't matter what. Yes, I've reached that stage. Oh but I have saucepan envy. Is it natural to go into debenhams and drool over saucepans?

Daughter has some lovely pans but I keep telling myself I don't need new saucepans; the ones I have are adequate. They're just not beautiful.

I did use the being ill card as an excuse to sit down and watch Julie and Julia (I've only had it for a year). What a delightful film! And I'm currently reading The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. I have to say that the idea is becoming increasingly attractive. 

George isn't ill but did emerge from some bushes with blood splattered over his nose. We couldn't see any obvious damage so he probably scratched it on a bramble or was bitten by an angry hedgehog trying to sleep.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas wrapping

I left Husband to wrap some Christmas presents while I baked. Don't worry, that's not as foolish as it sounds: I wrote the labels and placed each one on the right gift, gave him the paper, scissors and sellotape and left him to it.

That is, I gave him all the labels except two. But - and I was impressed - he used his initiative and put those presents in gift bags. And it would have been even more impressive if one of the bags hadn't had a label stuck to the outside saying, 'To Liz from uncle John.'

We have a day trip planned for tomorrow: to Derby, a nice 8 hour or so round journey, to see the sisters-in-law. I know I won't be able to compete in fashion style or wrapping But I'm not going to worry. Too much.

Women in uniform

Final rehearsal this morning with 'my boys' in prison before next week's carol service. They were surprisingly well-behaved, read well and generally enthusiastic. I don't usually feel this confident the week before; I hope that isn't a bad sign.

My performers include five Scousers (Liverpudlians), two Irish and one non-reader. It'll be all right on the night even though one of them was worryingly over-excited at the thought of the females in the Salvation Army Songsters. Maybe it was the thought of women in uniform that got him going. I hope they don't flash too much leg ...

'Tis the season

Linden staff Christmas lunch yesterday. Began with a cold walk in glorious sunshine over Cefn Bryn (meaning Hill Hill) to Arthur's Stone (either a stone thrown by Arthur that magically grew or an ancient burial tomb) followed by lunch in the King Arthur pub. Food eaten, cards played and a jolly time had by all in front of a sometime roaring fire.

Secret Santa was very kind to me with this fab engraved spoon. 

In case you can't read it, it says, 'Everything stops for tea.' All presents had to be ethical or recycled or fairtrade or sustainable - you get the idea. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The most unusual decoration

Down in Devon last week where Daughter had volunteered to decorate the parent & toddlers group tree for the annual village tree competition.

The event is held in the local St. Mary's Church, a listed building dating back to the 15th century. 

Daughter prepared salt dough and the children painted and glittered them, as well as painting hand-prints. I thought the parent & toddler tree was the best of all - but GrandDaughter preferred the sweet tree.

But this must be the most unusual when it comes to decorations: it's not often you see ambulances, ear droppers and syringes on a tree. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Oh poops!

'Eeeww! Eeewww! Icky, icky!'
'For goodness sake,' Husband said. 'You've changed hundreds of nappies.'
'That's different. It's one thing being up to your elbows in baby poo; this is quite another.'

(See last but one post for context.)

* * * * * * * * 
I was rather proud of myself this afternoon.

I went shopping in the village and passed and exchanged smiles with a man I was in school with. Why was I proud? Because I dreamed last night about a school reunion and I resisted the urge to grab him by the arm and say, 'I dreamt about you last night!'

I was very tempted though.

* * * * * * * * 
It is one of the hardest things in the world to be a Wales rugby fan. I don't believe any other team puts its supporters through the extreme highs and lows that Wales does.

I won't go into details because I know most people aren't rugby fans and don't care - and if you are you will know the details - but we were winning against Australia last Saturday until literally the last minute when an Australian broke free and belted down the field to score a try and give Australia the victory.

I am only surprised that the will of Welsh fans throughout the country and the power of their screamed 'Nooooooooooos' combined didn't make him fall over before he reached the line.

Which means in the 2015 World Cup (yes, 2015) Wales have to play both Australia and England to get through the preliminary round. Could have been worse. But not much.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Happy birthday, Husband!

It was Husband's birthday yesterday: belated happy birthday, Husband!

On Thursday evening we went to Slice for a meal. Whenever we'd tried to go there before it had always been closed or full and, indeed, it was full on Friday and Saturday, hence the early birthday treat. But it was worth waiting for. A delicious meal (I had pheasant boudin followed by steamed brill on a bed of cockle and laverbread risotto) and great friendly service. They even decorated the tarte tatin plate. 

Then last night I cooked for him. We began with pan-fried scallops.

Followed by Beef Wellington (Husband's request).
Finished off with mini cheescake.
My timing, as ever, was a bit off but even I can't fault my presentation - well, I could but I won't.

And, of course  what made the day just perfect for him was England's defeat of the mighty All Blacks - with a record-breaking score.

I'm not going to talk about the Wales versus Australia game except to say I've never come so close to crying at the end of a rugby match.