Thursday, 31 March 2011

SEMANTICS

Two whole thoughts in one day.  Who'd have believed it?

On Wednesday evening the Lent lecture by the excellent Rev'd Hugh Wybrew former Dean of Jerusalem, ended with questions being asked and ably fielded by said Rev.

One question was "what is the difference between meditation and contemplation, which in turn led to a friend commenting on the difference between other seemingly identical words ( or rather words whose meaning appeared to be identical)

These, as well as the original meditation and contemplation were, belief and faith, and absolution and forgiveness.

We each had opinions which differed and on arrival back home I dug out a couple of dictionaries and  found them to be virtually useless in terms of differentiation.

Would anyone like to have a shot at any or all three apparent pairs of words.

Go on, you know you want to.

Love Unrequited - Agony or Ecstasy

I have had elements of this post in mind for a while but wasn't sure how to 'meld' its component parts into a comprehensive whole.
Something I read this morning about a study of the effects of rejection and unrequited love on the brain gave me the necessary impetus.
The study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Michigan has shown that the reaction by certain receptors in the brain to physical pain is identical to that of those suffering the  'pain' of rejection, emotional hurt because of break-down in a relationship or the suffering caused by unrequited love.
Love, of whatever kind, be it spiritual, sibling, parent to child, child to parent, marital or other is largely based on mutual trust, and it is where that trust is, or is perceived to be betrayed, that serious hurt can be the result.
Sometimes if the love felt by one is not reciprocated and the emotion only a short-lived one, it is possible to paper over the cracks in the afflicted heart, whereas if it is a long-lasting and on-going fixation or obsession
of which the object of the devotion is unaware, the pain felt is such that it can result in severe depression, complete mental break-down, or even suicide.
The love of God for us all is, we are taught, everlasting, all-forgiving and inclusive, it is in believing this and accepting that it is so that even those most severely afflicted  may find peace.
I think it was Hamlet who said "men have died, and worms have eaten them but not for love"

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Sharing and Shattering The Peace

This morning after a less than usually busy morning in St. M's I went into Communion (12.00 - 12.30 on Tues) and enjoyed the usual uplift in spirit I experience when taking the Sacrament.  The Peace, where we exchange hand-shakes with the others in the congregation is a friendly and heart-warming part of this.

Oddly, I always experience a feeling of well-being on taking so many hands and the aftermath is a calmer
attitude for a while.

Today, it was particularly good to get out of the house and off to St. M's for the morning as new guttering. fascia, pipes  etc are being fitted, and having left scaffolding being put in place (not I hope in the middle of my best shrubs), a peaceful morning was very welcome.

Returning home, I was met by the nerve-shattering racket of wood  beeing sawn by an industrial-size monster sitting in the middle of the drive.  As I gingerly picked my way over lengths of pipe, wood and plastic I felt like a fairly inexperienced tight-rope walker. 

Having made tea for the boys who were doing the work, I took myself out of harm's way and sat down to read my mail.  Clattering and crashing from front of house, quick check to make sure no fatal accident had occurred, and I went instead, upstairs to sit at the computer.  Lo and behold, they have finished the front and are now creating a racket out the back.  Deep joy!

By now, all the nice relaxed sense of peace has long departed, nerves are jangling, hairs on back of neck are standing on end.  What to do?  Can't really get de-scruffied and go out again, don't want to anyway.  Can't garden - no access.  Can't bear day-time TV (nor much evening TV) if truth be told.  Too noisy to read.

I know, I'll ignore the mayhem and sit and compose a deeply-meaningful blog.
Yeah well, nice idea!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Make Do And Mend

During the second world war when virtually nothing was available to buy even if you had money, notices were everywhere, exhorting us to Make do and mend. 
Following this advice was by no means easy, depending on what it was that was in need of replacing.  Some people were 'handier' than others.  Some repairs needed only the most basic skills to achieve a near-new effect.
There were local dressmakers who could turn worn seams into almost as  good as new looking finishes. It was common for women to remove and turn their men-folk's shirt collars, giving the shirts a new lease of life. My maternal grandfather used to repair our shoes when we went to Wales for our annual holiday. 
My father made bread, cakes and really first-rate pastry, grew his own vegetables and some fruit but was not a particularly 'handy' man.
Almost nothing was thrown away and if it really was no longer of use for its original purpose could often be adapted in some way and given fresh life.
Toward the end of the war, when nylon stockings first became available, women would wear gloves to put their precious stockings on for fear of laddering them, but, if they did ladder, there were repair shops, usually tiny little box-like premises, where a brilliant needle-woman would sit in the window (for maximum light) and laboriously "invisibly" mend them.
The reason this came to mind was the difference in today's attitude to possessions, particularly childrens' toys scooters, bikes etc. which are either given away when no longer wanted, usually to be replaced by a bigger, newer model, or put out for collection by the 'bin men'.
Although I was a small child during the war, and at school into the early fifties, consumer goods were no easier to come by until I was in my twenties, and by then, the habit of repairing, altering, adapting things was so deeply ingrained that I now feel an almost physical pang when I see something, which looks in good condition casually discarded.
There were of course, people who were financially better off, who were able to buy new things when they wanted, but they were the exception, not the norm, and even they could not buy what simply did not exist.
Rationing and shortages of materials hit everyone, regardless of financial status.
We are now being encouraged to recycle as much as possible for environmental reasons, easier I think, for some of us than others.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Midnight When All Good Folk Should Be Abed

Which of course explains why I am not!

Just when I thought insomnia had packed its bags for a while, it proved me wrong.  Nothing unusual in being awake when most people are not, simply a bit of a bore.

Today I vacuumed the house, did a great load of washing, some paper-work, gardened for an hour and this evening went to St. M's for the 3rd Lent talk.  This time on the St. James Bible, Bishop Alan Wilson, and very good he was too.

Not then a totally idle day, yet the overwhelming tiredness which overcomes me at times during the day never seems to result in sleeping well that night.

If this were the age in which I grew up, rather than this other one which somehow crept up on me, I would put a coat on and go for a walk.  Not a thing I would consider for a single second in this day and age.

Sadly it is a sign of the times that I never go out at night any more.  Strange how ones horizons shrink as anno domini looms large.  Odd too, that while I might just consider a short very local walk at night in mid-summer no such thing would enter my head at this time of year.

I can remember as a child, lying in bed on a late warm summer evening, windows wide open, listening to the conversations of passers-by.  Something never experienced in the past 40 or more years.  People don't walk any more it seems.

If my three brothers and I were all awake we would talk across the landing (our doors were always open) in loud 'stage' whispers untill "shut up and go to sleep, or I'll be up there in a minute" would be the parental 'voice of doom' from downstairs.

This usually resulted in a few more whispers and giggles which gradually gave way to silence, as one by one we were overcome by sleep.

Blissfull days.  I wish the secret of easy sleep had stayed on my radar,but somehow it seems to have slipped off.

It would, I'm sure, be possible to obtain sleeping-pills if I were desperate enough, but that's not a route I would choose,  Counting sheep results in my trying to work out what breeds they are, while counting backward makes me so tense the hope of sleep vanishes for good.

Any usefull suggestions would be welcome.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Variations on a Theme

This Sunday was different. 

First, the usual choir run-through at 9.30 then the Sung Eucharist at 10.00.  A longish service today so instead of my usual easy walk round to the taxi-rank, it was necessary to run.

At home 15 minutes later, quick glass of fruit juice, swift sideways glance in mirror then off with my friends from across the road to another church, this time an Ecumenical one, where their 3 year old daughter was to be baptised.

It was for me a very different sort of service,  the words to the hymns were displayed on a screen and the actual Baptism was very brief with the Minister wetting the hair of an extremely reluctant little girl only twice she would not countenance a third attempt.

Apparently she had somehow got hold of the idea that he was washing her hair, which she had insisted on washing herself the night before, having been warned what to expect.  How do you explain to a 3-year old the concept of washing away sin and rebirth in Jesus?

The poor Minister tried every tactic imaginable to engage with her quite ferocious intelligence, but she wasn't having any.  Needless to say, as soon as it was all over, she became her usual sweet, funny precocious self but I feel the clergy in that church will not remember her with great fondness.

She is a dear little girl and often quite hysterically funny (unintentially of course), with a vocabulary more fitting in a fairly sober middle-aged woman.  Now that she is baptised I fear for future conversations with her unenlightened peers.

We went back to a splendid lunch in the local community centre.  Her paternal grandparents run a catering business and had really gone to some trouble to mark the occasion.

All-in-all, quite a different day, and a very nice one too.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Raindrops KEEP Falling on my Head

Time to air yet another peculiarity.  Yes I know there are some things which should not be shared with anyone but those closest but I have to let this one out of the bag.

Take a deep breath folks,  I have an aversion, almost a phobia, about getting wet.

There,I've said it.  Sorry to disappoint you , you can turn off now.

Ever since childhood I have done everything in my power to avoid getting wet.  (Yes I do take the odd shower) but have always detested rain.

My mother who was something of a stoic used to laugh at my lamentable excuses for not turning up for anything which involved getting wet.  Umbrellas, wellies made absolutely no difference whatever and if it was in any way possible to duck (pun intended) out of even a long-standing arrangement, I would do so.

If as inevitably happened sometimes, I got caught by 'the enemy' my mood for the whole of that day was to say the least, grim.  No attempt to talk me out of it, laugh at me, make me laugh at myself could ever make me feel other than severely 'put upon'.

Today, being a fairly lazy day, I had decided to go into town, there'll be a fine on my library books otherwise, and I need one or two odds and ends which I can only obtain in town, but, as this will involve a walk round to the bus-stop (all of quarter of a mile) and since it is now RAINING I've decided to wait an hour or so to see if it improves.

It is not very wet, neither is it cold, but there is that stuff which the met office calls precipitation, and I aint going out in it.

Does anyone know of a prayer, spell, charm or anything at all which might make it go away?

Please, not "rain rain go away, come again another day"  for some reason it doesn't work!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Misanthropy

My most recent post was brief, miserable and distinctly hostile in tone.  For the latter, I apologise.

Having said that, the fact remains that Birthdays with a capital B are really not for me.  Not that it is possible to avoid/evade them, but simply that they do not rank high on my list of 'occasions'.

Trying to work out just why that is has brought me back full circle to where I started.

It is not that I fear ageing, to do so would be totally pointless.  We all, if we are lucky, age. 

It is not that getting older is a cause for regret, except in as much as, given my time again i would do things differently, that is if I also had the gift of 20/20 vision and could make a whole fresh pile of errors, messes, and occasional right decisions.

No, it seems to me, that those who do "over-the-top" celebrations of what is unavoidable, inevitable and a non-event in itself, have the feeling that if the day is not marked by something spectacular, they will become in some way invisible.

My evening out with the girls (not my idea), was very enjoyable, but in the same pub there was a table of a dozen or so very loud birthday celebrants, all seemingly intent on outdoing each other in terms of decibel levels and generally fairly rowdy behaviour.  Oddly enough, what was not clear, was whose birthday it actually was.

So, are birthdays for the celebrant or just an excuse/reason for a 'party'?

Nothing wrong with that but why make the fact that someone is one year further down the 'slippery slope' the cause of such OTT rejoicing?

Can someone, anyone, explain what for me is a total mystery?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

HAPPY ? Birthday

Today, as the title perhaps suggests, is my birthday.
Since it is also the Lent Course of talks in St M's, my official 'celebration', had to be yesterday.  "The Girls" and I went to a local pub for a meal, drinks, get-together and we all enjoyed it, (even the walk there and back).
That said, today is a damp squib.  I really don't know how or why we are supposed to enjoy being one official year older but somehow I fail to 'get' it.
Yes I know I'm a miserable so-and-so, but celebrating birthdays seems a  weird concept to me.  From a family where no great fuss was ever made of such occasions, and having been married for 38 years to a man who was supremely indifferent to any type of anniversary, this has reinforced my own lack of enthusiasm for a fuss being made of an inevitable event.
Funnily enough, I thoroughly enjoy other people's ways of marking these happenings in their lives and though never a "party animal" have been known to let my hair down quite dramatically on occasion.  So why this reluctance on my own behalf.?
If anyone has any idea, or even fancies their chances at a spot of psychiatry feel free!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Relevance of Sermons

In the 12 months since I became a Baptised and Confirmed Christian I have sat through 50 or so sermons, of varying length, interest and content.  Some have been fairly 'bog-standard', some wildly 'off the wall', some really well assembled and delivered, and one or two so good and so totally relevant (to me at least) that I have been sufficiently moved to mutter a gruff "good sermon" on my departure.
This may seem to be "damning with faint praise" but as a not very well-informed parishioner, with a not very easy social manner, any comment from me means more than from the average, relaxed, happy and well-versed in church language.
Today we were treated to an (apparently off-the-cuff) reaction to the terrible situation in Japan and the oft-repeated "why does God let these things happen".  It was well reasoned and well presented and left me with yet another way of trying to apply logic and reason to events where no such 'human' concepts really work.
Through the last few days I've read dozens of blogs and comments on them on this subject, and talked to local contacts for their views, which with my own constantly changing views appear to have reached much the same conclusion.
Namely that:  a,  God is a God of love
                     b, God is not a God of revenge
                     c, Most natural disasters are in fact the result of man-made interference in the structure which
                         God created
                     d, God is not an interventionist, thus he does not react to 'mend' the problems we create
                                                       But
                     e, God is there in the middle of the misery chaos and fear, with a loving presence, holding us
                         up, comforting us, offering hope where none appears to exist.
May his love surround the survivors and all those trying to help them.
Last and least, my prayers are added to the millions of others in these dreadfull days.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Charisma

Trying to escape the TV coverage of the apalling Japanese tsunami this morning, I thought I would make one last attempt to re-format my pile of useless old home-recorded DVD's.

I have never been able to do this on previous attempts (for reasons which will be obvious to anyone who has read my blogs), but decided to try another approach.

Having succeeded in at least viewing what was recorded on one of the older discs - something I've never been able to do before - it seemed like a good idea to just let it run until the end, while I was elsewhere in the house.

Going through the sitting room on my way to the kitchen I was suddenly brought to attention  by a glimpse of a long-forgotten face.

It reminded me of the days when I was singing with the New Opera Chorus and later The London Philharmonic Choir, when I was lucky enough to work with some of the then world's greatest conductors.

These were very different in their approaches both to the music we were rehearsing and in the way they communicated with us.

Among many others, two have always stood out in my memory, one Sir Colin Davis, a lovely man, a real singers' conductor with great charm and humour and a clear understanding of what was required from us
and the other, the fabulous George Solti, fiercely intelligent, volatile immensely hard-working and also with a uniquely charismatic approach to his singers and orchestra.  One penetrating look from those magnificent brown eyes and a demonstration uncannily accurate of what he wanted from us, and with the "rabbit  in the headlights" effect, we would do just what Svengali had asked.

These two utterly different people were among the four or five truly charismatic people I have encountered in a lifetime, the others were not famous but were equally compelling.  Is this a gift from God, a carefully  acquired skill/talent/characteristic, or is there another explanation entirely?
I don't know, I only recognize that it's as rare as hen,s teeth, and a force to be reckoned with.

The disc has now run its course and I have successfully formatted it.  One down, 12 to go!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Giving Serendipity a Hand

There are things which happen to us in life.  Sometimes we appear to have had no  involvement in events, they just occur and we either benefit from them, suffer from them, or occasionally find our lives completely changed by events in which we have had no hand.
Some people regard this as coincidence, some believe we are always involved at some level in what happens in our lives.
Coincidence, happenstance, serendipity call it what you will, does it really exist?
Since Ash Wednesday is almost here, a time when many people, Christian or otherwise traditionally feel a need to give up something, refrain from a particular behaviour, reject an easy option or in some way make an alteration to our daily life which will mysteriously make us better people - even if only until Easter - or change the impact we have on others, it seems a good time to try this out.
I fully intend to give up dark chocolate, a particular addiction, but while this will benefit me to some extent it will make no difference to anyone else, so what to do additionally?
Since the death of my husband 18 months ago, I have tried all manner of new ways of coping with a very lonely existence and some of them have helped a little, but the deafening silence of an empty house is not easy to dispel and no amount of TV does more than make a temporary dent in the wall  of cotton wool in which I appear to live.
So, perhaps the answer is to  make Lent the time to change my way of life for good.
This is where the problem arises, waiting for a chance epiphany is likely to prove unproductive so what can I do which will change my life and that of the people I meet day-to-day?
Sadly, This is as far as I've got, but I'm working on it.  After all there are still 2 whole days yet!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Masochism Martyrdom Miscalculation

What, you may well ask, is her problem now? 

Answer, any or all of the above.

I've just spent an acutely uncomfortable 40 minutes (all I could stand) in the back garden, loppers in hand, pruning (euphemism for hacking) 3 of my six buddleias.  So what?  you ask, you should have done it a couple of weeks ago.  Well, I did make a start on the one good day so far this year but as it has poured ever since, it seemed too good a chance to miss when the sun shone brilliantly this morning.

Ha!  Sun!  What is it about this chilly neck of the woods that sends the tentatively peeping sunshine scuttling for cover whenever I sally forth?  The buddleias are all different varieties - and colours - and are really worth the effort but, this is a small garden and they grow at such a rate of knots that failure to cut them back by at least two thirds of their height early in the year, results in oak-sized shrubs by summer.
In addition I suffer from tree-pollen allergy and eczema and leaving it any later in the year would produce really nasty reactions, so, no alternative.

By the time I had cut 3 of the brutes down, and chopped up and bagged for recycling, the strong North Easterly had bitten into my soul (to say nothing of my extremities) and I fled the scene back aching, fingers sore eyes streaming and smug, oh so smug.

Are there any other candidates for martyrdom (or sectioning) out there, or am I alone in the universe?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Gadgets Gadgets Gadgets

There will be howls of protest from all the clever, nimble fingered (and brained) women for whom G...... hold no terror, but I maintain that love of the afore-mentioned is a man thing.

Have I mentioned that I am a total technophobe? funny, I felt sure I had.  Well, the inability to absorb new techniques is as nothing compared with my absolute fear, dread and loathing of G.......

Give me a garden in any state of repair, condition or neglect and in the right mood and on the right day I can transform it into a thing of beauty.  Give me a well-written song and I will make a reasonable stab at doing it vocal justice; some nuts, aubergines tomatoes and garlic and i will produce a meal that even a non-vegetarian will enjoy but, anything with instructions, buttons, knobs, wires and a need for batteries and I will produce nothing but a scream of rage.

Women (I maintain), are 'wired' differently from men.  They will often use logic to attempt to outwit the sanscrit instructions on the boxes in which the 'beasts' are hidden.  Sometimes they even manage to operate the weird instruments which are said to have been designed to make life easier!

My late husband, not really all that handy, was nevertheless a gadget man.  He always "needed" the most recent bit of technology, paid an inordinate amount for it, and then spent a week reading the instructions.
After which, he would put the 'bits' together, and hey presto it would work.  I would then say, "O K, now you can show me how it works".  He would sigh heavily and explain the necessary, and to his chagrin I would in 30 seconds be able to operate the gadget  he had taken  a week to learn. 

Strictly - monkey see, monkey do - I don't need long explanations, just someone to do all the  hard work!

Last week, a friend took me to Oxford, where we bought some music in Blackwells, then went to Boswells where she told me "they have just the gadget you need, a button-operated jar opener".  As I have arthritis in my thumbs and therefore very little grip, large jars in my house remain unopened for ever, so, gadget or not I agreed.  Bought said item, complete with batteries and took it home.

Next day, nervously read instructions, thought, hmm not too bad, looks pretty easy really.  Managed successfully to remove cap of battery chamber but was totally unable to put the batteries in and close the cap.

Today, one week later, a neighbour called in and succeeded in replacing the cap and watched me while I tried it out on a huge jar of pickled gherkins which has been in my cupboard for 18 months.
Voila! Now open.  What i'm going to do with a massive jar of gherkins remains to be seen, but I now have the means of opening virtually anything.
Simple when you know how isn't it?