Saturday, 30 April 2011

STREET PARTY

Yesterday we had a street party.

In a small close which is prone to celebrate most things at the drop of a hat, this was a celebration extraordin aire! 

We had no less than 3 barbecues  in the middle of our sealed off road, tables and chairs from the community centre a hundred yards away.  For those who wanted them there were burgers, hot-dogs, jacket potatoes bowls of salads barrels filled with cold water to cool all the drinks (soft and not so soft).

We had strings of bunting displaying  both the Union Jack and Kate and William's faces.  Red, white and blue balloons, you name it we had it.

We started getting things ready at about 2.30 pm and it gathered momentum from then onward.  Just as most of us started on the food there were rumbles of thunder, followed by lightening flashes and pretty soon a terrific downpour.  Several of us opened up our garages, rescued food from drowning and we all took shelter for the half-hour or so it lasted.

Oddly, it seemed to add to the general enjoyment and the noise (considerable) went up several decibels.
We had some fairly loud not-so-background music and the kids were really getting into their stride when the Mayor accompanied by a group of entertainers turned up.

Everything from face painting, balloon animals created on demand, a chimney sweep, a clown and best for me, a life-like large dog on a motorised scooter who 'talked' to the various groups of us milling around.

The Mayor was his usual friendly self and the whole visit lasted well over an hour, culminating in his cutting the Union Jack iced cake someone had made.

Many photographs were taken, yet to be viewed, and then some of the kids went off to the local park for a kick around while the adults settled around the "chimneys" which burned wood at an alarming rate while warming most of us brave enough to risk the sparks.

Wine, beer and good conversations went on and on and on until well after 11.00 pm.  Each of us disappearing into our respective houses for more 'layers' of warm clothes as it got darker and colder.

All in all one of our better get-togethers and one of the things which makes me really glad to live in this wonderfull close, full of lovely friendly people.

Thanks Kate and William and every blessing on you marriage.

One for the memory bank I think!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

CAT - A - TONIC ?

Tiredly lugging heavy shopping from the taxi (how I wish I could drive), this morning, my attention was distracted by shrieking blackbirds.  Underneath the now nearly empty feeder in the front garden sat Fred my neighbour's large, one-eyed black cat.

Now Fred  is a threat to no living creature being lazy, placid, mono-visioned and so well-fed he resembles nothing so much as a large furry black cushion, so I ignored the yelling birds and went in to unpack my shopping.

When I next looked out the front there sat, sprawled, lay a near-comatose Fred in much the same place as before.  As I proceeded to refill the bird feeder, he made no movement but turned his one large beautifull emerald eye on me beseechingly "please feed me, no-one has given me food for days" said the eye.
Since I know that not only is he fed, virtually on demand, by his owners and that he has at least three other port-of-call on his daily stroll I simply muttered a "no chance" and went in and shut the door.  Only to re-emerge two minutes later with a handfull of biscuits.

It is possible I may have previously mentioned that I was born with the word "sucker" printed on my forehead. something I do my level best to live up to daily.  At least, where cats are concerned.

All they have to do is give me that 'cat' look - you know the one - half amused - half contemptuous, and I'm hooked.

Since, by and large cats live only by their own rules, sneer at and patently despise those who worship at their furry shrines, no-one could claim they are by nature immediately loveable, and yet.......if their beautifull sinuous slinky bodies, 'talking' tails and compellingly lovely eyes are turned on me, and millions like me, our reaction is instant obedience to their wishes.

There is for we afficionados one major benefit, an apparently well-documented lifting of depression and improvement in emotional well-being from our contact - I won't call it ownership - of these fascinating infuriating creatures.

As I write, I have no current cat companion but am quite likely to be adopted soon.

Penny, if you read this, please note, I count cats as one of life's blessings, or, as Pollyanna would have said, something to be glad about.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Burnout

This has been for me a wonderful Easter.  Full of new experiences and discoveries.

Maundy Thurday was the most poignant and really penetratingly moving service I have ever been involved in. Even given that being in the choir means some parts of every service lose their personal touch because of the need to be 'busy'.  The silent  vigil in the Lady Chapel with its wonderful flowers and lit only by candles was the first (and possibly the only) time in my life when I have actually felt a 'presence'.  The feeling will haunt me and stay with me for ever.

Good Friday was a memorable service, with all the touches one would expect, but did not move me in any way.

Saturday, by contrast, was a lovely, long, baptisms and confirmations included service, with the Bishop in fine fettle.

Today, the celebration of the risen Christ also included three baptisms, with our (mildy insane) curate prancing about turning it into a true festival of light.  The choir - almost on its knees from exhaustion - was glad of a little light relief, and the easter egg hunt in the churchyard was its usual 'scramble fest'.

My personal journey to this place has been a long one, but oh so very worth the effort.

Also, today I get to eat some dark chocolate for the first time since Shrove Tuesday,  oddly, not such a thrill as usual.  Perhaps the long abstinence has worked a minor miracle.

Time for feet up and eyes closed I think!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Colour it Purple

Memories, particularly those which are painfull, for me appear in colour.

No I don't mean I see pictures in a coloured bubble, but, depending on the nature of the reflection it assumes a 'tone'.  Maybe pink (rare), yellow (even more rare), green, grey, or purple.

Yesterday in mid-day communion an often repeated prayer suddenly took on new meaning for me.  It was in the intercessionary prayers where those people who have recently lost someone or whose "anniversay" falls at about this time.

It occurred to me that for me, at least, anniversaries are not about specific dates, marriage, birthday, death, but more events in daily life, the first time we did so and so, went to such and such a place.  Revisiting somewhere which had made a big impact for some reason.  A piece of music.  Even a tree peony blooming for the first time, the year after my husband's death.  He never saw it bloom.  Huge purple memory.

No two people think, remember, reflect on things in precisely the same way, but the number of times I have seen people, male and female alike, in and around the church with unexplained tears for no apparent reason convinces me that memories can be triggered by almost anything.

This in a way folows on from the last blog I posted, where I mentioned that procedures intended to be therapeutic and healing can in fact produce the opposite effect.

If your day is a grey one, it is perhaps not because you are in a 'bad' mood, but may in fact be because some small sound, sight, comment, have awakend thoughts which are still only half recognized.  If you smile a small private smile at something you have remembered which caused pleasure at the time, it really is not because you need locking up, but just that memories can turn your day pink.

On the other hand, if like me, you are a glass-half-empty type the prevailing shade in your daily spectrum is likely to be purple.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Meditation - Heal or Harm?

I had a brief few words with a priest friend this morning about the emotive side of religious experience.  It seems we share a view of the best way to approach some of the most important "ceremonial" services in the Anglican liturgy.

Always a rather too emotional woman in many ways, I have found it best on most private and personal occasions where an issue at stake risks being swamped by emotion, to stand back if possible, and delay a reaction until such time as reason can be brought to bear on the subject.

Having decided to take part in the lenten meditation events each monday in St. M's I have found it overall a means of calming my chaotic thoughts and slowing down my more impulsive reactions to stressfull or controversial issues.

Meditation it seems has very different meanings to individual exponents of the process.  Some like to sit in silence for most of the time.  Some introduce a piece of scripture and reiterate parts of it until it imparts an almost hypnotic state in the participants.  Some play music, or show films, each having an individual approach which either chimes with one's own attitude or occasionally causes consternation.

Today, already in a fairly sombre mood from my earlier discussion about Holy Week and Maundy Thursday in particular, I found my thoughts so melancholy that the really rather lovely presentation of scripture, music and silence resulted in tears.

I never cry  in public if it can be avoided and rushed back to the quiet of the parish office (the church was particularly quiet today) had a brief howl, blew my nose and headed for the great outdoors.

Standing waiting for my bus I once again found tears threatening, and , desperate to avoid them, I started a conversation with a woman in front of me.  She, clearly in need of someone to offload onto poured out a tale of domestic woe, enough to make a hardened 'counsellor) cry.  So all in all, I was quite glad to get home and  take my depression out on a bit of polishing.

Sometimes I wonder whether navel contemplation is the best way to go for someone who has a somewhat mercurial temperament.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

God's in his heaven

So while he is minding the shop who is looking after my birds?
Every morning I put out a variety of seed and other feed-stuffs for the garden birds.  They are busy (it is the breeding season) and need to get at food easily and without having to work too hard for it, if their young are to flourish.

This morning I noticed the container for fat balls was empty so headed for the shed to get some more.  There was a terrific racket and all (but one) of the birds feeding on the ground took off in a cloud.  The unfortunate one, a female blackbird, was clutched tightly in the jaws of "Hercules" a neighbour's massive murderous tom.

Since I had nothing to throw at hand I quickly attached the hose (left lying below the outside tap) and turned a jet on said miscreant.  As the jet hit him ...........no, he didn't drop the poor bird, he merely bit into it's neck sneered at me and trotted slowly off to munch the poor little victim.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I know nature 'red in tooth and claw' operates in all sectors of animal - and some human - life, but if I can, I will do anything in my power to prevent predators from winning within my reach.  After all, this is a well (very well) fed pet who needs birds as a snack like I need running shoes, so I feel no guilt whatever in trying my best to deter the little stinker from his murderous assaults.

My next-door neighbour whose garden has been turned into a charnel house for feathered victims, hates him with a passion, but is never quick enough to stop him in his tracks.  She informs me that he averages about five birds a day.

Much as I love cats, this is, in my opinion totally over-the-top and when I do occasionally manage to drown him so he drops his prey I feel quite elated as it flies off.

I just hope my guardian angel doesn't fly by any time Hercules is about, the feathers would be such a temptation.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Nature or Nurture?

This morning having a lovely long chat on the phone to one of my brothers, I happened on the subject of the forthcoming AV vote.  I asked him if he had been giving it some thought, like me, he had, and we had both come to exactly the same conclusion. (No, I'm not about  to start a political discussion here so our decision/s will remain private).  What was interesting was that our thought processes had taken us by the same route to the same conclusion.

We - all three of my brothers and I - were brought up in exactly the same way, with exactly the same rules and life-style directions, yet in most things in life we have all gone in quite seperate directions, made completely different sets of rules and behaviours for our own lives and in some ways are almost total opposites.

Our tastes in music, theatre, literature, comedy are all quite different, while my turning to Christianity has caused considerable surprise to say the least, though, no condemnation, much too democratic for that.

Yet, when it comes to things political it seems we think as one.

My late husband and I were complete opposites politically but managed to avoid any really acrimoneous discussion, agreeing to disagree about most things.  He was brought up a Wesleyan but never in the 38 years we were married went to church, except for weddings, funerals etc (his family, not mine).  He would  have  been amused and amazed that his "Welsh heathen", had done an about face on such a fundamental issue.

We, John and I, and my brothers and I always managed to tolerate each other's views even when they were utterly different from each other., yet it is only now, so late in life that I have started wondering how much we do actually think for ourselves and how much is pre-conditioning.

No doubt some day there will be a serious study of this strange state of affairs.  Meanwhile I'm putting my money on nature.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Blogger Thief

Just a brief plea to anyone who may know what to do about this.  My 'followers' of whom there were 18 yesterday,  have all vanished from my blog.
As a very inexperienced web user I haven't a clue why this might have happened.  Any help would be most welcome.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

SQUEAMISH MOI ?

I've just watched a particularly gory episode of the excellent Holby City.  Now when I say excellent I'm not referring to the amount of mangled and bloody flesh to which we are routinely treated.  The storylines are usually believable and the acting good, sometimes brilliant, (even though we are now minus the lovely Robert Powell - but that's another story).  So for me, this usually offers an hour of mostly enjoyable viewing.

Tonight was exceptionally gory and having to turn my head away every two minutes doesn't add much of value to the proceedings.  Every now and then I try to overcome my aversion to gore and force myself to watch only to find myself on the verge of vomitting.

This is not as bad as when I was in school when I used to faint in biology lessons.  If anyone was unwise enough to even mention cuts, flesh wounds or veins (particularly veins) they would have an unconcious teenager to cope with.

Inevitably life has thrown a few encounters with injury illness and accident my way and until I took a first-aid course in the mid 1970s I always tried to side-step too close an acquaintance with them.  Soon after passing my first-aid test - only a matter of weeks - I was unfortunate (with my husband) to be the first person on the scene when a car went off the road in front of us, over-turned and jumped a hedge into a field.

It was a four-seater car with 6 passengers, four of whom were injured - one badly - and that experience stood me in good stead for the following 10 years when I was often the only first-aider in the 8 floor building in which i worked.  I found if I simply tackled the injury without thinking about it for even a second, I could deal with most things, though afterwards I would often sit and shake for half an hour or so.

The most awful thing for me is for someone to throw up while being treated.  This almost always results in copy-cat nausea on my part.  At least I no longer faint, or at least, only when I am in pain myself.

Funny how some people  don't turn a hair at even the most horrendous sight, while we wimps can't even watch simulated gore on a TV screen.

Thank heaven God made us all just that bit different from each other.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Deluged by Appeals

Like (I suspect) most people these days, half the mail I receive consists of appeals from a host of charities. 

It is no exaggeration to say I average around 10 a week.  By no means all of these are charities I have chosen to donate to on past occasions, so I assume my address is passed on (probably with the word "Sucker" underlined in red on the list.)

It irritates me, occasionally elicits a response, and even more rarely is added to those to whom I pay a small amount each month by direct debit.

But, and it is a big but, there is one thing absolutely guaranteed to send me into orbit, hissing and spitting, and that is the appeal which arrives in a suspiciously bulky package presaging the inclusion of some tatty, totally unwanted 'free' gift.

Just as there is no such thing a a free lunch, so is there no such thing as a free gift.  "A spratt to catch a mackerel" is the phrase which springs to mind.

Today, a particularly huge envelope included a shopping bag with 'cute' animals on the front.  It is the sort of bag I would never  be seen with in a million years but that is not my objection.  It is quite strong and well-made w hich indicates it would have cost something to produce - a something which in my opinion would be better used to care for the animals they claim to be trying to protect.

Don't missunderstand me, this is a reputable charity with a good record in animal care and welfare but in my opinion this method of "blackmailing" soft-hearted people into paying what often they cannot really afford is  completely unethical.

I have blogged on this subject before but will just confirm that this particular charity will never again receive a penny from me - yes I will be writing to them AGAIN - and as before, the 'free' gift will go to another charity containing really free gifts.

Is it just me?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Nose Dive

Honestly.  I was just standing there in brilliant sunshine on this very warm evening waiting for the bus to take me to choir practice.

I should mention that the bus-stop is somewhat aromatic, in fact it pongs.  I dread to think what purposes it may be used for in the long dark evenings, but they leave their mark, whoever 'they' are.

It became obvious that I was not the only creature drawn to the area and quite a few flies were in evidence.

Afraid of missing the bus I had arrived five minutes early, and spent most of that time trying to find a shaded corner with fewer insects.

Suddenly without so much as a by-your-leave one flew  up my nose.

I sneezed violently then blew and blew my poor violated nose as hard as I could (did I mention there were two other people at the bus-stop?) and, eyes watering, tried to explain what had happened.

They were laughing so hard they didn't hear a word of my feeble explanation and then thank heaven, the bus arrived.  The driver and I have become good friends over the last twelve months and I told him what had happened expecting a sympathetic response.  Not a bit of it, he laughed even louder than the other two passengers - most of the way into town in fact - and red-faced, cross and with a sore throat I turned up for a really busy rehearsal hating buses, bus-stops and most of all flies.

I just hope it died horribly.  Serves it right!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

What's In a Name?

I heard a mother yelling at her daughter who was running ahead getting dangerously near the kerbside of a busy A41 this morning.  "Get here Sian" she yelled.
Apart from the "Get" as opposed to come here, it suddenly struck me how many little girls, less so with boys, I think, are given the 'name of the moment', rather than one chosen for other reasons.
Since names appear to have a fashion rating all their own, it will surely make it easier to discover the age of a child by the popularity of their given name in a particular year than by simply asking.
In my many years in public service much documentation passed through my hands, containing personal data about many thousands of people and the odd names donated by thoughtless or uncaring parents often seemed to me a way of marking their children for life.
I have lost count of the Glorias, Dawns, Graces and similar optimistic names given to unlikely small infants, along with the names (titles) given to children of other ethnic origins : Blossom, Beauty and Princess, being but a few.
My own parents (the excuse being that they were Welsh), did me no favour when choosing my name.
I have spent and still do spend, half my life explaining that Ray is not abbreviated, it is all there is.  Every hospital, government dept, local authority to name but a few, either list me as Mr Ray Barnes or query my name every time I fill in a form.
For years going to the polling booth to vote with my husband was a nightmare and I even considered changing my name by deed poll at one stage.
When exasperated to the point of spontaneous combustion, I asked my mother why, on earth, she had chosen such a name for her first-born, the reply was a slightly puzzled "we were so delighted to have a daughter we thought 'ray of sunshine' "!!
I replied, somewhat testily that one of my less pleasant nicknames at school had been "Death-Ray", which caused much amusement to my parents - not, to me.
Perhaps, since some forms of Christianity do not believe in Baptism for children, but only for those old enough to choose, something similar might be organised for naming children.  Perhaps a temporary name given until at a certain age the child could choose its own name.  Or how about a number?
Seriously, if you give a child a name which aims too high, or which later becomes risible you are doing them a serious injustice.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothering Sunday

Today's All Age Service included the baptism of three children.  The church was unusually full, baptisms and Mothering Sunday had produced an even bigger congregation than usual.
It was a lovely service and was to be followed by a coffee/tea and cake celebration.  Not something i would normally stay for but I had half decided to do so when the children came round and handed out sprays of daffodils to all those they perceived to be 'mothers'.
This was something I had not forseen and I asked the boy who handed some to me to give them to someone else.
He put them instead by the end of the choir stall so I had no alternative but to accept them.
This was not intended as a slight on my part it was instinctive and is the same impulse which makes me shrink when someone I have never met before makes the assumption that I have children.
Having changed out of my robes I handed the flowers to another member of the choir and fled, close to tears out of the church and round to my taxi.
Not every woman has children.  Some never want children, others want them but their partners/husbands do not, and yet others are  unable to have them.  The number of women without children is considerable, yet still the assumption is that all women must be mothers.
I have never at any time in my long life felt more of an alien than at that moment and have never shed tears previously for such an apparently meaningless and purely habit/ritual offering, indeed, I would never if asked, have considered it to be anything other than just another date in the calender with no relevance for me.
My own mother was a wonderful woman, endlessly patient and tolerant of even the worst excesses of behaviour of her children, particularly her intransigent - always - out - of - step daughter.
Despite losing her sight for the last 25 years of her life, having a pace-maker to keep her heart going, and at the end of her life having lost almost all of her hearing too.  She was good-humoured, broad-minded (incredibly so for a woman born in 1905), witty, quiet, self-effacing, and though not a Christian, a thoroughly good woman.
When she broke her hip in the last year of her life, she was no longer strong enough to return home and died in hospital in Eastbourne on Christmas Eve 2008.  She was 103, she was my best friend.  She was my mother and I loved  her and miss her.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Using God's Gifts.

This evening's choir rehearsal was exhausting in the extreme.  We have a huge amount of music to learn for Easter and have only Friday evenings to practice.  Additionally there is the music for the next Sunday to run through.
To my tired ears, it sounded pretty good but I may be proved wrong.
When I think that it had been 24 years since I last sang, it seems impossible that I've managed to reestablish some of the old quality though these days there is a lot less power than previously.
When my lovely friendly neighbours encourage me saying how far I've come since John died I always feel they are 'stroking my ego' and tend to take it with a hefty pinch of salt, but even I have to admit I never expected to sing again at all, never mind every week and at Easter 4 days in succession. 
This is a parish church not an opera house or concert hall, but the amount of work needed is just as great and considering we are a fairly motley crew the standard is surprisiongly high.
The neighbour I blogged about a few days ago, whose daughter was baptised, had not been to church for quite a time and was surprised by the friendliness of the congregation, while the little girl was transfixed by the singing.  Theirs was an Ecumenical Church and the music was rather different from that at St. M's but the
little girl loved it, joined in enthusiastically and is now insisting on going to the All Ages service.
With no previous intention of becoming a regular church-goer again her mother and father have now agreed to attend the family service for their daughter's sake.
God moves in mysterious ways.