Friday, 26 December 2014

Oh No, Not Baby Oleg, I Can't Bear It.

After all the wonderful (totally exhausting) music and services of the last few days it was a relief to get home after Christmas Morning's Eucharist and slump.

Zombie-like after the four hour's sleep between getting home after Midnight Mass and being back for the run-through before the service, I thought what a huge difference between the first couple of Christmases after John's death and this one.

Still totally alone,  but no longer lonely and while grateful for all that being a member of St' Mary's church and choir has meant to me, nevertheless the chance to opt out of the bustle and excitement of Christmas and just fall into a chair, feet up and do nothing at all for as long as I chose was a very welcome change.

Yesterday (and I am ashamed to admit again today) I watched one of my favourite feel-good films, the glorious Nanny McPhee.

I also watched "Carols from Kings" and "Puss in Boots" followed later by "Emmerdale" and "Downton".

In addition, as if that were not sufficiently depraved, I watched "Coronation Street", which is sponsored by the great, wonderful, appealing , totally addictive Meercats.

I am not ashamed to admit that I love the Meercats, in particular dear lovely tender-hearted old Sergei and sweet little baby Oleg.

To my horror settling to watch the latest episode in their absorbing African Adventure I  was grieved to see a heart-breaking farewell between the newly confident Oleg and his adopted 'parents'. Mr Alexander and Sergei.

Sergei's tear filled eyes were not the only ones.

Is there any hope for me out there, or have I finally bade farewell to my last half wit.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The power of music

The first time I attended midnight mass was in 2009, four months after my husband's death.

Not a church-goer, not a Christian, not even with the vaguely "C of E" background of most British  adults in the UK, I was despondent, lonely and with a hankering for I knew not what.

A caring lovely neighbour thought as a music-lover I might enjoy the experience of Midnight Mass and, since she was intending to go to our local church took me with her.

At a time when I would normally have been in bed, we left home and drove to town.

The church was beautifully decorated, candle-lit and amazingly full of people - no mean feat since it is a huge building.

There was an air of anticipation throughout the service.  The sermon was preached by the then rector wearing a reindeer hat with antlers on his head, the excellent choir sang every carol and hymn with which I had a nodding acquaintance (from school days), until they got to one I had never heard before.

Sung softly, and unaccompanied the unusual and haunting tune caught me and stayed with me for many weeks after the service.

I discovered it was called "Jesus Christ the apple tree", and made up my mind then and there that I would learn it, start to sing again (after a 24 year gap) and that I would join the choir of that church and one day sing the lovely carol.

Five years and six Christmases after that, we are finally to sing it in our Nine Lessons and Carols Service tomorrow evening.

,For the  past week I have been laid low with a horrible cold, sore throat and basso profundo croak, which is now beginning to loosen its grip, so tomorrow I will sing the lovely carol even if it kills me and deafens everyone else.

It is much too important an occasion to miss.

Christmas is about so many things, memories being one of the more important ones.

If I have done it right (unlikely), clicking on the picture at the top will give you the version of the carol sung by the St. John's College Cambridge choristers.

If it doesn't work you can get it on you tube.

Either way, listen, enjoy and have a very happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A Sad Day at St. Mary's

This morning we learned of the death last night of one of our oldest (in terms of service), members.

She had been in poor health for quite a while and had visibly deteriorated rapidly in the last couple of weeks, yet somehow, no-one had been prepared for this.

Always a controversial character, M had a very short fuse, a fairly sharp tongue, and a well honed critical faculty.

She had in her time clashed monumentally with many of us, not least yours truly, yet, there was an openness about her attacks which was refreshing and once she had had her say,normal service was resumed.

Additionally and much more importantly, she was the first to offer help, physical or financial when a sudden need arose.  Always to be found making something for a craft fair or bazaar.  The first to bring in a pile of quality items to be raffled (and only too ready to do the selling of the tickets for said items herself).

She had a very large house and garden with a heated swimming pool in its own building, both of which were constantly offered for church functions, or to raise money for her numerous charities.

If someone was taken ill she would run them home or to hospital, visit them and bring them home.

She collected jokes and always had a list of the best ready for every eventuality.

Tireless in her work for a number of groups and committees, she seldom used her failing health as a reason to duck out of a responsibility.

In short, she was a marvellously contradictory personality, and a hugely valued and well-loved pain in the posterior.

God rest your soul, Blessed thorn, and may you rise in Glory.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Knowing your place

This lovely snoozing image was my dear feral Sam.  The picture I wanted to use was of the current door-step feeder, the ginger monster.

For some reason, although I have his photo in my gallery, I cannot access it for the blog.

Yesterday was very cold and I had intended to give him his usual large handful of cat biscuits/kibbles or whatever they're called, but he decided to sit a few feet away from me and stare at me.

Slightly concerned since he is usually hungry I soon realised that he was not looking at me but at Hercules the other ginger cat belonging to a near neighbour.

Hercules was placidly washing his round furry face with a languid paw but with a glint in his mean green eyes which boded ill.

He is top-cat around this area and most of the other moggies treat him with respect.  Not so my ginger lad.

For some reason he had decided to brave it out and only a certain rigidity in his long spine gave a hint that he was not too comfortable.

Neither cat paid me any attention so I grabbed the box of biscuits and put a small handful in front of each of them, standing between them to attempt to ward off attacks.

Hercules sniffed, ate one or two of 'his' pile and strolled off round the corner without a glance at my friend.

Delighted, I added more biscuits to  his pile and said encouragingly "come on he's gone you're safe"
As he didn't move I touched the top of his head tentatively and said "eat your bickies".

He stood up.legs stiff and gave me 'the look'.  You know the one, it says "will you never learn your place woman, this is man's business", He then walked off in the same direction as Hercules.

How can a cat make me feel small?


Sunday, 30 November 2014

At ease in my own skin

The theme of this post is borrowed/stolen shamelessly from Jean Rolt of "Tregear Vean".

When the time finally arrives that you can be at ease in your own skin after a major trauma (illness, bereavement, shock of some kind) you may well not be happy.

I think the definition of happiness varies from person to person but one thing on which most people agree is that it is not a permanent state.

It is, rather, a brief fleeting sensation of pure joy, with no caveats.

Those of us lucky enough to have experienced this feeling will not only accept that it can be only a temporary one, but also feel glad that it is not a permanent condition.  To be filled with overwhelming joy every day of one's life would surely lead to some kind of insanity.

Human beings are capable of sustaining great calmness in the face of sudden emergencies, great courage in the face of threat or danger, but perhaps not quite so well able to cope with the magnitude of sheer joy.

To be content with one's lot is a major achievement and often one we struggle to attain, but once reached is a wonderfully sound foundation on which to base a life.

Not to be dependent on another human being for our happiness, but to work at creating it for ourselves is a huge step on the way to true content.

I have written before (many times) on the subject of loneliness with its attendant lowering of spirits
but that is not to say that you cannot find a level within your own being which will allow you to be alone and content.

Some months (about 10 or 11), after the death of my husband I had some counselling from a lovely wise caring priest who was able to make me understand that the key to content lay in seeing life from the perspective of others, some in a similar situation, but all with experience of the sudden gulf which separates us from our fellows after a bereavement.

Until then i had been sunk into a state of gloom and loneliness which I had convinced myself was to be my state for the remainder of my life.

At first resenting the fact that I was being expected to take part in ordinary life, it gradually became clear that the only way forward was in doing just that.  Not to cut myself of from people, not to close my ears to other people's problems but by becoming involved in listening to the woes and problems of those around me to gradually find a role where being of use to someone, even in a very small way
was richly rewarding, and, on the rare occasions when it was possible to really brighten someone else's day, capable of producing real joy.

When finally involvement in some capacity with someone with problems produces a feeling of strength and sometimes even the ability to offer a solution, becomes the daily norm then you can rest easy in your own company.

I have gone from despair through experiment, disappointment, small feeling of pleasure to complete and absolute happiness, however brief and a feeling that, with God;s help and a favouring wind i can cope with whatever life throws at me and sometimes even enjoy it.

Bless you Jean and forgive my theft.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Foreign call centres

Yet another post on the subject of foreign (usually Indian) call centres.

Yesterday between 1.00pm and 6.10pm I received no less than three calls.

Today, one at 9.30am  and one at 4.15pm.

It is beginning to feel personal, yet I know it is not.  Look up numbers beginning with 003, 002 and 0009 on Google and you will discover battalions of persecuted victims.

As I have said before (many times), my calls begin "Can I speak with Mrs Bar nez" or "am I speaking with Ray Barnez".

Firstly, there is no such person, secondly it should be speaking to not with and thirdly I don't really care tuppence how they address me, I'd just prefer them not to.

Last evening's 6.15 call "Am I speaking to Ray Barnez" was answered, "Not any more you're not" phone put down.  Today's 2nd call simply was left unanswered - I hung up about 10 minutes later.

This sounds mildly amusing but it is slowly driving me nuts.

No-one seems able to deter them.

Perhaps if we all simply left the phone off the hook until they gave up the loss of revenue would finally get to them and they'd find another occupation.  Or am I being naive?

Has anyone a new idea?


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Censorship

Switching on my computer this morning I saw that there was a fresh comment on my latest post.

Eager to read it I found it was not a comment, but a hate-filled, mysogonistic diatribe on the subject of American women.

Shocked by the aggressive bile and unable to find anything remotely resembling reason in it's content , I read it twice and deleted it.

Later, I wondered two things.  Firstly, why had he (I assume it was a he) chosen my blog to display his paranoia, and secondly, had I done the right thing in deleting it.?

Normally in favour of freedom of speech I can only assume that it was my desire not to be associated in any way with its contents which made me obliterate it.

Was I right to do so, or should I have allowed it to remain in all of its offensive glory?

Opinions please.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Last Last Post?

This morning after our normal Eucharist (this time half an hour early), we processed as usual to the 1st World War memorial in the churchyard for our usual laying of a wreath, and prayers

We then, instead of as most people would think, going home to put our feet up and rest our tired voices, made our way, a long blue and white crocodile, to the Market Square.

Since we were a quarter of an hour earlier there than normal, we had to stand (in silence, the microphones were right in front of us) until the town Remembrance Service began.

This year, the petrol fuelled generator from which all the cables operating the microphones was run, was right behind us.

Backs and legs aching from the previous hour and a half we then took part in the hour-long service - six hymns and an anthem - and additionally had to cope with the fumes from the generator.

Much as I respect and love the annual remembering of all those who fought in the two great wars and all the others since, I think the time has come for me to listen to my last Last Post in the Square.

Having to move off in procession at the end of the service with feet and legs of solid concrete is almost impossible, and the fact that the street we walk along back to St Mary's is cobbled is just the icing on the cake.

Time I think to call it a day.  Next year I will take part in the church service and the churchyard  one but not the Civic Service in the square.

Not one to play the 'age card' as a general rule, next year as an 80-year old I will do just that..

Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Celebration

Yup, it's that one again.

Anyone who has read my blog more than a time or two will be aware that on the (rare) occasions when I feel like a solitary celebration/restorer, whisky is my tincture of choice.

For the past two weeks, and for the next four or five my dearly loved next-door neighbours have been/ will be having an extension built on their too-small house.

This for me is a good thing, since the alternative would be their departure to a new, larger house.

They prefer to enlarge their existing home rather than start house-hunting, so I am (relatively) happy to endure the drilling, hammering, churning of cement, etc  in order to keep my lovely friends close.

They have a holiday home in Spain and are currently spending half-term there, so they are escaping the worst of the disruption.  I, on the other hand am not.

Raising my bedroom blind at 7.25 am and coming face-to-face with a young man on top of a skip emptying a barrow is not my idea of Heaven.  Worse by far, however, is the fact that every daylight hour sees me a prisoner in my own home.  Unable to work in the front garden in the last warm days of the year.  Unable to open my front door for any reason without a (friendly) greeting.

Today they departed at four twenty five, and by four twenty six I was out in the garden, loppers in hand cutting frantically at the white buddliea and a couple of the Hibiscus in the rapidly fading light.

Yes, I know I could go out there while 'they' are there, but I'd much rather not.

Breathing a sigh of re;lief at having achieved at least something, I came back in and watched "The Chase" on TV and as the fireworks began to crash and whizz outside (Halloween), I poured myself a very large whisky and ginger and headed upstairs to the computer.

Happy Halloween.




Thursday, 9 October 2014

The one that got away

Just a very brief word from my extensive stock of whimsical trivial musings.

On my favourite soap-box, criticising the wording of TV ad's.

Have just seen the umpteenth version of one of my pet rants.

Presenter proudly holds aloft bottle, spray, canister of product with the reassuring words " XXXXX kills 99% of bacteria.

Which means that the product does everything but what you want it for.

It is not the weak, feeble mostly harmless bugs we want to be rid of, it's the 1% powerful malign monster which the spray cannot touch.

When oh when will advertisers actually read their own ad's.

Phew.   That feels better.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

I feel pretty...

It's that time of year again.

Friday's choir rehearsal was extra tiring because I had a persistent cough.

Thought it was just my usual reaction to a huge draughty and dusty church.

Saturday morning taught me the error of my ways, sore throat, runny nose, sore eyes and such a pretty pink nose.

This morning I phoned the choir mistress to tell her I was hor's de combat and likely to be so for a while.  All this in a gravelly voice which would have done justice to Louis Armstrong.

Glad to go back to bed I nevertheless felt somewhat aggrieved to be missing the Harvest Festival.

There is a particularly pleasing arrangement of all the donated 'goodies', and I have missed it.  Not fair!

It happens around this time most years so I shouldn't be too surprised but it is very disappointing to attend  all the run-up to the day and miss the main event.

From here on the musical part of the church escalates week by week, as extra services pile up and more and more demands are made on our time and vocal resources.

Luckily we have a lot of new members, and while we all go down with the lurgy at some stage, there are now enough people to cover all the gaps

I shall not attempt to return until all signs of infection have departed, it wouldn't be fair to the others, to say nothing of the affect it would have on my aged vocal chords.

From the good but quite small choir I joined in May 2010, we have grown to a huge 30 strong one with a very good sound when we are all present.  This includes 10 mice (my name for the 8 to 12 year olds)

The bats have started to make the occasional sortie during rehearsals once more, so we must be doing something right.

Unfortunately the resident arachnids are also 'dropping' by to pay their respects.  Uggh.

I'm rambling so will return to bed, there to sneeze in comfort..

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Au(rachni)tumn

One more the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us, together with its less welcome components.

On Tuesday morning a warm and sunny Autumn day, I was going about my duties at St M's when a trip to the loo became necessary.

Innocently approaching the hand basin I saw it had an occupant.  Roughly about 3 inches in diameter and sitting black and squat and evil in the centre.

Hastily turning to the other hand basin I completed the fastest hand wash in history and made my shaky way to the refectory where my obvious agitation caused mild concern until I had explained the reason.  The resulting "Oohs,  Ohs and Yuks", caused a young male volunteer to offer assistance.

I yelled a completely unreasonable "Don't kill it" after his retreating back and he vanished.  It seemed about 10 minutes - probably more like 30 seconds - before he returned holding something very carefully wrapped in a paper napkin headed for the door and proceeded to release his captive in the churchyard.

About an hour later, as we went into the Lady Chapel for the lunchtime eucharist, the caretaker told us the spider had tried to come back in (The main doors are kept wide open all day) and someone else had taken it back to the far side of the churchyard.

It obviously knew where its home was and resented being evicted.

They don't call them house spider for nothing.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Pride goeth before a fall

This week on Wednesday we welcome our new incumbent at St Mary's.

Looking at my less than sparkling surplice and stock I took them home to give them the rare treat of a bleach, wash and iron in honour of this event.

Getting into the taxi this morning, plastic covered 'whites' carefully placed on the seat I thought.  "Lovely, the white will blind everyone".

Scrambling awkwardly out of the taxi the hanger shed its load which slithered out of the plastic into a most fetching heap in the road.

Mildly annoyed I gathered it up and was pleased to find no marks on it, proceeded to robe and get myself ready to process with the rest of the choir at 10.00 am.

Aware that I had the honour of the first reading I paid less than usual attention to my progress clutching black folder and hymn books and got down to the front of the aisle.  The hand microphone slipped off its perch and full of bravado I made a grab for it, missed slipped and wound up on my back in the middle of the aisle.

Half a dozen concerned faces surrounded me as I lay like a stag beetle on my back unable to get up, this was instantly followed by dozens of hands hauling me to my feet.

Shaken and shaking I stumbled to my place in the choir stalls and proceeded to shed papers in all directions.  Singing along with the choir hands shaking, face red and all dignity lost for ever I reflected that really it had been a waste of time laundering my robes  since i was clearly destined to destroy all my good work.

A lesson there for me I think.

By the way, I'm told the reading was fine.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Old favourite

Finding this terrible heat and humidity too much to do anything useful I have just sat through the whole of one of my favourite films.

The wonderful "Beckett", made in 1964 and starring Richard Burton in the title role with Peter O'Toole as the weak, petulant but ultimately vicious Henry 11.

Back in the day I was under the spell of the Burton voice and added to that the beautiful blue eyes of O'toole, which had it not been an excellent film with 1st rate acting would still have coaxed the price of a good seat from my shabby purse.

The original un-edited film lasted for about three hours, today's trunkated for tv version was still a hefty 2hours and 20 minutes.

How faithful the dialogue is to the Anouilh play I don't know, but the witty barbed comments of the two lead characters illustrate beautifully just how intelligent Beckett was and how devious Henry.

Not historically faithful it is still an intriguing picture of these two Titans of Norman England.

Despite the occasional whiff of 1960's England the film stands the test of time well and for anyone who missed it, well worth the cost of a DVD. (I'm sure there must be  one)

If this oppressive weather ever relents i shall return to sanity (and a shed-load of work)

Retreats back under stone.

Friday, 11 July 2014

P S

Apropos of nothing in particular except that this is the picture I had intended to use to illustrate my "Writer's Block" post, but could not upload at the time.

So just because I thought it would be a shame to waste it and anyway I wanted to look at it again, here it is.

Awww  !

Monday, 7 July 2014

Writer's Block

My blog silence recently has been due in the main to a total lack of inspiration combined with tendency to snooze in the afternoons.

Saturday brought about a change,

It was Roald Dahl day, an annual event in Aylesbury and celebrated by the town as a whole, and traditionally at St. Mary's.

Every year there is a procession starting at the church and making its way down into the town centre and eventually back to St. M's

This consists of a fabulous variety of characters from Dahl's books in puppet form, some tiny and hand held, some gigantic and needing several adults to manipulate.

Local schools spend weeks making the puppets and the procession is led by a brass band.

There are related events throughout the day and  always a lot of activity in the church.  Displays of flower arranging with the chance for people to make their own little arrangements, stalls with Dahl related chocolate
bars in a chocolate tombola, raffles and a lucky dip for the smallest children.

The choir puts on a couple of 20 minute shows of mixed music.

A local dance group for handicapped children gives a short display, and there is a hamburger and hot-dog stall in the churchyard.

The refectory and kitchen are run off their feet,  and about 3.oopm everyone capsizes heaves a sigh of relief and toddles off home.

I had my lunch at 4.oo pm and reluctantly cleaned myself up and headed back to town for a concert in the church.

I am so very glad I went.

The concert was called "The road home", was given by an a cappella chorale called "Oasis", and I can say with all my heart it was the best choir I have ever heard in my long life.

It was formed in 2003 by a group of young Anabaptist people who worked in a home for handicapped children.

They invited a conductor to join them and began to recruit members from all over America and Canada.

These are all volunteers and are drawn from many Mennonite missions and care organisations.

They have toured the UK before and also Ireland and all down America's East coast.

The choir we heard had 36 members, 18 each of men and women, and had some of the best voices I've ever heard,

They resemble the Shakers in some ways, dress very simply and without ornament and are active in prison ministry and in promoting peace.

They mingled with us in the congregation before the concert, in the interval and afterwards.

Several of us found ourselves in tears by the end of the concert, not just because of the beauty of the sound but the overwhelming feeling of love they generated.

The final item in the concert was "God be with you till we meet again", beautifully sung and made even more moving by the way they left their positions in the choir and began to slowly walk among and around the church until we were surrounded by these lovely people and an immense feeling of peace.

Terrific theatre I know, but not theatrical.

There was absolute silence briefly as they finished then a roar which would take the roof off.

There was not a trace of cynicism on any face and the whole audience wanted to stay an talk all night.

Eventually we let the poor tired people get into their coach to their hotel begging them to return soon.

Saturday was lovely!!.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Barnesii Domesticus

The title refers to an extremely rare (almost extinct) creature, seldom seen (something to be thankful for) ie - me.

I would take umbrage should I hear anyone describe me as a " slut," or more vernacular,"lazy cow", or even "a bit blind to what needs doing", but, I have to admit to taking my time to get around to matters domestic.

Not only have I an aversion to washing, scrubbing, polishing vacuuming dusting etc but I also have little energy these days so 'prioritise' those things I can't any longer avoid.

Today I was determined to wash my sitting-room curtains.  For those who have been reading this blog for a while, they were hung, new, when my sitting room was redecorated.

I know that curtains never look the same again once washed but felt it was time (almost three years) to see off some of the dust which has been making my throat (already suffering from a virus) even more sore.

The label on the curtains says "dry clean only", a phrase I seem unable to translate.  To me this is a clear indication that they need a little care when washing.

Tentatively, I washed just the one pair initially to see whether I had once again got away with my reading of the label, and surprise surprise, they emerged from the washer and later the dryer in perfect condition.

The second pair is currently enjoying my version of "dry cleaning".

Contrary to popular belief I am not completely mad, just good at reading all the labels.  If the material is synthetic (these are) then as long as you follow instructions on your washing machine and dryer for 'delicate' items it is generally perfectly safe to wash in a machine.

I might add that the ordeal of taking curtains down, packing them up and getting a bus into town to a dry cleaners then the revcerse action to get them back again seems to me totally unnecessary.

Lazy, moi?

Not guilty M'lud.

The snippet of a picture above is the way they looked the day they were first hung, and that is exactly how they look today.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

It's enough to make a cat laugh

As I am currently fighting off an impending cold and want to shake it off before it gets a good hold, I decided having done enough housework for the time being, to have a lie down.

Settling into a comfortable snooze I was startled into an abrupt sitting up position by a loud and insistent crashing sound from downstairs.

I knew the back door was locked so was more than a bit worried as to who or what the intruder might be.

Even standing in the kitchen I at first couldn't  locate the source of the racket.

Then as it recommenced at last I realised that the cat-flap was being systematically bashed.

Opening the door I was confronted by a large pale ginger and white cat which was attempting to put its head through the locked (for the past 6 years) cat flap.

I have been feeding this monster for about two years whenever he appears, since, though I am fairly sure he has a home, he is seldom in it.

Often at 6.oo am he is on the step, cold wet and miserable so he gets a large handful of cat biscuits, drinks from the birdbath and wanders off.

Today he hadn't appeared earlier on and was obviously incensed that I was not waiting for him to show up biscuits in hand.

After he had scoffed every last crumb he took himself off to the centre of my rose garden and lay down on the yellow poppies in order to keep them warm.

My yelling "get off there" produced a yawn wide enough to swallow a whale and he curled into a ball, squashing everything in sight.

I know when I'm beaten so retired to resume my rest secure in the knowledge that my garden had its security officer in place.

Am seriously contemplating replacing the door with one without a cat flap.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Falling leaves

The tree once full of leaves is losing them day by day.

Every day another one falls and each day the tree becomes closer to being a skeleton, branches bare.

Sadness is in the air

We who are the leaves watch and wait for our turn.

That is not to say we have no other thoughts, but that we notice how few our companions are.

The gaps are more numerous than the leaves and the outline of the tree is clearer every day.

We mourn and miss each falling leaf but welcome the ability to see the shape of the tree.
Yesterday the leaf that was my brother-in-law fell to the ground.

Rest in Peace Terry. X

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Boys' Toys (He had a dream)

My lovely next-door-neighbour Colin came home some 10 years ago with this beautiful little Lotus.

He had always wanted one and at least had the chance to buy one cheaply (he said), which needed some parts but was otherwise perfect.

Never really a car person (I don't drive), but none the less very drawn to this little beauty, I was even more attracted to it when Colin demonstrated how it 'opened its eyes'.

This and the Delorean (can't spell it) with its 'bat wing doors' have always had a special place in my affections/

Sadly Colin, a very busy policeman had to put on hold the work on the car until he could obtain the necessary bits and pieces.

In the interim it 'lived' in his garage.

These houses are small and many/most people use their garages for extra storage. Lynne, Colin's long-suffering wife had no such extra space, so was keen to see the car up and running.

Months, then years went by and Colin would push the car out of the garage at intervals tinker briefly then break his back returning it to its 'home'.

Their family grew to two children, both now teenagers, and still the space in the house grew less as the children grew and the accessories to their lives expanded.

At last the ever patient Lynne persuaded Colin to sell the car using the need to build on over the garage or move house as her reason.

Very reluctantly he agreed to part with it and advertised it.

Yesterday a truck arrived and after putting up an hour's 'fight' the little Lotus was finally persuaded onto the loader and left her comfortable home of ten years for places new.

The final glimpse of her, eyes open and staring straight ahead was the one below.


 Half the close was out watching her departure and I think I detected a tear in Colin's eye. (Not really)

Lynne had a little smile on her face.  Can't think why.

Friday, 2 May 2014

When is a technophobe not a technophobe?

Technophobia is not as wimpish as it sounds, or at least that's my opinion.

While freely admitting to a total lack of interest in, or expertise in any form of technology, and also admitting that improving on that state would be very hard work for any unsuspecting tutor, I also maintain that such knowledge is in no way essential for survival in this enlightened age.

I "toil not, neither do I spin", which loosely translated means I do nothing online other than blog, read blogs comment on blogs, email and Google 'stuff'.
I do not and will not buy anything on-line.  This is purely a form of self-preservation from those who wish to  know more about me than I am willing to impart.

Only this morning I watched in horrified disbelief an episode of "Fake Britain", in which an intelligent and bright young man was 'sucked in', worked on, and finally deprived of most of his savings, his job, his home etc. by none other than fraudulent on-liners

Every day new scams are dreamed up and put into operation by the morally bankrupt but technologically gifted underworld operatives.

So-called 'smart' phones are hijacked and robbed of their data, leaving their ex-owners potless.

My mobile phone is anything but smart (a bit like its owner), and was John's property for at least two years before his death.  Which is to say, it is old fashioned in the extreme.

This is totally unimportant to me since I use it about four times a year, to call a cab.

I have no need of an all-dancing all-singing bit of sharp technology - let's face it I wouldn't know what to do with it.

As soon as a company whose goods I buy goes 'on-line only' I switch to a new company.

There may  be good reasons form many people to put every aspect of their retail and financial life in the public domain, but for the life of me I cannot imagine any.

Prove me wrong and I will (reluctantly) do what everyone else is doing, but if you can't, leave me to my happy technophobia.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Another wonderful Easter

At the risk of sounding like my bete noir Pollyanna, I have had a truly happy Easter.

I am so  glad I was baptised and confirmed four years ago.  So glad my 'mother church' was St. Mary the Virgin.  So very very glad I found the remnants of a singing voice and joined the choir.

Since I work (attend) at St M's Mon Tues and Wed mornings, and since this week we had Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (fabulous day) and Saturday's Bishop's confirmations, baptisms, Pascal candle etc, and today the Easter Day service, I have been for a part of every day at St. M's,

From being my spiritual home it is rapidly becoming my physical home too.

There has been an immense amount of singing, and many hours of listening to sermons, readings etc. altogether extremely tiring for one of my advanced years, but hugely enjoyable too.

We have of course had the odd blip, but always smoothly glossed over and seamlessly woven into the fabric of the day.

During Saturday's very long service one or two older members of the congregation were becoming glassy-eyed and when I remarked (sotto voce) to my neighbouring chorister that the very long reading (Genesis) was taking longer than the actual Creation, her response was not the wry smile I had expected but convulsions enough to capsize the choir.

A sense of humour while useful at times, needs to be tempered with a sense of proportion. Note to self.

Each day's service has been better than the previous one, and everyone who attended in any capacity has remarked on what a very happy Easter it has been.

Now all that remains is to carry that feeling into the next year.

Easter blessings to one and all.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gravitas

Have just returned from my favourite of all the Easter Services.

We had the foot washing accompanied by the Taize Ubi Caritas, sang "In the heart5 where love is abiding" as the anthem and led the walk into the 'garden of repose',to the Taize "Wait with me".

As we waited silently in the Lady Chapel ablaze with lilies, the alter stripping took place in the darkened church, 

For once, even the most junior choir members remembered to leave in silence.

This all adds to the solemnity and yes I suppose, the theatricality of this sober piece of our liturgy.

Some of our number prefer Christmas and the music which accompanies it, but for me Easter has all the elements which appeal to my need for gravitas in religion.

I am so glad that my introduction to Christianity was in the High Anglican or Anglo Catholic tradition.  Happy Clappy would never have worked for me.

Two down (Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday), and three to go.

Hurray.




Sorry the phantom underliner took over my blog.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Girls' Night In

This morning avoiding the Sahara dust laden atmosphere outside I am trying to clear my slightly muzzy head in order to do some paper work.

This has been a busy week culminating in the equivalent of a girls' (I use the word tongue in cheek)night out - namely, a girls' night in.

Five of us trooped next door at around 7.00 pm yesterday for a 'short' get-together.  Luckily for me, my return home at about 11.00pm was a matter of yards rather than the hundred metres some of the others had to manage.

We had not enjoyed each others' company for about 6 months so there was a lot (and I mean a lot) of catching up to do.

One of our number is currently having a bit of a crisis so we spent a while (a few hours) listening and offering opinions and occasionally advice, and refuelling ourselves with the odd glass.

The alcohol flowed, the food was eaten almost by default and the decibel level  increased minute by minute.

We each had something/s to say and we said it, had matters of great importance to discuss and we discussed them, had arguments for and against other's opinions and expressed them.

And the volume grew.

Some of the time we were serious and concerned, some of the time we were lighter-hearted and noiser, most of the time we yelled, roared with laughter and the roof trembled.

Occasionally we remembered that our hostess had two teenagers upstairs in bed.  Most of the time we didn't.

We have been friends and neighbours for a good many years now and are easy and comfortable in each other's company, so these fairly rare events are enormously enjoyed by all of us.

I don't know how much the other reprobates drank.  I wasn't counting, but I put away about two thirds of a bottle of shiraz and apart from an inclination to walk in circles this morning am perfectly fine.

The birds were fed at 6.15 as usual and the visiting mog likewise,  OK I did put cranberry juice on my cereals and milk in the juice glass, but hey anyone can be a bit absent minded.

When I caught myself trying to put furniture polish down the loo instead of bleach, I carefully put them both down and headed for the lap-top instead.

A lovely evening followed by a slightly unusual morning.

Ain't life wonderful?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Happy Birthday to me

The best picture I've seen of me for a long time.

Today in case you haven't guessed is my birthday.

I started the day at 6.15 am or thereabouts by singing
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
I seem to be still here
Happy Birthday to me.

In the absence of a choir that was the best I could do.
I had already been given beautiful mauve irises and white roses, had a pile of cards waiting unopened for my return from church and was greeted by a truly beautiful sunny warm day.

Back from church I gardened for an hour and a half then retired to open the cards.  A knock at the door, another card and lovely pink roses with white lisianthus.

Turned on the lap-top, Happy Birthday Ray said my computer (well, wrote it).  Stunned I went to my emails birthday wishes from Dutch friends. Didn't even know they knew when my birthday was.

This afternoon a phone call and another card through the letterbox.

Ouch!  just pinched myself to make sure I was not  dreaming.

Having successfully slipped through the net at church, stayed stumm can't spell it, and avoided wearing  the dreaded birthday hat in front of the entire congregation, I had thought this was to be a very quiet birthday apparently someone somewhere had other ideas.

Lovely!/

Friday, 14 March 2014

Farewell to an honourable man

Just a passing salute to mark the death of a man I greatly admired.

Shrewd, intelligent, idealistic, he was always the master of his own destiny.  Never persuadable away from his declared beliefs, a perpetual thorn in the flesh of any right-wing government.

I admired his stance on virtually every political issue and was always disappointed that his own party so seldom came up to his high standards.

In my early days i had a dream that he would one day be prime minister.  Never, I suspect one of his own  dreams, he appeared to have no personal ambition unless it involved leading action against social injustice.

My trades unionist, communist father also admired him though he would have preferred a step further to the left, and often attended and occasionally spoke at the same meetings as my hero.

He shared one other habit with my father (not one I admired), in that he seldom was seen without his pipe and attendant cloud of smoke.

Rest in peace and rise in glory, most honourable of men.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Infernal Combustion Engine - Can you live without your car?

Lying in bed this morning, late (7.50am) half dozing I was aware of an unusual amount of noise outside.

My neighbour was having difficulties starting her car.  It was cold, though not frosty, very foggy and she was not happy.

The pong of exhaust fumes was filtering into the room by the time she got it going and took off in a hurry.

Thinking about the nuisance value of cars, expense, damage to the environment I wondered just how hard most people would find it to manage without them.

The 2nd world war was the background to my early days and at that time only two people in the road in which I lived had cars.  One was under wraps for the whole of the war, the other, owned by a Mr Clark was licensed for 'war work', so was often to be seen out and about.

None of my friends families had cars and it was just not of any interest to any of us as children.

By the time I was in my late teens (early 1950's), there were about a dozen or so within my daily orbit and still they made no impression at all.  In fact it wasn't until my best friend Barbara's dad got a car and I had an occasional ride in it that it even registered on my radar as a means of transport.

Aged 20 I left home and joined the WRAC, signing on for three years, during which time my father became a full-time union officer was 'given' a car and moved to the more affluent South.  (Kent in fact).

Home on leave I enjoyed several trips to the coast and other far-flung places and began to see why some people were so enthusiastic about the things.

During the years after my 'demob' I worked near home (my parents home) and still worked locally when I moved into a bed-sit in 1960.

I had no car, needed no car, and never even considered the idea of one, even if I could have afforded the deposit.

When I worked in London and started singing in London, my train and underground combined ticket took me everywhere I needed to go, so, still no car.

It wasn't until I married aged 35 that I/we included a car as a part of the trappings of daily life.  John had been driving since his very early 20's so was superglued to his car.

As the years went on I became used to going everywhere on wheels and at the same time heavier, lazier and less and less inclined to walk.

John even took the car to post a letter!

After his death 38 years later, I was stunned to find I actually had feet and what was more was dependant on them.

Nowadays I walk, bus and take taxis wherever I go without more than an occasional wistful grimace when there is snow or rain or an East wind about.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I did make a brief attempt (10 lessons) to learn to drive, but gave up for a variety of reasons:  too old (75), too stiff, too nervous and not least, too poor.

When I weighed up the cost of buying a car, tax, license, insurance, petrol, maintenance against, the cost of an occasional taxi, a free bus pass and no hassle about repairs etc it was a 'no brainer', or in my case a no car er.

Half my life has been lived without the benefit of a car and half with.  I can honestly say yes. I most certainly can live without a car.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

February Blues.

February is my least favourite month.  Historically my most traumatic.  Meteorologically either very cold or very wet, and in any case grey.

Also, it is physically a month when all the winter's ills seem to have drained every bit of energy.

I try not to blog in February, aware that other people with real problems do not want to be pulled down further.

So I read other blogs. comment when appropriate and keep a low profile.

In the shower this morning, the sun blazing through the window I was aware that this was a very un-February-like day.  It is or rather was, also my wedding anniversary.

It would have been the forty-third.

Oddly, since John's death in 2009 I have never once remembered our wedding anniversary and have no idea what alerted me today to its significance.

Watching a great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder it occurred to me that all the little similar fleeting things  which have always given me huge pleasure, still do.  I still love watching birds, fussing neighbourhood cats, basking in brief shafts of sunlight.

As a moody introspective teenager when I complained to my mother that there never seemed to be any great blinding flash of happiness in my life.

She replied that such moments are very rare and do not constitute real happiness, adding that learning to find pleasure and joy in very small everyday things was the key to real happiness.

As always, she was right.

Seeking a picture to illustrate this post I found among my garden photos the lovely apricot bloom of "Just Joey", taken in a year when it flourished.  It too has dwindled to almost nothing, but has had its time of beauty and the picture was taken just then.

Life seems very flat at the moment, but I know it is just a grey patch and things will improve again soon.

Last Sunday our St Mary's choir sang "The heavens are telling" from Haydn's great "Creation".  We were not very well rehearsed and it is quite difficult, but made, I thought, quite a good job of it.

The feedback was generally good, with one lovely lady with whom I share the 'meeters and greeters' desk telling me she wanted very much to clap at the end, while inevitably, there was one person who 'hated' it, said it was too loud and too long.

One person's lovely day and another one's awful day.

Seems February is quite a mixed month.


Monday, 3 February 2014

The Times They Are A-Changing

One of the bonuses of being in interregnum (as we at St. Mary's have been since last August), is that we are privileged to see and hear a huge variety of clergy of all shapes and sizes officiating at the various services here.

We have been blessed by visits from the Archdeacon, the Bishop, the Dean and a dozen or so other Rev's from various local churches and semi-retired local ministers.

Some. (most), are in our own Anglo-Catholic tradition, others rather less so, and one particular individual from a very different one.

This can be illuminating, inspiring, or on occasion, somewhat disconcerting, but since we are assured by those in a position to know, that we are going to acquire an incumbent of our own persuasion - eventually - we must settle for what we are offered in the interim.

Change is all around us, and even the day-to-day running of the church is constantly shifting ground and altering time-honoured procedures in order to adapt.

In some ways it has brought us closer together as a community but in others cracks are appearing.

As so  many other people are looking at their roles whether paid or volunteer, I decided to make some changes of my own.

The Space - listening ear drop-in organisation which is a flourishing part of St Mary's will now have the benefit of more of my time (poor souls, they won't know what's hit them).  While the parish office will see rather less of me (cheers resound).

Additionally I will now be a one-morning a week meeter and greeter, and hopefully will have a bit of training in the rich history of the church so I can officially bore any unwary visitors who make the mistake of asking questions.

The choir has not yet objected to my bass-baritone groaning on Sundays, so that will continue until they do.

Oh, and my face is at last clear of eczema so I look nearly human again.

All we need now is for the weather to change while there is still some of the country not underwater and joy will be unconfined.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

"Something Nasty in the Woodshed"

For anyone who may not recognise the quote, it is from that most excellent classic by Stella Gibbons "Cold comfort farm".

In the past six years, the only time I've entered my garden shed has been to scoop some bird-seed from the huge bins in there, or to pick up a pair of secateurs.

It has held a massive collection of assorted garden and household tools, (John collected, though seldom used all manner of drills, hammers, screwdrivers, oils lotions and potions for every known household need.) for the thirty or so years in which it has stood.

I do not paint, nor hammer things, nor do I insert screws, remove old ones, have no grip so never even attempt to use pincers.  Furthermore I do not saw anything ever.

The means to do all these and a million other chores have all been (hoarded) stored in the poor shed, along with old packets of seeds (and I mean old), flower pots of every size and material known to man, several small chests of nails, screws, tacks etc. sand-paper, tool chests (all full) and a store-load of other things which I cannot even identify.

In short, the shed was full, and since I never ventured into the dark corners for fear of what might be lurking among the curtains of webs, I needed to get some help.

Time to enlist my doughty landscape gardener, decorator, all-round handy and useful neighbour.

"Please empty the shed contents into the garage, banish any wildlife, clean out and paint with wood preservative the inside, remove roofing-felt (leaking), and replace with fresh I begged.  Further to that, take away every single thing not used for gardening, and use, give away or dispose of same"

His workforce ( a young man and a girl) did all of that yesterday, finishing by carting away half a life-time of junk and I now have a clean empty shed which will eventually regain its gardening 'stuff'.

It is not a beautiful job, the roofing could be neater, the green wood preservative inside the shed is patchy as it soaks into the wood, but Oh the relief.

I shall take my time, putting things back and will no doubt throw out more accumulated junk in the process, but as the weather is either wet or cold at present, the garage is now home to my much smaller hoard.

This has been hanging over my head for at least two years and my usual inertia prevented me from making the vital move.

No doubt many hundreds of pounds worth of tools etc have been evicted, but I am slowly beginning to realise that what I have not even looked at for 6 years or so is not going to be missed.

The biggest benefit of all is that I am no longer afraid to look into the corners because whatever might have been lurking, is no longer there.

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?  Well, me, but at least he's not in my shed.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Where's Noah when you need him?

True to my promise/threat never to illustrate a post with anything remotely connected, enjoy, as I do, the lovely pretty friendly little feline on the left.

He does however,  look as I feel.

Nothing like getting the new year off to a flying start with a big moan.

Is it ever going to stop raining, and if it does, will we be able to walk where we once did or must we direct our webbed feet in new directions?

Have I ever mentioned that I hate rain.  Yes I know, I am a gardener or once was, and yes I know we need rain.  Which is not the same thing at all as wanting rain.

Having left the house exactly twice since getting home from church on Christmas morning, and then only to shop for food, I would really like to pull the duvet over my head, tell the weather to s.. off and emerge only when sanity in the form of warmth, sun and dryth have returned.

I do know that some poor people have been flooded out of their homes and that others have no heat or light and I am truly sorry for them and pray they will soon be in a happier state.  This however does not make me feel full of joy because I am not suffering in any of these ways.  It merely makes me feel guilty.

I hate that there is not even a glimmer of sun, that the wind is lashing the windows,  that a trip to put something in the bin in the garage is like an expedition during monsoon (without the warmth) in a tropical rainforest.

Every time I gingerly open the back door there is somebody's soggy moggy wailing pathetically "pleaase let me come in, I want to live here".

Even the birds are sitting about morosely comtemplating their navels (Do birds have navels?).

I embrace the thought of back to church choir tomorrow then back to work in the parish office on Monday
with the deepest joy!

Somebody wake me up when it's May.  (If you must).