Thursday, 31 December 2015

P S

4.00pm and the engineer has just left and my icicles (fingers) are slowly thawing as the radiators return to life.

Thank God for British Gas and my maintenance contract.

The temperature in the sitting room is now up to 58 degrees and climbing.

How very lucky we are in the West to have such comfort within easy reach.

Not that I am doing anything about it but at least I can now acknowledge that a New Year begins in a few hours time.

May it be a happy and healthy one for as many of you as possible.

Power in the wrong hands - The domestic demons strike again.

I woke an hour or so ago feeling slightly chilly.

Doing my usual busy-bee activities in the kitchen I reached up to switch on the water-heating part of my boiler and realised that it was ominously silent.

It is not a very noisy boiler but its background hum is part of the soundtrack  of my daily existence, and this morning there was nothing.

Finally it dawned on me to feel the radiators - stone cold.

Deep joy.  There was a time about 10 years ago when my central heating would regularly break down in the middle of Christmas or New Year holidays.  Recently this hasn't happened and I have become complacent.

I have phoned British Gas emergency helpline and the best they can do is get an engineer out to me between 1.00 and 6.00pm today.

Luckily this is a warm house and I am unlikely to freeze to death before that time but, today was supposed to be big laundry day.

I don't like doing any washing or household chores on New Year's day so had planned to get everything done today.

As Robbie Burns almost said "The best laid plans of mice and men have a habit of going wrong",

I can't take my usual shower as cold water showers are not really my thing, so a hasty wash and a day cleaning the house looms instead.  Well I have to try to keep warm somehow.

Compared with those affected by the floods mine is a very small problem and I am grateful for the freedom from the tyranny of overflowing rivers etc, but I can't help thinking how puny an individual human being is in the war against the apparently inanimate.

More anon.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has enormous power to evoke memories of past years,  Some good, some not so good, but always there in the background waiting for the right trigger to emerge bright as daylight.

As a child I loved Christmas Eve, the atmosphere, the unrealistic hopes, the dizzying prospects of what might be.

As one of four children in a family very close but also very impoverished I knew that most of my dreams were just that, dreams, but it in no way diminished my excitement on that special evening.

Over the years, varying experiences caused me to love Christmas less and less, until finally in middle age I regarded it as a break from work at best.

As I have blogged many times before, my Communist atheist upbringing did not include any part of the Christian view of Christmas time, but was still celebrated whole-heartedly as a secular event.

At the age of 75, a few months after my husband's death I found a new way of life was christened and confirmed and joined the choir of my local church.

Starting to sing again after a break of 24 years has produced some odd results.

Once a first soprano I am now an alto (not a mezzo) and am taking great pleasure from all the church music especially Christmas and Easter with its dazzling choice of lovely music.

Slightly less appealing for me is the fact that Midnight Mass involves my leaving the house at the time i would normally be going to bed.  This year (today) I was not anticipating going out into the very strong cold wind at 11.00 pm but was otherwise happy about the prospect of this lovely service.

Just a quarter of an hour ago one of my lovely neighbours came and rang my doorbell.

"Are you singing in Midnight Mass" she asked, "if so we will give you a lift"

A small thing some might say, but for me, a massive difference in the way I view this evening's trip to church.

The greatest benefit to come from all my new experiences since I lost John has been the astonishing kindness and thoughtfulness of all my new friends, in church and most particularly, in the 'Close'.

In 2008 my mother died on Christmas Eve and a few months later I lost John, yet Christmas Eve, however tinged with sadness as it is, has brought a whole new meaning to my ;life.

Deo Gracias.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

To Kill Or Not To Kill?

Today David Cameron is taking a step forward in his determination to strike at the heart of the organisation calling itself "Islamic State".

He has made clear his intention to bomb them out of existence.

He has some support and quite a lot of opposition to this course of action.

Those who support him believe that this will end the threat to the rest of the world posed by this extremist fundamentalist group whose doctrine of hate has been clearly demonstrated by the events in Paris a couple of weeks ago.

I have no expertise in military matters but, like most people I do have opinions, and a political and ethical view of such strategies.

Many people are torn between seeking a violent revengeful solution and wanting some other way of ending this frankly terrifying threat.

My own view is absolutely unequivocal, I do not believe in killing.  Nor am I naive enough to believe that a peaceful solution could ever be found.

What I don't understand is why, if 'they' the Governments of all the countries prepared to bomb the
terrorists, know where to  find them, are satisfied that their target is accurate, and think that bombing will put an end to the threat, they cannot find a means of isolating the terrorists.  That done, the brilliant technology available should be able to remove all means of communication from them.
Once separated from all outside contact they would then in effect, be under siege, and, as in times gone by could then be 'starved' of all their support.

Game set and match!

Well it is at least a different way of tackling what threatens to be one of the greatest evils of this century.

Evil feeds on contact and support.  Take that away and it will eventually wither and die.

Naive?  Probably.
Simplistic?  Certainly.

Possible?   Maybe.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumn ?

The picture on the left is my yellow Buddleia about two years ago.

Today, the last day of October it is still in full bloom and to  cap it all, there were two Red Admiral butterflies on it.

I have many roses still in bloom, including Veilchenblau which blooms in May and generally has no 2nd bloom.

My weeds are flourishing as is the moss between the stones, and today was actually warm for a few hours.

After a Summer, unremarkable in every negative way, this has been, and still is, an amazing Autumn.

Since I am short of energy at present I have given in and am in the process of acquiring a regular gardener (I hope), so that some of the beauty of past years can be restored.

In the meantime, flowers please keep on blooming, and butterflies keep visiting.

Global warming or not these days are a bonus.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Missing my Mum and Dad



This picture was taken by John about 1975 and shows rather well my relationship with my parents.  Close, but not touchy feely.

For the past few months I have been feeling a bit tired and run down and a little low in spirits.

Additionally I have developed a tremor in my right hand/arm.

A few months ago I took myself to see the GP who asked a few questions, tried a few tests and found that I had an accelerated heartbeat plus high blood-pressure.  He gave me some tablets and slowly the blood-pressure returned to an acceptable level so the original problem was the only thing which needed to be addressed.

To cut a long story short some kind friends from church took me and brought me back from the hospital some 17 miles away, since I do not drive and the only bus runs every two hours.

That was this morning.

I saw one doctor who examined me closely and talked me through most of my life's health history.  He said he was uncertain and would I mind being seen by another doctor.

Another set of trials and questions and he too said "I think we need Mr............ who arrived a minute or two later.

"Yes" he said, "I can see why you are difficult to diagnose but, you have two problems:
1  You have an Essential tremor, and
2  You have Parkinson's disease"

He explained at some length what the first one meant - not much to worry about.  The second one is
of course the last thing I wanted to hear, although he told me it is very early on and the tablets he prescribed would ease the tremor and lift my spirits.

Seeing that he had winded me he said "Don't worry, you could be no worse than this in ten years time"

If I sound less than cheerful please forgive me, but this has knocked me off my perch and at present I don't quite know how to adjust my emotional barometer.

My GP seemed so sure it was not Parkinson's that  i had mentally dismissed it.

Please don't see this as a plea for sympathy, it really isn't.  It's just that my habit of blogging my angst as well as my joys has never seemed more necessary.

Missing my Mum.



Saturday, 19 September 2015

Is it personal?

I was out early this morning, into town on the bus into the supermarket and settling into trying to remember the  things not on my list.  (I know, there shouldn't be any).

Oh yes, I thought, cheese, and headed off toward the battalions of cheeses not a care in the world.

Suddenly there was a rush of movement from a shelf up above my head to the left and moving too slowly to avoid it, I received the full benefit of a plastic tray of pots of cream which hit the floor with a crash which split most of them, spraying me with a liberal coating of thick gooey cream.

My jacket, skirt, shoes legs and bag were all covered.

A nearby shelf-filler rushed to my aid with a roll of paper towels which made things a hundred times worse, and when I said it needed to be wet wipes the response was a blank look.

I headed for the manager told him the tale whereupon he produced a large pack of wet wipes, apologised profusely for the behaviour of the wayward cream pots and offered to have my jacket professionally cleaned (they have a dry cleaning facility within the store).

When I said I wanted just to get home and put everything into the washing machine (myself included), he gave me £10 for the taxi home and said, "if the marks don't wash out bring the clothes in here and we'll get them out for you"

Needless to say I was barely through the door when my clothes were off and into the machine and I collapsed into a chair (in underwear only) with a coffee.

My brain tells me these things happen to lots of people on a daily basis, but somehow it feels as though I am being singled out.

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean it's not true.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

HOPE

In case anyone is in any doubt, Jeremy Corbyn is now officially the leader of the labour party.

I have never been a member of this august body since, when asked where my political affiliations lay, I have always replied, "somewhere to the left of Lenin".

For me the previous incumbents of the labour leadership have never quite convinced me of their desire to actively improve the day-to-day lives of their fellow citizens.

And, of course, in the case of one particular such person, have led their country nose first, into war.

Any member of the party who had a vote and failed to use it has, in my view, no right to complain if they now have a leader whose aims do not match their own.

Perhaps I am just feeling unreasonably euphoric because England have once more trounced Australia in the cricket field, but no, there is, rising somewhere in my ancient frame, a slightly nervous glimmer of hope that this time there may be a real chance for the left of the political sphere to justify its opinions.

I am neither an astute politician, nor a total imbecile, merely an old woman seeing a light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Ditto

Deep joy.

Today was the close annual BBQ.

Today it did what it has been doing seemingly for ever, it rained.

I took my taxi to church in drizzle this morning, came home in even lighter drizzle.

So far so good.

After a cup of tea and feet up for 20 minutes I looked out to see what stage the 'setter-uppers' had reached.

The long tent/marquee whatever it is called was in place in the road, tables set up along one of the inside 'walls' and some goodies were being brought out.

The massive barbeque was being set up at one end under its own giant umbrella.

Good, I thought, I'll just take the few odds and ends out of the oven, cover them in cling-film and add my wine to the collection.

A few of the stalwarts were setting out chairs etc and all looked good.

The sky was grey but it was dry, so the children set up their face-painting paraphernalia (a regular feature of this event) and the first 3 year old was rapidly acquiring a pale green face, courtesy of a five year old budding Picasso.

Someone brought out the gadget (don't know what it is called) which plays music as a background to our noisy chatter.

A dozen or so of us sat, glasses in hand, and started  our tower of Babel catchup.

One hour later, having eaten some of the food and chat getting louder down came the first heavy drops, and two of the taller men started attaching the sides to the hitherto open tent.  Just in time.

It rained and it rained and it rained.  Two hours later it was still tanking down and the temperature was down several notches.  It was now about 3.30pm.

That was when my inner wimp, cringing from the chill forced me to my frozen feet and with a "sorry, I am too cold to stay out, bye, see you next year" I  fled.

Two hours later the noise from the tent was twice what it had been and I thought, shall I put something really warm on and go back out?  Opening the door to test the temperature a blast of icy
gale-driven water made my mind up for me.

It is now nearly 10.30 and for the first time I can remember, the road is empty of people, lights, noise etc .

It would appear that I am not the only wimp in the close.

There is comfort in numbers :-)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sufficient unto the day

Sunday it rained.

Monday it rained.

Today, Tuesday it poured.  Torrents, oceans, millions of gallons.

Many of us in this South Eastern, middle bit of England have been praying (literally) for rain.  The ground has been like concrete for months so little of the wet stuff have we seen.

I am as guilty of provoking the deluge as the rest.  My so-called garden has been slowly drying and crisping week-by-week.

But.

Enough Lord.

Did we have to have a lifetimes prayers for rain answered in three days?

As well as getting wet several times a day.  Seeing the army of snails increasing by the dozen even as I watched.  Hearing the doleful autumn song of the robin.  (It's still summer!), the weeds are turning into trees.

This coming Sunday we have the annual Close BBQ.  It must stop by then surely?

You could be forgiven for  thinking I ought to be used to rain, after all, I am Welsh, but I have lived away from Wales for a very long time and since living here in Aylesbury have become used to a smaller share of the wet stuff.

This summer has been largely grey chilly interspersed with occasional sunny, and on two occasions very hot days.  Not a good summer by any stretch of the imagination.
Wimbledon's second week was too hot but it has been largely downhill from there.

I had hoped August and September might make up for the deficit but the time is whizzing by and there is less hope of that daily.

Can't remember what it was doing on St Swithun's day but have my suspicions.

Next week I am taking a week off in order to try out my bus pass for  once out of Aylesbury.  I shall go to various towns nearby just so I know they are still there.

It has been some time since I ventured further than 3 or 4 miles and need to expand my horizons while i still have the courage.

One trip will be to Milton Keynes that great Mecca for shopaholics. (sorry can't spell it)

What will I buy?

A mac of course.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The passage of time

Today is the 6th anniversary of John's death.  This time day and date coincide.

After my morning with the 'SPACE' drop-in I attended the lunchtime Eucharist and headed down to the market square to buy flowers for John.

Of course I know he will not see them but it is the one day I can still physically buy something for him.

Sentimental tosh some people would say, but as I cleaned up his headstone so the blue granite sparkled and filled up the water container for the flowers, I had a few 'words'.

I sometimes glance at his photo in the sitting room and make some comment in response to a particular piece of TV, knowing that he would have said much the same, but my visit to the cemetery is different.  It  is a chance to have a different kind of communion.

No-one would have been more amazed than John by my decision to be baptised and confirmed.  He used to call me his old Welsh heathen.  (that was when he was feeling affectionate).  The rest of the time he just accepted my lack of religious belief as a part and parcel of my upbringing.

The past 6 years have passed in a flash and I sometimes feel that the present 'me' is so far removed from the old one that I must have gone to sleep as one person and woken as another.

It is for this reason that I am amazed when other people remember the day's significance .

This morning my friend the parish administrator handed me a small bouquet of blue freesias (my favourite flower and John's favourite colour).

This afternoon, dead-heading my front garden flowers one of my dear friends in the close cane up and gave me a hug and said "I know this is a difficult time for you".

Small gestures of love, but huge on my radar and very welcome.

My church life gives me a lot of things I would never have experienced in the old life and sometimes it feels as though I have never lived any other way.

The much quoted "Time is a great healer" has some truth, but  I think what the passage of time really does is to distance you from the deluge of feeling which accompanies bereavement  and allows other influences to reach you so that you do not forget, but the sadness runs parallel with your new life until eventually it recedes.

Much of the time these days I don't think about John at all and when I do it is affectionately, much as one does of happy incidents in the past.  Just now and then there is a sharp piercing reminder and the sense of loss is keen for a while.

Today was such a day.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Catatonic

This is my large pale ginger visitor showing me how to relax.

The recent very hot and humid weather has proved more than usually difficult for me, and apparently also for my regular caller.

He is turning his nose up at the food I normally buy him but is drinking quite a lot of the bird-bath water.

The fact that it is none too clean appears to bother him not at all.

Since  I too am having problems with food in this temperature I can't blame him.

This afternoon having got back from church at mid-day I started vacuuming the house while keeping an eye on the clock, watching for Wimbledon.  I was soon soaked and in need of a break so settled in the chair turned on the TV and settled down to the mens' final.

Half way through the match my next-door neighbours rang and asked if it was OK if they weeded my front  garden.   OK, I should just about think so.    It was the paved area they tackled and it has been so thickly covered in weeds of every kind that I haven't seen the stones since about April,  

They told me to go and put my feet up and watch the match and wouldn't take no for an answer.

They also planted the rose bought for me on my birthday in the pot which was part of the present and which is so heavy I have not been able to move it from the garage.  It looks splendid.

As I have said so many times before my neighbours are wonderful.  I felt like the Queen of Sheba with my feet up while my galley slaves worked in the heat.  Guilty too, but pleased.  Oh so pleased.

I think perhaps I could teach the cat something about relaxation.



Sunday, 21 June 2015

A MIXED WEEK

Have just watched the final of "Cardiff Singer of the World".  Missed the entire competition all last week.  Had no idea it was on or would have been glued to BBC4.

The five finalists were all very good, the winner absolutely outstanding, and to my great satisfaction is the one I chose.

Of the more than 20  years it has been running I have on all but one occasion always chosen the winner.

What that proves heaven only knows, but it tickles my vanity.

I watched Andy Murray win his match this afternoon on TV of course.  I should have been visiting the "Secret Gardens" in the old town, but was too tired after this morning's service to cope with another trip into town.

This may or may not be related to the fact that I am not very well at present, so am taking things easy/

In this town 99% of the taxi drivers are Asian (usually Muslim) and since I use a lot of taxis many of them have become friendly over the past few years,

As it is now Ramadan many of them are suffering the usual early days of that very testing time and until they become accustomed to fasting all day are not feeling their very best.  The chap who drove me to church this morning told me he is diabetic and is actually  better (or at least his sugar levels are better) during this period than normal.

The one who drove me home says he drinks vast amounts of water in the early hours before daylight which last him well until about mid-day, but after this he becomes more and more thirsty until he can drink again.

One of them has a 10-year old son who volunteers to fast with the adults, has been told he need not do so until he is 15, but insists on doing so and is apparently well and happy.

I cannot tell you how much I admire such strength of will and determined faith, but also fear that taken to extreme, it may be the roots of fundamentalism.

Part of my taxi journeys are always taken up with discussion about the similarities of Muslim and Christian teaching and I always feel that there are more things we have in common than divide us.

Never a particularly gullible person nor much inclined to generalise I still find to my surprise that the vast majority of the muslims in this town are easier to talk to than many of my own countrymen.

At St Mary's we have a very large community of Zimbabwe Mother's Union, who along with their husbands and children add considerable zest and enthusiasm (and noise it has to be said), to our all-age service when they sing with drummers some of their versions of our better known hymns.

One of their number is a valued member of our choir.

I think perhaps the key to good international relations is to simply listen to what (foreigners) have to say.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Fractured finking.

I am glad Sigmund Freud and I never met.  Had we done so I fear I would not be here (free, that is) musing in my usual fragmented way.

Today I murdered my balloons.

What kind of comment /confession is that?  My kind.

Those long-suffering readers who saw my item on the balloon family I acquired on my birthday back in March will perhaps remember that I intended to keep the helium filled 'children and mama' as long as I could.

They were still occupying a chair this morning in various states of deterioration when I suddenly thought "this is mad, they are taking up a whole chair, the room is a mess".

With that I took my letter opener and callously ended their existence.

Now I feel guilty!

That, odd though it may be is as nothing to the fact that I 'talk' to the birds when I've been out all day and they were fed only once (early morning), instead of two or even three times.

When I eventually - after a very long time, throw out a pair of worn-out shoes I say, "sorry, you really have to go".  Then I miss them.

If the large pale ginger cat who is a regular at my restaurant, doesn't eat all his biscuits I say "sorry I shopped somewhere else and they don't sell the ones you like".

I could go on, but for the sake of  your poor nerves will refrain.

There is probably a (not very nice) name for my sort of mind but, if you know it, please keep it to yourself.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The ghost in the machine - Spooked

This is nothing to do with the famous piece of pschyological literature of the same name.

This morning I have a lot of housework to catch up on.

This afternoon there is a Golden Wedding service with full eucharist at St. M's,  The couple at the centre being our retiring church warden choir member and his wife who is involved in dozens of other enterprises in our church family.

After the service there will be a buffet party, which in my case is to be followed by a party for the 18th birthday of one of my friends in the close.

So, lots of lovely time out of the very grubby house, followed by tomorrow's normal morning service .
This morning I am trying to rectify the neglect which is everywhere apparent.  First by vacuuming the whole house, then dusting polishing etc.

My vacuum cleaner is frankly cheap and not nasty exactly but inadequate.  It weighs so little that I can carry it upstairs on one finger.

Unfortunately this wonderful fact (the reason I bought it), is accompanied by several eccentricities which I am getting used to.  For example, when it becomes too warm it dies, with a sound like a fading air raid siren.  It is then necessary to wait for it to regain its strength before it will cooperate.

It lets me know when it is getting choked with dust by spitting out or regurgitating its contents, usually when I am almost finished.

This morning it did its usual fade-out so I thought, "a good time to have a coffee" and did just that.
Half way through my second cup there was a sound like a road drill and I went to  the front window to see which of my neighbours was starting some building work.  No one!

Puzzled I went upstairs to see if I could see better from there where the racket was coming from..

Lo and behold it was my vacuum cleaner which had switched itself on and was clearly waiting for me to resume.

Somewhat unnerved by this autonomous action I switched it off at the mains and said "Now let's see you start up".

Either I am losing the plot completely or it  is as I have always suspected, household machines have independent life.

Help.......

Saturday, 30 May 2015

What's in a Name?

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet".  True, but the name 'rose' is for all time connected with that loveliest of flowers, so that now no other name would do.

My good friend Jean Rolt of "Tregear Vean" who is currently awaiting surgery to remove a growth on her face, brought home to me very sharply the importance of names.

In a recent post she blogged that giving the 'wart' with which she has lived for years a title has totally changed her perception of it.

Have names really such power?  Yes, I think they have.

Someone living in an abusive relationship which has become habitual, often fails to recognise it for what it is and when finally brought to realisation by an outside source will at first deny and only then become shocked by it being named.

My late husband who had been unwell for many years was finally diagnosed with the disease which killed him, was completely unprepared for the naming of his disease, and from that day onward began to live differently, much more fearfully than before.

On an apparently different level, when i was singing back in the sixties and seventies, I was almost paralysed by fear when faced with the prospect of an audition.  Yet, if someone, no matter how exalted or famous said to me "come and sing this to me", I was relaxed and able to perform at my best.  Is the word 'audition' really so terrifying?

People who have done a particular job for many years without any real recognition of their efforts will be overwhelmed by the job being given a title.  The job will remain the same, but the person who does the job will be for ever changed.

So, what  is in a name?


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Doldrums

This is the only Google image I could find which accurately illustrates my current state of mind/writer's block.

Things are happening in my life of course, but only negative ones at present.

I appear to be going through some kind of low-spirited apathy, not "The slough of despond" exactly but something similar.

This is not a new thing for me of course, I have a history of depression, sometimes mild, sometimes more serious, but this long period of disinterest in everyday affairs is unusual.

It's not as though there is any lack of things to do (albeit almost all of them to do with St Mary's), but I am finding it very difficult to raise any enthusiasm for any of them.  Even music is failing to arouse any but the most feeble response.

There is a spate of birthdays in the close and invitations to go with them but I am simply not able to feel any real interest.

My garden which is becoming daily more overgrown is not encouraging any active response, more an increase in apathy combined with anxiety.

Housework has always been a bit of a no go area for me and it is now a real effort to make myself do the basics.

I read the blogs but can only seldom raise enough interest to comment.  I cannot write anything other than rants and do not want to put off for ever the few readers I still have,

This coming Sunday, instead of the normal attendance at St M's, my friend the parish administrator and one other lady and I are going to see our previous, greatly missed incumbent and his wife in their new church and then to lunch.  We are all looking forward to this and I am hoping (perhaps unrealistically) that this will prove the 'spell breaker' which will restore me to a better frame of mind.

It is perhaps unfair to pin too much hope on the reunion proving a catalyst but I feel that some kind of spiritual refreshment will take place.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Why Bother?



Several times in the past few weeks I have heard people say "I don't vote, it's a waste of time, nothing ever changes".

There are a number of ways to interpret that statement,  "I can't be bothered".  Fair enough but don't complain when it has become clear that nothing is going to improve in your particular areas of interest.

" I don't trust politicians".  Politicians are people and behave like people, some are trustworthy others are not but you can't go through life trusting nobody.

"They say they will do such and such, but once they're in power they forget all their promises"
There are many ways in which you can influence that.  Local complaints and campaigns to rally support.  If you don't speak out nothing will change that's for sure.

"I don't like so and so, he talks posh, he doesn't understand working people".  It is quite likely that his 'posh' speech has been slowly and carefully acquired over  a long period of time in order to be accepted by the rest of his party.

"She is a working class snob, she resents us and our money is not safe in her hands".  It may or may not be true, but if your monied and privileged background hasn't taught you how to look after your wealth, tough!

The one that really gets to me is "I'm not  interested in politics they're boring, nothing to do with me".

Really? So 'we' are one thing and in our own little cloud and 'politics' is in a little box, just over there, nothing to do with the stuff of ordinary life.

Well I've got news for you.  Life is politics.  Every single thing we do is influenced by politics and failing to use your vote to  at least attempt to change the things you don't like.or to improve the things which are already in place, whether your interest is in housing, education, health, community or any other aspect of daily existence is a shameful waste of opportunity.

In this country we have a reasonably democratic way of life, with many freedoms not available to people in many other countries.  It is our right certainly but also our sacred duty to use the vote our predecessors fought so hard for.

Not going to vote?   Shame on you.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Balance - perspective - joy - sorrow and survival

First thing this morning I saw the appeal on BBC TV by the DEC for the Nepal tragedy.

I phoned my donation through early so I could turn off the TV and think of something else.

All the way in to St. M's I found my mind turning to the dreadful pictures and stories that are unfolding in this latest and most dreadful of natural catastrophies.

This was my SPACE duty morning, always very busy, sometimes fun, more often challenging I was glad to be occupied and in a manner which had some merit.

Later someone told me they had had a pet cat put down yesterday, once more dropping the mood down to zero.

Returning home this afternoon my neighbour's son came round to let me know he has passed his driving test.  Full of high spirits he lifted the feel of the day back onto a happier level.

Watching the 6.00 pm news this evening more details were becoming known of the extent of the Nepal disaster  and knowing there was nothing I could do I once more turned the TV off.

At 8.oopm I settled to watch my long-time favourite Holby City.  A good storyline with some ups and some downs, my spirits rose to dizzying heights when the end of the programme saw the return of my hero - Heinrich Hanson.

My cup runneth over.

But.

What absolute nonsense.  How can a mere TV programme cancel out the misery of the events in the real world?

Well of course they can't, do not really do so, but what they do manage  is to restore the balance in a day filled with highs and lows.

When people use the very over worked expression "a roller-coaster ride", this is, I think, what they mean.

Without the redeeming factor of light-hearted trivia we would all sink into the depths of depression if we allowed bad news to take over our lives.

Finding the balance is tricky and is difficult to  sustain at times but is the key to survival. We are of  no use to other people if we are not able to retain our own stability.

Anyhow, to end this wandering reflection, may God bless and help and inspire us to try to help the poor victims in Nepal.

Oh, and God bless Heinrich Hanson. :-)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Let it Rain

This in case anyone has lost sight of the fact, is April.

So, where are the April showers?

Yes I do know that as soon as it starts to rain I along with half the population will be begging it to stop, but oh it is so dry.

Yesterday at 6.15 am out in the garden putting my morning bird-table and ground bird seed 'breakfast' out.  I nearly stepped on a dead starling.

How it was killed I don't know but it was very flat and was a very young bird, obviously too young to have learnt caution.

Taking a spade from the garage I started to dig a hole for the burial.  The ground was like concrete and all I could do was hack out a rough space lift the unfortunate little corpse into it and cover it with the solid block of rock-hard soil.

At lunch-time on my return from St. M's I filled a watering can with water adding some Jeyes fluid and soaked the area to seal it  from predators and to help disinfect the area.

Looking at my rapidly browning daffodils and Hellebores I realised that if it doesn't rain soon all the new growth will  be straw and of course the rampant weeds will resist all attempts to pull them up.

Once, back in the mists of antiquity I loved gardening.  Now the combination of dry Springs, hard clay soil and my own ancient body make it an almost impossible chore.

It wouldn't be so bad if the drought was accompanied by warm sunshine, but though there is some warmth in sheltered places, the evil strong East and Northerly winds cancel out the benefits while drying the earth out even more.

Every time we get a weather forecast which promises rain, the clouds gather overhead then thumb their noses at us as they sail by on their way elsewhere.

This Friday they are again promising rain.  I'm not holding my breath.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Meet and Greet

Every Wednesday it is my great pleasure to sit at the 'welcome' desk near the entrance to St Mary's.  A somewhat chilly post on many days since both the outer and sometimes the inner doors are wide open.

Nevertheless my 'meet and greet' partner and I thoroughly enjoy our weekly exchange of views, personal chat and deeper discussions, interspersed with visitors of all kinds.

Some scuttle in, heads averted so as not to catch our eyes and manage only the barest nod in return to our "Good Morning"s

Others drift up to the desk and linger and chat about their own churches, or sometimes their family stories, while some, just a few ask deeply interested questions about the age of the church and which are the bits to look out for etc.

Occasionally we get musicians who have heard that our accoustics are particularly fine and want details of concerts etc.
We have visitors from Australia, America Germany, Nederlands and many other countries, as well as coachloads now and then from all over the UK.

There are days when no-one crosses the doorstep and days when there are endless trickles of couples, groups and single callers.

All are grist to our mill, and the chance to have a really good chat about our various 'treasures' is really welcome.

Best of all is when someone on leaving says."thank you so much for making our visit so interesting"

A couple were on their way to the door last Wednesday when I remembered that they were particularly interested in old wood and I had neglected to show them our (four) misericords in the choir stalls.

I apologised for delaying them but said I hoped seeing these hidden carvings would make up for it.
They were so effusive in their thanks that I still had a smile on my face half an later.

Volunteering can be dull and sometimes seem a thankless exercise, but it can be such a source of joy too.

Oh dear, I sound like Pollyanna.  I'd better go and lie down. :-)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Belated photos

The two pictures above
are two of the four I took to illustrate my balloon story.  Have managed somehow to retrieve them fromthe clutches of my evil blog gremlins, but couldn't help the other 'prisoners'.

They are still just about surviving but the six smaller ones are about grapefruit size and Mummy has now wrinkled, descended to ground level and is looking at the floor.

All this just so I could discover how long they could remain with some helium still in them. (19 days so far).

If this sounds slightly off the wall I must plead Easter exhaustion.  Three mammoth days gone, and one remaining.

Musically it has been a wonderful experience but physically draining.  Some 11 hours so far.

Tomorrow we will round off the service with the Hallelujah Chorus.  By which time none of us will have any voice left.

There have been some rather odd changes to the 'normal' way of doing Easter, courtesy of our American rector, but he is getting used to us and we to him.

Much as I love Easter, I am glad it comes only once a year.

Spiritually rather traumatic, musically uplifting and exhausting in equal measure and mentally taxing it is a mixed blessing.

Happy Easter everybody.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

When is a balloon not a balloon? When it is family

Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean it's not true.

On Monday night 'the girls' took me out to celebrate my big birthday.  When the eight of us arrived in two taxis at the restaurant they persuaded me to enter first.

Aware they were about to spring a surprise of some sort I entered slightly warily,  The corner table was set for  8 with a string of 6 helium balloons in the centre and one larger one with "Happy 80th Birthday " was tied to the back of 'my' chair.

Little glittering sparkling tinsely bits were strewn over the table top and there was a little box with  a small cuddly bear in front of my chair.

To cut a long story short it was a wonderful evening.  Lovely food, good wine, lots  of happy chat and quite a volume of noise.

Luckily being Monday, it was a quiet night for the restaurant and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

During the evening more little gifts manifested themselves and at exactly the time of my birth 80 years earlier a cake with a sparkling 80 on top was brought in with the waiter joining in singing the inevitable Happy Birthday .

Three hours later as we gathered up bits and pieces to  leave they insisted I was to take the balloons home.  Six smaller ones went in the 'other' taxi, and they had tied 'Mummy' balloon to my wrist so I wouldn't leave her behind.

They all came back to my house for a brief final tot of Tokaij (a bottle I had been keeping for years)  and I had a box of chocolates ready as a final mouthful.

They had stood the balloons  on their heavy base in one place and I set the big one just behind them.

After they had gone I tidied up washing glasses etc., gave a look round said 'goodnight' to the balloons and went to bed.

Next morning as I left for St Mary's they were all standing just as they had been so with a muttered 'bye', off I went.

Returning at lunchtime to my surprise 'Mummy' was standing in her place but the other six were all sitting on the floor in front of the TV.

I have no idea what they had been watching but I ignored them all and went to get lunch ready.

As usual I brought in my tray, sat in my chair, feet on footstool and switched on the TV just in time for the last bit of "Loose Women".

One of the six balloons raised its head about a foot (affected I suppose by the heat from the TV) and effectively blocked my view.

Tutting I found myself saying "you can't sit there I can't see through you", and I picked up all six of them and dumped them on the sofa out of the way.

Since then they haven't moved (at least, not while I was there), and (Mummy) is still where she was.

The only change is that the six are a little smaller.

Nobody warned  me that balloons have personalities.





PS  I have put some pictures of them onto my computer but couldn't manage to up;load them for this blog.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

On being (almost) 80

Not until tomorrow.

I took along a box of chocolates for the choir this morning with strict instructions (not until after the service) mainly aimed at the 'mice'.

The secret is well and truly out so  no point in denying the fact that I am now officially old.

The look of fascinated horror on the faces of some of the mice "how can anyone be so old and still in a choir?" is one I have become used to.

The usual "you are fantastic for your age" while taken with the usual ton of salt is also rather annoying.

My mother who reached the age of 103 was incensed by the heaps of congratulations she received whenever her great 'achievement' was mentioned.  Neither she nor I understand why ageing without total collapse of all faculties is a source of astonishment for so many people.

After all the only thing you have to do to receive all these accolades is to keep breathing.

That brief tirade over, I am having the birthday of a lifetime.

Presents from all kinds of people are appearing on my doorstep, through the letterbox, in the post etc.
This is something of which I have no previous experience and it is lovely, if slightly alarming.

Everything is remaining unopened until tomorrow - despite the fact that one item was presented to me a month early.  So tomorrow will be very busy.

The 'girls' are taking me out to dinner tomorrow night to my favourite restaurant and have been heaping gifts on me for days.

With a long lifetime of birthdays passing almost unnoticed in the main to this is quite a step.

That said, I still have and sometimes wear a silver ring given me by my best friend on my 21st and also a little sawdust stuffed cat given me by my then boy-friend.

I love and value both of these things but am nor accustomed to being drowned in gifts.

As I said, lovely, but a little alarming.

Roll on tomorrow.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Happy Anniversary?

Today would have been my 44th wedding anniversary.

Had John still been here we would, as usual, have had a long debate about whether we 'needed' to celebrate it by going our for a meal or something similar.

Not one of the world's great romantics, John would have quite happily forgotten all about it, along with every other anniversary had I not been a part of the occasion.

In the 38 (and a half) years we were married I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he spontaneously bought me flowers or gave me a card.  Yet I made a big thing of every one as a way of balancing my past life.

From a family which - just about - managed to celebrate birthdays and made nothing whatever of other events I grew up neither expecting nor wanting lots of 'jollies'.  This changed when I got into my early twenties when for  some reason the dormant romantic in my soul began to emerge,

A series of boy-friends who did the meal and flowers thing made me realise my own approach which bordered on indifference, was not the normal one.

Even today when my lovely neighbours are nagging me to say what I would like to do on my birthday in a couple of weeks, I would much rather do nothing at all and let the inevitable happen with no input from me.

In my mid-twenties I began to take flowers to my  mother and give them a card to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  Later John and I  would take them out for a drink or a meal if we were in the same area of their 'day'.

Both parents were at first slightly bemused, then gradually became more accepting of our 'strange' ways.

Despite thinking their anniversary worth celebrating somehow John never quite caught on to the idea that ours might be worth a raised glass too.

When I read about the wildly extravagant manner in which some, usually young, couples mark the fact that they have been married for 3, 4 or even 5 years, I can't help wondering where we went wrong.

When is an anniversary not an anniversary?   When one half of the couple has 'bowed out' of the dance.Happy Anniversary John.

Monday, 23 February 2015

I couldn't resist this

Sorry.  (but not very)

I seem to be suffering from acute cuteness disease at present.

Saw this on a BBC newsreel at the weekend and felt sure it would make it to Utube.

A pity about the soundtrack it is better without it/

Enjoy.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Ashing and another Lent begins

Last evening we had our Ashing service at St. Mary's, and a lovely one it was too.

Since it is half-term the choir was down to less than half its full complement, but the sound we made gave no indication of that.

We sang "View me Lord" with one or two slight changes to our previous renditions, long pauses between some of the phrases etc.  Accurately and sensitively sung by our half choir.

Lead and conducted by our young organist (the musical director/choir coach was otherwise engaged) the sound was, in my opinion, probably the best we have ever produced.

The homily was well rounded (if a little long) and the 'ashing' itself very well executed.

This is the fifth time I have experienced this somewhat eccentric seeming ritual, and the first time I have ever had what was a real cross, rather than a dubious daub placed on my unsuspecting forehead.

One year, our previous much-loved incumbent, either intentionally or accidentally made what looked very much like a question mark on my face.  (control yourselves please), and  I couldn't wait to wash it off.

Lent for me is a time for quiet reflection, a reviewing of the past year and a resolve to make the next one better.

Yes, like half the population I do give up chocolate but that is only a very small part of this solemn time.  A chance to consider dropping other self-indulgent habits and to take small, positive steps on the journey to Easter.

For us this year at St Mary's has been full of big changes and the last 8 weeks or so very challenging with no less than 6 deaths in our wider church family, including the shocking one of a young priest in a neighbouring church.

Moods have swung from sadness, through acceptance to finally, hope, and the community as a whole has drawn closer to each other.

Our new incumbent is striving to support and uphold those most in need and at the same time to establish a forward-looking church.  Hard for him and quite hard for us too.

Altogether a different Lent.

Deo Gracias.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

I love this - No Apology

Barmy I know, but I think it's wonderful, particularly the cat's lisping "destiny".

It doesn't take much to amuse me and I am in dire need of amusement at present.

Enjoy.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Away with plants/ A way with plants

In 1992 the office of the civil service dept which employed me was in the process of moving, lock stock and barrel to another address.

This is, or was when I worked for them, a regular occurrence - lease ran out, new rent too high - find another building.

Having a final look round to see that nothing had been left behind I spotted a sad, forlorn, dryish looking variegated Tradescantia sitting miserably on the window sill of an empty room.

Knowing that the building would be likely to remain unoccupied for a very long time, I took pity on it and took it home with me.

Now at that time I quite fancied my chances as a gardener, unlike these days, but had an Achilles heel. Namely, pot plants.

Many people who knew I loved gardens and gardening thought, wrongly, that I also loved pot plants.

Not only could nothing have been further from the truth but, if anyone was unwise enough to make me a present of one, they had effectively sealed its fate.

The unfortunate green thing would take one look at me and die.  No matter how much care I took of it, its days were numbered.

This extremely boring green and cream leaved specimen was watered, placed on the kitchen window sill and left to get on with it.

Every few weeks my eye would alight on it and I would guiltily give it a huge drink, then forget it again.

About two years later I noticed it was looking a bit brown and crinkly so removed all the dead leaves
re-potted it in a larger pot, soaked it and fed it a few drops of Baby Bio which had somehow been left over from a previous attempt to save something.

To my surprise it flourished, the green was greener and the cream creamier and it was growing.

After that it got a 'haircut' about every 6 months or so and somewhere down the line was re-potted again.

A half-hour ago I realised that it was sitting green and relatively healthy on the window sill where it has lived for twenty-three years.

It is totally pot-bound almost compost-less and yet it still flourishes.

I have heard of plants which thrive on neglect, but this is just plain ridiculous.  At this rate it will outlive me.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Guardian Angel's Day Off

Well, maybe not a day off, just one where his/her head was turned the other way.

Leaving St M's in a hurry yesterday, busy morning several hold-ups I was hurrying to get to Sainsbury's to do my large weekly shop.

Successfully negotiated cobbles of Pebble Lane turned into the paved square and tripped on an uneven one, fell very fast and very heavily on my knees then 'splatt' on my face.

Blood was pouring from nose and I was somewhat shaken to say the least.  Two wonderful Chinese fellows ran out from their restaurant one phoning for an ambulance the other trying to pick me up.
When they saw the state of me one of them grabbed some napkins or kitchen roll or similar and held it to my face while the other knelt down on the pavement behind me and half pulled up so I was leaning back on him.  Poor little fellow was half my size and he was shaking even more than me.

Ambulance arrived took over and took me to the local hospital.  Arriving at about 12.45 pm.  From there it was a longish wait for Triage who fast-forwarded me (about half an hour) to see a doctor who would assess the damage and recommend treatment.

He was a really nice chap and took great pains to get all the facts right before telling me he thought  rather than deal with it there they would get the plastic surgeon to come and see me.

All this time blood was hardly being stemmed by the succession of pads they gave me.

Finally at 4.30 the Surgeon had a look and told me I had sliced my nose to the bone, cutting the main artery to the nose which was why they couldn't stop the bleeding and he was not sure whether the nose was broken.

The next half hour was about the least pleasant one of my life, injections in my mouth lower and upper lips, in the inner corners of my eyes my cheeks and then worst of all about 8 or more tiny ones in my poor nose,

He then cauterised the artery which slowed and finally stopped the bleeding and then proceeded to stitch my nose from top to bottom washed some of the blood off me, put plaster strips on the nose and said that was it.

I won't pretend I was brave, I wasn't, it hurt, all the time and my hours of holding things to my nose to stem the flood had left my arms weak and shaking.

After the usual questions about my life a lovely nurse persuaded me that now was the time to make use of the offers of help from my neighbours.  Looked one up for me, phoned her, explained the problem and she came and collected me to take me home.

It was then 7.30pm and I had had nothing to eat or drink since my coffee at St M's at 10.30.

The Close grapevine had got to work and someone had put my heating on and two of them brought a batch of tins of soup.  One made tea and the other heated the soup.

I had been told I was not to lie flat but sit propped upright with pillows at night and also not to lean forward or bend down in case the bleeding starts again.  Nor am I allowed to blow my nose, th eone thing I am dying to do.

That's my latest tale of woe, but oh my goodness, is it peppered with wonderful kind caring people.

The angel may have been looking elsewhere, but luckily for me no-one else was.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Matchsticks for my eyes please

It is a wet and very windy night and I should be asleep, but I am not and can not so I have read a while, lain a while, walked around the house a time or two and finally given in to the lure of the keyboard.

The wind is shaking the house and even through the double-glazing blinds and curtains it is howling like a wild animal in pain.

Earlier sitting at the front desk in St. Mary's (Meet and greet) they call it, but there is no-one to meet and greet when the weather is so cold wet and windy.

"We are lucky here in this area where we seldom see the extremes of weather" we tell ourselves, but, bent double to hide from wind and rain, standing waiting for the bus it somehow seems less true.

Why is it expected of us that we be stoic and unfazed by regular soakings, freezings and generally being 'roughed-up' by gales.

"A mild winter" they say.  Doesn't feel mild to me I think.

"Soon be spring" they say.  Really?  Not in my Welsh calendar it won't.

Too little physical exertion during the day leads to sleepless nights, for me anyway.  So a good book is a necessity, and sometimes, just now and then, I actually find one among the library's mountain of dross.

My current one is very good indeed , "The coward's tale" by Vanessa Gebbie is a rare treasure.  The author, new to me, has a wonderful descriptive narrative style, similar only to Dylan Thomas.

It is the kind of book which, far from rushing to the end, makes you want to read only a little at a time so that it will last indefinitely.

Reading at night for hours makes my eyes sore anyway so have had to give up for a while.

Some people lie there for hours trying to force sleep to come.  That doesn't work for me but night-time activities are restricted and for me TV is a no-go after midnight,  so the computer has a stronger than usual attraction.

Have just peered out of the window and the back garden is a lake with a frosting of snow.  It will soon turn to sleet again I'm sure but it is not an inviting sight at 2.30 am.

Today, or rather yesterday, I collected two pairs of glasses from my optician,  One for reading very small print and the other for watching TV if it becomes a strain.

I have incipient cataracts in both eyes which have not moved for years but I am told, are now doing so.  So at some stage both will have to be operated on.  Not a pleasant thought, but I have got  away with it for a good while so I suppose I should be grateful.

My spirits are beginning to turn morose so will stop before the gloom spreads.

Sleep happily on dear readers, I only envy you a little.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

It's that tedious woman again

I solemnly promise that this is the last time you will have a report on any TV I have been watching this year,

That said, I have to add to my previous list "The Help" and this evening "Quartet".

These are two of the best films I have seen in about 20 years.

The first, for anyone who doesn't know, is the story of a white American journalist who took the brave and unusual path of trying to bring to the attention of a deeply prejudiced and habitually racist white South, the fact that the  black domestic staff they employed were people with lives and needs, gifts and talents, intellects and problems, such as their own.

Superbly acted and faithful to the terrible truths of those times (1960's), the story is full of uncomfortable truths about the American apartheid system in some of the Southern States and the lack of recognition of that system by the bulk of the American population.

For those of us who remember "bussing" and the Ku Klux Klan, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, the film is  a memory jog and a recognition that though life is better than it was for the non-whites in the USA, there is a long way to go still.

The second film, "Quartet" is supremely well acted and for me, as an ancient ex-singer mainly of opera, very true to life in its depiction of crumbling bodies, tottering mentalities and voices which barely resemble a shadow of their former glory.

The entire cast is a jewel casket of top performers, amongst whom Maggie Smith and Tom Courtney shine with all the fire they possessed 40 years ago.

Full of humour, pathos and lovely music it was a joy to watch and I wish I had gone to the cinema to see it when it first was released.

Not having set foot in a cinema for over forty years I funked it at the time knowing that sooner or later it would be shown on TV.

It was worth waiting for.