Monday, 31 December 2012

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Oh all right then, Happy New Year.

I know, no-one likes a smarty pants.

It's just that I finally received a Christmas card from my Dutch friends today......delivered by car at around 5.00pm!

I suspect it had been mis-delivered and they had just remembered to put it through my letter box in time for New Year.

Since the husband had been very seriously ill, I had been imagining all sorts of awful scenarios and it was a tremendous relief to get the card, however late, and discover all is well with them.

Have I said before that I love receiving cards.  My late father and I used to compete as to whom had the greatest number each year.  He always won and now I can't remember what his usual total was.  Mine is an absolutely staggering 76 this year.  I didn't know I knew that many people.

I hang them on gold coloured elastic cords and are the only Christmas decoration I use these days.  Had toyed with the idea of getting a small tree this year, but in the end decided not to bother.

While it has been quite a pleasant Christmas I don't anticipate ever going in for big celebrations again, either for Christmas or New Year.

I was reading a blog from someone who is considering her options about making resolutions for 2013, and gave it some thought myself before deciding that this coming year will be one where I force myself to go out more, cinemas, theatre etc. for the good of my soul (and sanity).

Apart from a trip to a panto two years ago, I haven't set foot in a theatre for over 40 years, and, amazingly, the same goes for the cinema.

It will take an effort of will to take the initial steps but it will happen.

I don't appear to be unusual in that I do not celebrate New Year, which let's face it, will happen with or without me, and have noticed that most of my neighbours appear to have gone to bed.

There are occasional bursts of fireworks happening from quite a distance away, and I know from previous years that as the hour strikes there will be a huge amount of noise, so can't even think of going to bed yet.

At least for  those who are outdoors at present it has at last stopped raining (for a while), so the fireworks should be spectacular.

I wish all who read this (and all who don't), as happy and healthy and joyful a New Year as possible.

Blessings one and all.  (and no, I'm not Tiny Tim).

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Smoking. Human Rights and Cutting off your nose to spite your face.

That benign despot, Archdruid Eileen of Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley fame, has something to say in her latest rant (post), on the subject of official interference in our lives.

In this case it was a notice/sticker in a car demanding that we all give up our anti social filthy habits (smoking that is) in our own cars.

Like the Archdruid, I do not smoke (now), but there is nothing more likely to make me take up the filthy weed once more, than the demand that I give it up.

Just who actually appoints these guardians of public morality to their exalted positions.  Who are they.  And, and, why is their chosen modus operandii (way of life that is), better in every way than ours?

It seems to me that every way we turn, on walls, over doorways, on posters, in cars, there are exhortations to do this or that, or refrain from doing  this or  that, to  the point where it suddenly becomes imperative to do the opposite or  turn to  a pillar of salt.

Once, many moons ago I was - hush, whisper - a smoker.  Yes, even I, pillar of moral rectitude that I am, was once a slave to the obnoxious weed.

Frankly I smoked from the age of 17 to  the age of 37.  No, I am not proud of the fact and yes, it did have a detrimental affect on my throat and lungs.  It was indeed stupid, and finally I was able to give up.

At that time, the harmful habit was not known (by most people) to be potentially dangerous, publicity was for not against, smoking and few people cared what the rest of the population did.

Since then, along with virtually every other pleasure it has been first condemned, then prohibited then made illegal in certain situations.  All of these actions have been made with the greater benefit to the population at large in mind, and are, in my opinion, a good thing, but there is a cut-off point, and that point is where the freedom of the individual comes into play.

No-one, in my view, should be allowed to indulge in an activity which is detrimental to the well being of others, but, where the activity is in a controlled and private environment and the only person likely to suffer ill effects is the perpetrator, then the right to do what they choose should be inviolable.

So in conclusion the right to cut off your nose to spite your face, smoke yourself to death, drink until you drown, or bungee jump without enough rope, should be unassailable, by even the most avid tub-thumping, hectoring protester.

Long live freedom say I.  Even if it kills you

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Joy of Acceptance

Apologies to anyone who may have noticed my absence from the blog world.
Life has been a bit hectic recently and the time thief stole my blogging time.

Now, pretty well through the vast amount of music which has dominated the last three weeks (only tomorrow, Midnight Mass and Christmas Morning to go), there is at last time to sit back and evaluate the changes in my way of life.

Don't think for one moment that I'm complaining about the huge number of new (to me) pieces of music, carols, and different forms of musical liturgy at this time of year, I am loving (almost) every minute.  But it is exhausting.

The rewards are immense.  So many people have expressed pleasure (and slightly less flatteringly, surprise), that the choir is sounding so good, some of them have used words like "wonderful", and "fabulous", that we are beginning to believe it!

There have been numerous, group lunches, dinners and general social get-togethers, and to my amazement, even a most unexpected invitation to lunch for me from a lovely couple who are pillars of St. Mary's.

This is such a contrast with previous Christmases that it has made me realise just how far I've come in three years.

There have been a few forays into new territory, new experiences, new ways of looking at life, and a couple of dips into depression, (one of them fairly severe), but through it all a slow realisation that sitting on the fence and watching the world go by is not for me.

The concept has its charms, but the reality is mental and physical stagnation and a decline into nothingness.

Having felt at first that my life was over and that there was no place for me, I then began to have unrealistic dreams about what might be, until finally, being welcomed into a new social circle (albeit one where the 'entrance ticket' was learning a new approach to life), has totally changed me from the wretched, lonely, self-pitying creature of three years ago.

Initially sceptical about the much-used word "joy", I have discovered that there is such happiness to be found in talking to and listening to other people, hearing about their problems and their ways of solving them.
Their dreams and aspirations even in their sixties, seventies and eighties, that I feel ashamed of my old attitudes.

Now, facing my fourth Christmas alone, I have accepted that that is how it is going to be from now on, and the rest from the hectic run-up to Christmas while enjoyable, is only one side of the coin, the other is to learn to enjoy peacefulness and a few quiet days,  Not lonely, restful.

I have a warm comfortable house, more than enough food, TV, books, and if all else fails, my computer.
How good is that?

A very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read this.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The oblique approach

For an idle few minutes, watching the feeding birds in my frozen back garden, I was intrigued by the odd way a very large magpie was behaving.

While chaffinches, reed buntings, starlings and blackbirds all fed apparently without first sizing up the competition, the magpie (at least 4 times the size of most of them), eyed them, and then the food, before making a series of sideways lunges at its chosen morsel.

Its ungainly awkward hop seemed designed to attract twice the attention any of the others might, and yet, when one of them turned towards the same bit of food, the magpie was suddenly aggressive and on the attack.

This reminded me quite suddenly of a conversation I was having last evening at my Icon painting class, about a person known to us both who was making life very difficult for someone else, with a series of similarly side-long or oblique attacks on their way of working.  This method, we both agreed, was not a desirable or even a particularly honourable way of pointing out another person's deficiencies.

This in turn, provoked a lengthy debate on what is, or ought to be, the right way to 'correct' the modus operandi of a subordinate.  We both agreed that a direct, but diplomatic and preferably fairly gentle approach was likely to produce the best results.

It is easy to offend someone who is not self-confident, and even easier to undermine them in the eyes of their peers, and oblique 'Chinese whispers' are even worse than an out and out attack.

Sadly it is not only magpies which have a cruel streak.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Uninvited Guest

 I just went to throw out more food for the birds, as it is about 3.00 pm and getting noticeably colder, I heard a bit  of uproar from the starlings and was just in time to grab two, poor, snatched photos through the glass of the back door.

Not quite sure why the one of the 'creature' eating bread and bird-seed is so misty but he is just about the biggest dog fox I've ever seen.

It is a number of years since there was a fox intrepid enough to come this close to the house, the last really bitterly cold winter, in fact, but this one was quite unfazed by my pointing the camera at him and only leapt up and over the fence when I opened the door.  
When we first came here 32 years ago, we had muntjac deer, badgers, foxes and squirrels and hedgehogs.  Now I thought we had only squirrels!

Not too sure how happy I am to see this chap, there are after all, a lot of cats around, but he seems to be relatively tame so I would guess someone is probably feeding him.

I do not intend to join his fan club, but he is welcome  to what he has already had!

No-one can say life is ever dull in this urban space.

Tiny though it is, we get some unusual visitors.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Over Indulgence - Paying the price

3.30 am and I am once again vertical rather than the virtuous horizontal I should be.

Last night was our Annual Christmas  Meal for those of us (paid and volunteer) who by and large staff St. Mary's

We had a happy, noisy evening with a choice of 3 or 4 items on the menu.

Sadly, my common sense, seldom in the ascendancy deserted me completely and I ordered, whitebait starter, salmon fillet to follow and finished with a berry trifle.

It was fairly unexciting but quite pleasant fare for a non-meat-eater.  Unfortunately it was also very heavy in fat, and the result appalling heartburn!

Pointless to say that I should know better by now - I have after all been around for a while - and equally pointless to say that in isolation, each of the chosen foods would have been OK.  The combination of three high-fat dishes was lethal.

My eyes keep closing, I want to sleep, but I can't lie down, and not being a horse, can't sleep standing up.

Upright I am merely uncomfortable, horizontal the heartburn is scorching and I feel really sick.

Does anyone know at what age common-sense puts in an appearance?

Answers on a very large poster please.  (I can't see to read anything smaller).

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent re-visited

Arriving early (as usual), this morning at St. M's, thick hard white frost outside, calm quiet Advent with just that little air of anticipation which marks this day, I was reminded on the previous one.

What a contrast.  This morning I looked at the two lovely trees, lights twinkling, baubles shining, the crown decorated with greenery, ribbons and the pristine candles and revelled in the atmosphere.

It was an all-age service and the Sunday school children had been taught a simple little carol by our choir mistress and one of the choir
members.  "We will rock you", they sang, not loudly but quite tunefully considering they are mostly under 6.

This set the tone for a really heart-warming service with the Rector (not usually famous for his lack of inhibition) involving the children at every stage, and somehow managing to combine light-heartedness with an air of the importance of the day.

The choir sang "Come Lord Jesus" as the anthem absolutely magnificently, though I say  it as shouldn't.

We sounded like 40, rather than the mere 14 we actually were.

Last year I felt crushed by the festivities, this year totally a part of it all.

My mother having died on Christmas Eve 2008, followed by my husband in August 2009, I had given away my Christmas decorations and had merely put up the Christmas cards for a few days in all the succeeding years.  Suddenly this year I am seriously considering of buying new lights etc and even possibly having a small tree.

Something has lifted in my depressed spirits in recent weeks and at last Christmas is acquiring some meaning for me.

Last year and the two previous Christmases I have sat at home from Christmas Day until New year, bleakly wishing Christmas over and real life resumed.  This year I can almost feel the small thrills of childhood again.

This morning's wonderful uplifting service has set the tone for what is to come.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Overcome by trivia

Fighting my spiteful duvet into its uncooperative cover this morning I was reminded yet again of the way some (apparently) inanimate objects, conspire to defeat the feeble.

As with so many things, the power of the inanimate is awe inspiring.

Does anyone know why, when your hands are full, faced with a pair of swing doors, the one which is unlocked always says "pull"?

Why, on the one morning you are running late, having for once had a good night's sleep and overslept, you pull on your shoes in the dark,  is the right foot always in the left shoe?

Why when you have left something upstairs do you only find you need it when you are downstairs, and worse, when you get back up there do you forget what it was?

Shopping, looking for something, finally you find it hand over a 25% off coupon triumphantly, only to hear,"sorry madam this coupon ran out yesterday".

When you phone someone you need to talk to urgently, why is it they are always "out" or "in a meeting", and when you call back later at the time suggested, they  have just gone to lunch?

In a hurry, needing a quick photocopy of just one single sheet, the machine requests several minutes of codes, minute instructions etc. and when you have finally got the green light, you push the start button and "out of paper", it sneers.

Queuing for a coffee, you are eyeing the one remaining piece of coffee and walnut cake, then the person just in front takes it!!!!!!

Waiting for the bus in the cold and wet, it finally hoves into view with the words "Not in service" proudly displayed in front.

And, last but not least, a particularly personal one, why don't eyelashes grow as fast and as long as eyebrows?

PPS I have just seen a Blackcap in the back garden.  Of course, I am upstairs and the camera is downstairs!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Christmas Draws on

Yes that right, you have seen this before. (many times), and yes, it does mean I have sunk without trace yet another large whisky.

The reason (excuse), this time is that I have just got in from a very tiring, though wonderful, Christmas Bazaar at St.M's.

The first of many, it was held on yet another dark, very wet day.  I don't know how much rain there still is up there, but oh boy do I wish it would stay up there.
We had a steady stream of people through most of the morning which thinned by mid-day, and dwindled to a handfull by 2.00 p.m   Nevertheless, we all, the 'traders', enjoyed it  and we did quite well I think financially.

I was working for an organisation within the church known as 'Space', which offers a listening ear to a variety of people with diverse problems, reasons for seeking company, and someone with time and a willing spirit to engage with them.

Knowing at first hand, how very useful such a haven can be I am only too happy to try to offer someone else some of the kindness, friendship and comfort I have received.

We had everything for sale from cakes, many and splendid, smellies, very varied, and knitted good, handcrafted items expertly made and pottery, also hand made.  We had unwanted gifts of every description size and price and at the end of the sale had reduced our mountain to a mole-hill.

Despite the awful weather - a feature of this year - all our regular customers and many new ones dropped in and spent their hard-earned cash.

Since I never eat at these events when I arrived home, thanks to a lift from a lovely lady, I was hungry, tired, and in need of a pick me up, supplied courtesy of Grants.

Rather than eat I thought I would pickle my liver and eat this evening.  Then thought, why not share my day with my readers.

Tomorrow there are two services, the usual 10am Eucharist and in the afternoon a service for "Peace and Justice in Syria.  The latter is an ecumenical service using the Iona liturgy so will make quite a varied (if busy) day.

This seems as good a reason as any for downing a whisky.  I don't really need an excuse but it's nice to have one.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Seeing things

 Coming back from St  M's at lunchtime today, crossing the road at the bottom of our close, my heart was in my mouth.  There was a screech of  brakes and a large tabby cat shot across the road a car missing him by inches.

I've never seen this cat before and he looked so much like my lovely feral Sam I thought I was seeing things.

I wrote "Cats tails (2) " on my blog on 19th August last year, when I told about Sammy's entry into our
lives.  This incident today inspired me to dig out, scan and reproduce these old pictures of Big Sam.

John tolerated him, I loved him unreservedly, warts and all.

During his years with us, he earned many nicknames one of which, when he was getting old and ricketty was "Grandpa Stripey"

The other one, by which John, and those who admired him rather less was "Maestro Stinketti".

His joint habits of lying on his back waving his huge paws as though conducting an orchestra, combined
with the rather less attractive one of suddenly making
the most appalling smells was how this 'title' was earned.

Despite his somewhat unsavoury aroma he was a huge, heavy, purry, loving mog with a heart of pure treacle.

He never got used to sleeping inside at night and had a cat-flap into the back door of the garage with a bed in there for the worst weather, but would come in if we were home in the day and sleep wherever he liked.  Often this was on an ancient ragged cardigan of John's  which I had knitted and he had finally been
persuaded to donate to Sam.

You can see from the pictures how totally relaxed he finally was, as his head gradually drooped lower and lower and his massive paws dangled limply.

Best of all, was catching him with what John always called his "boozy smile" Last Picture below.

Despite his size and his feral origins, he had a truly gentle nature and even when his overtures were rejected (which they usually were, by John), he would put a large forgiving paw on his shoe  and lean heavily, looking at him all the time, until even he had to laugh and say "OK Sam come up".

His weight was fearsome and aching thighs and knees the inevitable result of a 'Sammy cuddle', but he was so worth the discomfort, our lovely Stripey giant.

I don't know where today's 'near miss' cat came from but he started memories echoing down the years. I only hope he is as well loved as Sammy was.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Another Scam Alert

I have just taken a phone call from someone who asked me to confirm I was who I was, gave me the correct  Postcode then launched into a warning about a serious virus.
They had not identified themselves which immediately put my early morning antennae on the alert, and then said I was to go and switch on my computer.
I said "No" and put the phone down, went upstairs and switched off my computer.
When I dialled 1471 the number was withheld.
Right decision?   I think so.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A great way to waste an afternoon

This morning was busy, tiring, wet, infuriating and altogether unrewarding.  I put a machine-load of washing on and just before I left the house to trudge round in the rain to the bus stop, there was a power cut.

Oh well, I thought, at least the washing will resume when the power returns and with any luck by the time I'm back from town all will be well.

Ha!  Should have known better,  After frustrating failure to get most of the things on my list got a taxi home dumped shopping with a sigh of relief and went to make a coffee.  Two hours since leaving the house and still no power.

 I was cold damp and needed a hot drink, had ironing to do (surplice and stock for tomorrow's Remembrance Service) and also needed to shred a load of papers.

None of these things were possible without electricity, then one of my neighbours rang and asked if I had any power.  Apparently there was a selective cut (just a few of the houses in our close) and we should have been warned by letter.

Not only had neither of us had any such letter, but worse, the power was apparently expected to be off until around 4.00 pm!

By now the lack of heating was beginning to make itself felt and I decided to follow my friend's example and phone my supplier (a different one from hers) and complain about the lack of warning.

This took a half an hour of trying three different numbers until I finally got an explanation and an apology, I should indeed have been warned.  I said I was unimpressed, he apologised again and said they would make a payment in compensation.  This may or may not happen, we'll see, but in the event the power came back on shortly after mid day.

I then raced through all the things I needed to do and fell into a chair with a coffee and switched on the TV.

Trawling through the usual dross I finally hit on ITV 3 just in time to catch the beginning of one of the very greatest TV plays I've ever seen.

This was the marvellous "Lost for words" starring the late great Thora Hird and Pete Postlethwaite.

Anyone who has never seen this superb classic is in for a treat if they have the means of retrieving it on Ipod/pad or similar gadget.

The deeply touching story of a loving son devoted to his lovely, dotty mother combines the very best of humour and pathos as the tale sees his mother through a series of strokes until she finally succumbs. 

To say any more would be to spoil the experience for anyone who has yet to see it, but it is without doubt a truly memorable piece of theatre.

Don't take my word for it, watch it.

Or as Thora Hird would say "Flump!"

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Alligator tears

Born and brought up in a time when public tears were frowned upon, and anyone predisposed to weep frequently was considered lacking in moral fibre, it has often amazed me to observe the watery antics of large swathes of today's population.

Of course, I've changed as life has introduced some of its nastier hurdles and while even now I do not weep at the drop of a hat, at long last I recognize the need to cry as an important part of human development.

There is a point in grief when the overwhelming need to cry takes over from habit or training, and while it doesn't always make the sufferer feel better, had they not given way to the impulse it would undoubtedly have made them feel much much worse.

I don't subscribe to the view that crying over every upset  is a good and useful way of relieving stress, and yes, I do still rather despise those who leave a wet trail every day of their lives, but that is not to say that a
'good cry' can't sometimes  be therapeutic, and once over and done with a sort of balance can be achieved.

Mass weeping and wailing (the death of Princess Diana, for example), leaves me cold and yes, slightly contemptuous.  This is not because I feel nothing, but simply because the sort of hysterical wailing which accompanies such events seems to me  totally inappropriate .

Real grief for someone we knew and loved can produce vast vats of tears over which we have no control,
and it's probably just as well we haven't since that is a real need to cry.

There are tears of regret, sympathy, and the nervous reaction type tears, all of which are produced for a good reason and not as it were, by rote.

I think what I'm trying to say is it's the "Oh this is sad I must cry" or the "I need to show how sensitive I am" type of - not crocodile, more alligator tears - that I have no time for.

This morning on the breakfast TV show we were treated to the sight of Rod Stewart weeping at a football match, not because his team had been defeated, but because they had won.

The cameras went repeatedly to this 'touching' scene and we were all invited vicariously to share his emotion.

Have we come just a tad too far from the 'stiff upper lip' days, or is it just me?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Kindness - Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

Something mentioned in a very recent post by Jean Rolt of "Tregear Vean" resonated strongly with me.

This incredibly brave lady who has been tragically bereaved in the last few days, talked of how greatly affected she was by the kindness of strangers.

For anyone who believes as I do in the innate goodness of almost all human beings, this is something of which we become aware on many occasions during life's most difficult times.

I was reminded again of this propensity for instant acts of kindness only this week.

Having been laid low by a cold/flu/throat type bug, I had taken to my bed and barely moved on Tuesday, until the phone rang mid morning.  "I saw your bedroom curtains were still closed and wondered what was wrong", said my young across the road neighbour.

She asked me what she could do for me and when I said I was OK, added she was going shopping to the local supermarket and could she get me anything.  I answered yes please, my throat is really sore can you get me some O.... pastilles please.  She said if  they had any she would post them through my door.

When several hours had passed I realised they obviously didn't stock them and thought no more about it, but, late in the afternoon a bag from a town pharmacy dropped through the letterbox with the throat tablets.

The next morning I got a phone call from her mother Sue who lives a few streets away, wanting to know if she could get me anything else, apparently having been asked by her daughter to buy the pastilles as she was going into town.

I barely know this woman but she had gone out of her way to get them and delivered them also without any hesitation  at her daughter's request.

By Friday ill or well, I had no choice but to go shopping, I was out of so many everyday items.  Shakily got the bus into town, did the biggest shop I could think of and used the stores freephone to call a taxi.

Five minutes they said.  In less than two he had pulled up, ordered me to get in opened up the boot, carried all the tons of shopping and returned my trolley to the rank.

ON arriving home he told me to go and open the door, carried the shopping in and dropped it in the hall and when I thanked  him profusely said "no problem".

Such small things in the scheme of things, yet such acts of real kindness, just when I needed them most.

I have already blogged many times on the overwhelming kindness of  my neighbours when John died and so often, at the very bleakest of times a small act of love from someone we may know only by sight, has such a heartwarming effect, it can colour a whole day, and change a grey landscape to a sunny one.

Thank God for warm hearts and kind people.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

When is enough enough?

On yet another grey, damp sunless day (the fifth in a row), yet in quite an upbeat mood, I sat down to have my lunch, switched on the lunch-time news, and yet again wished I hadn't.

It is necessary to either read a newspaper, listen to the radio, go online or watch TV in order to have at least some idea of what is happening in the world around us.  This I accept.

What for me is becoming well-nigh intolerable is the sheer volume of 'bad' news items which fill the half-hour news slot every day.

Yesterday was the wretchedly sad story of the Doctor whose entire family were wiped out in a horrendous house fire.

Today started with the news that yet another part of the once great Ford manufacturing empire is to close, with the loss of yet more jobs.

Then there is the ever-increasing volume of horror stories around the vile can of worms which is the Jimmy Savil story.

The supposedly good news story which ended today's half hour was that of the award which is to be presented (posthumously) to  the dog who died - apparently of a broken heart - on the same day as his soldier hero owner.

If this is good news then Dear Lord please spare from the bad.

Sufficient unto the day....

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Saint Francis as seen by my friend the Iconographer

As promised, these are pictures of my Icon taken by the artist giving a much more detailed view of the depiction,  They were  taken in Freemantle where she painted it.  The base is Jarrah? wood a native Australian wood beautiful in its own right.
She claims they are not good pictures.  I disagree.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

An amazing morning

 This morning at the 10.00 am Eucharist I was called out of my place in the choir by the Rector, in order to receive a blessing on the Icon of St Francis, commissioned by me and painted/written by our wonderful in-house Iconographer.

It was a really happy moment, in what turned out to be a very good service.  The sermon was a good one, the choir sang very well (particularly the anthem by John Ireland), and yours truly was, to say the least ecstatic.

When I got the superb finished work home I thought I'd photograph it and show it, in all its glory, on my blog.

I had reckoned without my total lack of skill as a photographer, my ham-fistedness in trying to set up a decent background and my still absolute inability to understand the mechanics of lighting.

The odd thing was that each time I tried to find a new background or the correct amount of daylight something totally different happened.  The result was a really extraordinary collection of near-miss photos each one quite distinct from the last, none of them even beginning to do justice to the subject and one of them with all the appearance of a halo of light rather than gold.

Now I am not easily spooked, but, as each attempt became further and further from the original I got more and more nervous.

If you click on each of these you will see just how very different each one appears.

Needless to say the real thing is utterly beautiful, a joy to behold (I hardly dare say own) and more than meets my hopes and expectations.

My photographs forgive the expression, do so little justice to it that I hardly dared reproduce them here, but thought I needed to.
partly to try to show you what a wonderful version it is,but also to demonstrate that the camera can indeed prove to have a life of its own.

Since none of  the photographs really show all the details I must tell you that one of the things I had specifically asked for was that there should be a cat peeping out from under the robe of the saint.

In addition I wanted him to be looking out rather than to the side as he is depicted in most paintings.

This as you may see was brilliantly accomplished.

The lovely Constantina added her own little touches of humour, a squirrel, a penguin and the most mischievous looking wolf ever seen.

It is altogether a thing of beauty and for me at least, will be a joy forever.

In the unlikely event that I ever become a competent photographer I will take a good picture and re-post it so everyone can enjoy my treasure.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Booze Jewellery temptation and me

I have just 'escaped' upstairs to my lap-top from the insidious effects of watching my favourite jewellery programme and a large whisky and ginger.

Today started fairly normally, for me, with a mad dash round to the local surgery for my flu-jab.  Mad dash because my appointment was for 9.00 am and I woke from a long and heavy sleep at

I never, but never, sleep for more than 5 hours at best.  Last night I slept for 8 hours!  Woke, had the fastest shower in history, dressed, fed the birds and fled the house by 8.50. !

Jab accomplished I returned home, legs aching, had breakfast, then trecked round to the bus-stop, did a huge heavy shop and called a taxi.     and called a taxi,    Half an hour later legs now aching excruciatingly, I gave the taxi-driver (quite a nice old man) an ear-blasting on the subject of five minutes (promise) turning into 30 minutes (actual).   He apologised.. I apologised, it was after all not his fault, and he kindly carried all my very heavy shopping up to my front door.  I tipped him!

Shopping away, I had a green tea, in the hope it would improve both my health and my temper.

The cold miserable damp morning had now become a sunny day, so grabbing my trusty secateurs I headed for the jungle.

Half an hour later, back aching, legs aching and no visible difference in appearance of jungle I went back indoors and headed for the bed.  Kicked slipper (one missing) off, and lay down to read and rest.

Phone rang, foreign exchange centre obviously, long delay, and the inevitable "Mrs RayBarn ?"

I put the phone down went downstairs and switched on the box.  Nothing.  Really nothing, so default programme jewellrey programme.   After half an hour I could bear the temptation no longer, headed for my trusty whisky bottle, poured a generous (extremely), three quarters of a glass, topped it with the minimum shot of ginger and resumed my goggling.

They were doing a special programme of chameleon Tanzanite which assailed my senses like an advancing army.  In real danger of succumbing and actually buying something I downed the remainder (\half) of the whisky and headed up here to confess my weakness to  anyone bored enough to read it.

Tomorrow will be better (I hope)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wearily reclaiming the wilderness

This is a miniature member of my phobic 'enemy' tribe.

He/she has been nesting? webbing? inhabiting a corner of (I must stress, the outside ) of my sitting room window for a couple of weeks.

Amazing but true, I have found myself each morning after the previous night's gales or deluges, checking to see that the 'creature' had survived, and breathing a sigh of relief to find it well and in situ.

Either I am going completely gaga, or I'm starting to get to grips with my life-long fear, horror, phobia of the eight-legged beasts.

Beyond it, you can see a worm's eye view of my once lovely (I thought), front garden. It together with the only fractionally larger back garden has suffered severe neglect during the three years since John's death.

At first I had no interest - in that or anything else - and later, two awful winters followed by a busier life led to a slowly developing wilderness.

A few weeks ago I suffered a sort of epiphany, when a good friend invited me to go with her to Highgrove for the day.  Suddenly my long dormant love of gardening surfaced and the resolve to rescue my poor 'briar patch' was born.

Since then, we have had torrential rain on most days, and on the few days when I've been around and have had time and energy to work outside some other more pressing duty has taken precedence and only a few
brief 'sorties into the interior' have been risked.

The last couple of days have seen a more determined effort emerging and at last, I'm beginning to see shrubs I had last seen a couple of years  ago beginning to appear from the undergrowth.

Like my father, I am a totally undisciplined gardener, and I have only to see something which really appeals to me and I never give up until I've acquired one, whether or not it  is deemed suitable for my soil or geographical location.

This is not as haphazard as it sounds, and has often produced something truly spectacular, if alien, and has been quite a talking-point in days gone by.

It is cold windy and rain is again threatening, but this morning I have cut back a huge shrub rose and weeded around it, dead-headed roses, buddleia, and a still blooming thalictrum,  The garden is still full of colour and I know if I can only stick to my resolve, will once again become my pride and joy with the advantage of having something in bloom every day of the year.

It is even possible that I may find the courage to venture into an area which I know to be inhabited by quite large spiders.

Courage is not, notably, one of my virtues (if there are any), but at this late stage I am still hoping to grow some.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Harvest Festival - Relevant?

 The two pictures above and the two below left are of St Mary's Harvest Festival display last Sunday.

All of these are beautiful and traditional, the first one being the most typical in most peoples' minds.

As a very small child my idea of harvest festival was of an abundance of fruit and vegetables artfully arranged to their very best advantage.  This signified that God had been good to the diligent farmers (we lived in Birmingham !), and that this was their reward for all their hard work.

 In wartime, which this was, such a display was too unusual for even the child with no imagination at all to take for granted, and it was somehow impressed on us that if we worked hard we too might enjoy such wonderful blessings.

In later childhood without the primary school basic Christian teaching and with no further evidence of  a power greater than my own I lost sight of this annual

Last Sunday, looking at the lovely flower displays all round the church, and the traditional fruit and vegetable display (first picture), it suddenly seemed a very stark contrast with the 'other' offerings we had made, picture on right.

I found myself thinking really hard about those in our own area who would vastly prefer to receive some of the 'dry' goods we had
collected than the visually pleasing
ones in the first pictures.

The collection was huge, the response to the appeal by the rector  had been immense and a very mixed van-load of goods been donated.

These  will go to a local charity who feed and clothe those in real need.

2012 and we are seeing scenes reminiscent of the 1930's, at an ever-increasing level.

From my first appreciation of the visual effects of the traditional Harvest Festival I have realised that this annual event has a greater relevance than ever.  More and more people are in need but also, more and more people are responding to that need.  A hopeful sign surely?

Please click on the poorish pictures for a better view.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Anyone got a matchstick?

Yet again elusive sleep evades my clutching senses.

You know the feeling.  Eyes heavy, weighed down with the need for sleep, yet as soon as your head touches the pillow your mind starts to race.

I wish it was possible to claim that my thoughts were full of rare pearls of wisdom, that inspiration suddenly strikes, that solutions to day-time problems are made crystal clear.

Instead, there is the usual reluctant realisation that here is yet another wide-eyed night, usually hot on the heels of a couple of others.

Reading works for a while, then the usual sense of frustration as the hours tick by becomes a need to get up and walk about.

Today (or rather yesterday), was cold and wet and by the time I had stood and got further soaked and chilled at the bus stop, October felt like January.

My guilty reward for suffering such treatment from the elements is to make a huge mug of hot chocolate as soon as I get in.  This is not something for the faint hearted, consisting of no less than 3 spoonfuls of Greene and Blacks with 2 piled teaspoons of muscovado sugar.

I never take sugar in anything else, but somehow this combination is so totally decadent that it fills even my need for comfort.

Sadly, as I get older my self-indulgences grow more numerous by the day (I dread to think what type of centenarian I'll make), and the ease with which I give in to them increases hourly.

But, I digress, the hot sweet drink was followed by an overwhelming need to sleep and never one to deny temptation its full effect I did just that.

Do you think perhaps a two-hour sleep in the afternoon could have had something to do with tonight's insomnia?  No, surely not?

In a few hours I'll be heading back to St. M's pale-faced, red-eyed and needing to be be on top form.  Still working on the formula for that one.

I have a nephew who works for a National newspaper and who does all kinds of weird shifts, as do many other people, I know.  They seem to be a different species from me and I am filled with admiration for the way they contrive to function with seriously disturbed sleep patterns.

About a year ago the choir at St M's were really busy with a lot of extra services and I found the sheer volume of work overpowering, so much so, that during one service I actually dropped off to sleep during the sermon (which was very long) and woke with a jump as the organist played the opening bars of the anthem.
Luckily only one person noticed and would have woken me if the organ hadn't.

Tiredness is a way of life for me but none the less irritating just because I'm used to it.

People say "well, you obviously don't need much sleep", and "it doesn't really matter, you're retired, it's not as if you had to get up early".

The temptation not to get up in the morning is not one I dare give in to.  Definitely the first step down the slippery slope.  But oh it would be nice to have a whole week of 'good'  nights.

I'll stop whining and go back to bed .  You never know, I ,might have a nice nightmare!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Hat Trick

This is in reply to Vic the Vicar's caption contest today.
I wasn't clever enough to put it in his comments box.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Has TV taken over from reality (on my screen anyway)?

 Yes I know, we've been here before, but...........
Oh how I wish I could overcome my addiction to Holby City and its splendid group of actors.

Not only are the storylines gripping and (almost) believable, but the acting is always first-class.  So much so that sometimes now even when it clashes with something really vital and newsworthy I find myself sneaking the odd few minutes peep, just to see what I'm missing.  

Tonight's story was almost too much for my poor heart.  I feared that we were about to lose the gorgeous enigmatic ten foot tall Henrik Hanson, but never fear, in his usual immaculately well-mannered, and terminally noble way, he heroically risked his life and then publicly humbled himself in full view of a TV crew, and was last seen sitting quietly at his desk, sutures waiting while he, with only the tiniest grimace heroically stitched himself back together.

Oh the nobility!

It's absolutely no use anyone telling me what a load of cobblers this all is.  I know it.  No use saying it is so far from real life it could be filmed on another planet, I know it.  No use saying these are only actors - admittedly doing an excellent job. I know that too.

Someone please, burst my bubble, tell me to wake up and smell the coffee.  But, not yet!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Red Eye - the diary of an insomniac

Here we are again.  1.00 am and not a hope of sleep.

This time it's the painful leg preventing me.  Not that I need an excuse not to sleep.  It has become a way of life.

There's a gale blowing and the windows are rattling, so they have been closed.  That really doesn't help much.  Lack of fresh air is not an aid to healthy sleep - whatever that is.

It has been quite a trying day, problems and tensions and truly awful weather, but that alone would not be enough to cause insomnia.

My leg hurts, but that wouldn't keep me awake if my mind could be battered into submission.

Since it does no good to lie fretting, I invariably get up, go downstairs, prowl around a bit and wind up on the computer.

Oddly the very thing which normally gives me a degree of comfort and at least the feeling of someone being around or contactable, fails dismally in the wee small hours when even the blogs are silent.

Even with the windows shut I can hear an owl hooting.  Not common at this time of the year, but at least someone is up and about.

During the evening my step-daughter rang and told me that Simon her son is coming back from Afghanistan
tomorrow (thank God).  This has been his second tour of duty in that wretched war-torn wreck of a country,
and, I believe, though nothing much can be said about it, it has been a particularly stressful tour this time,

Hopefully, if all goes to plan he will be home for a good long while.

He spent his 20th birthday in Iraq, his 22nd birthday in Afghanistan and has just completed another stint.

Provided the return goes without incident he should be de-briefed, rested and on leave in a few days.

Good news yet one cannot help thinking of the replacements flying out to fill the gaps left by this group.

There seems to be no end to this struggle.

It will make a change to be lighting a candle of thanks rather than a plea for help.

Oh joy, rain is once more battering the windows.  This drought is exceptionally wet!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

It often looks worse than it is

 Last Friday we had a really excellent rehearsal in St. M's choir of the music for this Sunday (today).

For once we had a full complement and four altos!

Nothing short of a miracle, so good did we sound.

Imagine my horror this morning to find we had 2 altos,  1 soprano plus three trebles and three men.

What a pity I thought, all that work on Friday for nothing and it is going to sound terrible.

It didn't !   In fact it sounded quite good and all my nervous fears were unfounded.

Never judge anything/one by their appearance.  I've heard it so many times but I never learn.

The up to date pictures of my leg (see last post but one), look fairly awful, yet it really doesn't hurt much at all, except for at night in bed, and is well into the healing process.

The way I shot out of church this morning, round the  corner to the taxi stand (it was pouring) and was home only ten minutes after leaving church is a clear indication that the injury has done nothing to slow mke down.

In two hours time I have to do it all again.  This time it is the Mayor's Civic Service.

I have absolutely no idea how many - or few - people will turn up, but we will undoubtedly sing our hearts out and large or small will contrive to sound better than we look.

Is there a lesson there?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Further to my recent post about recycling, I find myself with a rather delicate dilemma.

Nearly all, but not quite all, things we need to dispose of from time to time are covered by the new separate bin collections.

Advice is given as to disposing of wearable, if old, clothing (there are in addition to charity shops, recycling collections at some of the supermarkets.  Fine,  as far as it goes.

What is not so clear is how to dispose of those 'well worn'  frankly tatty items of underwear, which no-one would dream of trying to recycle.

I have in my possession some half dozen pairs of said items, along with some half dozen or so shapeless, tatty, utterly useless bra's.  Now these even when new were not the sort of items which would readily attract new owners (more Bridget Jones than Bridget Bardot), and cannot be used as dusters, and, even if they could, what happens when they are useless for that purpose.

A seemingly frivolous question (heaven forfend), but how do we legally and in an Eco friendly way get rid of them?
Serious suggestions only please ............Oh well, if you must!


Calamity Kate strikes again

This pretty picture is my left leg photographed 3 days after an argument with an aggressive plastic crate.

I walked into it in the parish office and retreated wounded 10 seconds later.
(Do you remember my saying I hated plastic?)

The haematoma collection for 2012 is now complete (I hope).

This one was the size of a grapefruit in about five minutes and the swelling has only just begun to go down.  Luckily the skin was not broken so it is unlikely there will be any serious infection.  It is just a question of waiting for the mass to disperse and spread out nice and flat (and black)!

When I was young and even when I was not so young, I had quite nice legs - though I say it myself - these days, they are veiny, skinny with thick ankles, and now even prettier, black and lumpy.  Oh the joys of the ageing process are endless.

Pretty soon, the only possible garb will be a full length cloak with a  hood - and probably a mask too.

Would you describe me a leg-end in my own life-time?