Saturday, 28 July 2012


To those of a squeamish or sensitive nature I apologise.

This pretty picture is my right foot 4 days after I stubbed it entering the shower.

Yes, I know the threshhold was put there for a reason, and no, I wasn't drunk.  It is just the latest in a life-long war with things inanimate.

After a few genteel utterances along the lines of "Oh dear, I appear to have damaged my foot", or something similar, I slathered it in tea-tree cream wrapped it in an old cotton handkerchief and put a 'breathable' plaster around it to protect it from further damage.

After a morning in the parish office, followed by a sizeable shop I got a taxi home and as soon as I was able gave it 'the treatment'.  This is Ray Barnes parlance for soaking about 4 sheets of thick kitchen paper in ice-cold water, squeezing a little of the excess out and wrapping the injured hoof around with a cold compress, foot up on a footstool for an hour or more.

I know it sounds primitive, but it works.

This foot (the right one), has endured a torn achilles tendon, three badly sprained ankles, has been broken twice and is constantly under threat from the chronic carelessness of Mrs fairyfoot.

Some people are said to be accident prone, I am an accident magnet.

When I'm tired I have a tendency to miss the doorway and hit the doorpost, my shoulders are living testament to that fact.  I also misjudge distances and drop things and smash things instead of reaching the surface intended.

If this sounds a bit 'Calamity Kate', it is sadly, only too true.

In a long ago post I wrote (affectionately) of my late father's propensity for accidents, his general clumsiness and the brute force with which he tackled the most delicate of tasks.  It would seem something must have rubbed off on me.

This being the third accident in the space of about three weeks, I am hoping things will now settle down and my personal gremlin will have a nice long holiday.

P.S.   Don't click to enlarge the photo.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


As though it were not difficult enough to sleep on this hideously hot night, we have, just to add to the problems, a police helicopter circling the roof.

It has been doing so for the past 10 minutes, so I imagine some individual is attempting to escape capture.

This is not a happy thought when the entire county has its windows wide open just in case there may be a wisp of breeze somewhere.  (Some hope)!

Not a lover of hot weather at the best of times, I detest the soaking sticky hot nights which inevitably accompany high temperatures in July.

Leaving windows  wide is an invitation to every flying, scurrying, creepy crawly in the world to try its luck at a nocturnal house-move.

My bedroom windows have already played host to the National Collection of whining, and probably stinging insects.  I have evicted a spider, and am currently debating the means of doing the same to a rather sinister looking winged thing with a long body.  Don't ask, I don't know.

I've turned my pillows over, moved to the other side of the bed, finally settled after an hour, into an uneasy snooze and now this!

It is still over the nearby rail line so I imagine they have someone in their sights, but why oh why can't the criminal fraternity be overcome by the heat like the rest of us?

I just hope the marauder is not in my garden.  Still, if he is, he'll get caught up in the jungle-like undergrowth then perhaps we can all get some sleep.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Making a cold place warm

This morning's sermon was given by an ordinand who has been attached to St. Mary's for a few  weeks as part of his training.

The subject was, of course, Mary Magdalene., and the general theme was about making judgements about people.  Gossiping, name-calling, and generally coming to  conclusions about others without any evidence other than our own perceptions.

He drew the analogy  of Christ's acceptance of Mary, warts and all, trusting her and not pointing a finger at her, despite what was said of her by those around him.

A simple enough description of the way we, as Christians are supposed to behave to those in our communities who have very different histories from our own, and in some cases, whose reputations are tarnished.

Much is preached and talked about in the Christian church of love, and we are encouraged to try at least, to love our neighbours as ourselves.  Not a selected few, not the ones most like us but all our neighbours.

Not an easy prospect for most people, and even those who are, so to speak, professionals in the church, from time to  time have been known to 'smite with the sword' rather than offer a hand in peace.

Occasionally however, a spirit of true love, warmth, friendship can be felt, almost tangibly, and it is then that the spirit of the Lord truly moves in us, and informs our behaviour.

Suddenly the miserable isolated unhappy individuals in the group are drawn to  the warmth of the flame and all judgement and criticism is suspended, even if only for a while.

Sometimes all it takes to make a bad-tempered, unfriendly person into a softer more open individual is as simple and small a thing as a listening ear.

It is all too easy to decide what kind of person A or B is from a single glance, or an overheard (often misheard) remark, or worse, from someone else's gossip, and so simple really to talk, ask an interested, not a nosy question, and watch someone suddenly lose their other two heads and become just one of the group.

Many marginalised people will not dare to enter the 'charmed circle' of an existing group, in church or elsewhere, and remain frozen on the fringes until some, enlightened member of that group looks with open eyes and mind and heart, takes their hand and invites them in to the warm.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

You hum it, I'll Play it

Music has always been a part of my life, at one time it was my life.

Because of that, I delayed doing a lot of the things most people do, so I was late settling down to marriage, late buying a house,  very very late deciding whether or not to have children.

Had it not been for music I would have been a totally different person, and who knows, that might have been a good thing, but the one thing I was always sure of was just what I meant by music.

Most people, even of my generation, were exposed to the beginnings of 'pop' and then rock and roll with all its later sections and sub-sections, but I never was.

My parents listened to classical music from time to time, and my father had a 'repertoire' of about 10 pieces of music which he either sang (badly) or whistled (sometimes in tune).  He made up his own words to the odd classical songs and mauled beyond recognition orchestral music (mainly Mozart).  Nevertheless if I had the radio on the third programme he would almost always recognise what was being played or sung and knew who had written it.

The introduction of pop in the 50's caused prohibition at home, and if anyone wanted to listen to Sinatra, or the older crooners from a previous genre the reaction was immediate and there was no court of appeal, "turn that racket off, or go up to your room" was the usual reaction.

When I started to sing at school, it was not actively discouraged but the usual reaction to an outburst of song was "stop showing off", so I really only sang outside of the house until I was in my teens, when various people told my parents, "she has a good voice, she should join a choir".

The fact  that I did sing and went on singing, choirs, opera companies, even briefly, with a  local band (swing), and at another time, a folk-group, was mainly because my parents were growing  with the times and starting to open up to other ideas.

Probably because of the early narrow musical field I'd been exposed to, for a very long time I was a musical snob and regarded anything other than classical music as second-rate and not really music at all.  I remember being quite shocked when listening to "Desert Island Discs" to discover that some quite well educated people chose pop songs among their records.  Somehow I had formed the opinion that only the uneducated would choose to listen to "that sort of stuff".

Much later when I began to have singing lessons with a very famous and well-respected teacher I had to begin to adjust my thinking and recognise that if a song, or a piece of music was good of its kind, it qualified as music.

My snobby narrow-mindedness gradually changed to a grudging acceptance of most other genres, but I still chose to  listen to opera, orchestral, or song recitals and choral work.
Ballet music also became a favourite, and it was not until I had a jazz trumpeter in my life that I began to listen and eventually to love jazz.

By this time, my parents had advanced so far that their Christmas present to us for quite a few years was a trip to a West-end musical and a meal for the entire tribe.

So now I had added musicals to my list (well, some musicals anyway), and I learnt to appreciate the merits of the wonderful Leonard Bernstein among others.

That was pretty much it, until TV became a bigger part of my life as I got older and in recent years the Andrew LLoyd Webber series of hunts for stars for his various shows has got me more  or less hooked.

The current Superstar competition has introduced me to even more very varied styles of music and singers and while I still have no real liking for the very loud rock style or incomprehensible lyrics of some of the competitors, some favourites are beginning to emerge.

I have already decided in my own mind which two singers are the best on offer and have also decided, just in case Andrew can't make up his mind, that they could share the role jointly a week at a time.

My good friend the Vernacular Vicar includes a U Tube favourite on a side bar on his blog, and I am getting a further education.  (Not necessarily one I enjoy every time), from that.  So just what is music, who decides, and is there a cut-off point, or do we just go on opening our ears and minds to every new thing while hearing lasts?

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Inconsequential Witterings

Yup, it's that picture again.  Should tell you what awaits you.

It is just ten minutes since I sank a large (about 3 shots) whisky and ginger.  By the way that is Rochester ginger, not a pale watery synthetic jobby.

Reason?  Well, no reason really except that I felt like it.

Today, until a minute ago has been dry.  Yes I am talking about the weather not me.

I have spent a lot of time sorting, sifting, and throwing out the accumulated junk (paper) of a life-time, (John's, not mine).

I thought I had sorted it all months ago, but no, under the boxes on the shelves in the office I found tons, and I do mean tons, of old, totally irrelevant paper, photos, guarantees for goods that no longer exist, at least, not in this house, and a few choke-making reminders of better days.

When this became unbearable, I made a few sorties into the ant infested garden, and cut some 'stuff' back.
After which I returned to the fray.

Covered in the dust of years, tired hot and a tad emotional, I sought a break from all of the above, settled in front of the tv and, not very hopefully, looked for entertainment.  Some hope!

Reverting to my default programme the jewellery one, I put up with the semi-literate outpourings of  the presenter  "joolery, illuminous"?etc and in despair, poured a large whisky and ginger and thought, what next?

A few drops of rain are bathing the ants and encouraging the snail army so no more gardening, the office now looks almost as it should, and I've run out of steam.  Just thought I'd share a day in the life of.......with my long-suffering readers.

Bless you all.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Habits or Eccentricity

Anyone who has spent more than half an hour in my home will be aware that the unwary are likely to encounter.................a slipper, or maybe two, in odd places.

Among my odd habits is the one of kicking off my slippers whenever my feet become too hot.

This might be both, or just one.  If it is the latter, at some stage I will become aware that I am doing a "Hopalong Cassidy" and am minus a slipper.

I might then kick off  its fellow, or go on a slipper hunt.

Sometimes both are hiding in the same place huddled pathetically together, waiting to be found.  More often they are in widely different places and if I can't see them, or it, my nose will soon re-acquaint us.

It had honestly never occurred to me that this was in any way eccentric, but, since finding one after a lengthy search, in the vegetable rack in the kitchen I have been forced to reconsider.

This is not, as some might suggest, anything to do with advancing years, merely the fairly common phenomenon of the hands doing one thing, while the mind does something else.  Well, common for me anyway.

Though I do clearly remember my mother pouring some tea carefully for a visitor, having forgotten to put tea
in the pot.

John also on one occasion, when his daughter and grandson were staying with us, made early morning tea for them, carrying it carefully into the bedroom, tea, milk and (salt) in the sugar basin.

Simon, the grandson, who was then about five, never let John forget it, and even now if  I offer him tea or coffee will say "without salt please".

At what stage does absent-mindedness become eccentricity, and does it matter?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Aylesbury is a town celebrating.

First, we had the jubilee, with all the street parties, towncentre entertainments, concerts  and flags and bunting everywhere.
OK it rained some of the time, (well, most of the time), but it didn't dampen peoples' spirits.

Then we had the Roald Dahl festival.  Yes it poured, torrents in fact, but what the heck, we all enjoyed ourselves to  some degree.

Then on Monday we had the Olympic Torch through the centre of the town, more bunting, different flags, more excited kids, and yes,more rain.

Today I've been putting away the first lot of bunting at St. M's, and  nice and dusty it was too.

We now have the Olympic rings on all the flags in the church, along with tiny flags of all nations, so that when the games start we can be seen to be supporting our national sportsmen and women.

If we win the odd gold, silver or bronze (and of course we will), that will be the cause for more celebration.

It will of course, be accompanied by this seasons special offer, more rain.

Like every other person in this town - and probably in the country - I am tired of getting wet, sick of the dark grey skies, fed up of hearing thunder and seeing lightning but that doesn't mean there is  no cause for celebration, after all, though we have had no spring and are having no summer, we may, just may, have a decent autumn.

Roll on Christmas and perhaps we can find something to celebrate.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Happiness is....

Having spent four and a half hours today (10.30 till 3.oopm) at St M's in charge of a lucky dip tub as part of the annual Roald Dahl festival in Aylesbury, I was glad to be home at 3.30.

It was,  despite absolutely appalling weather, a noisy happy very well attended event, though I doubt it brought in much revenue.

The kids (toddlers to 90 year olds) all did their bit, the floats were, as always magnificent, if damp.  The music varied and well performed.

The bits of it we saw (start of the procession end of the procession) were well worth the effort of turning out on a really foul day.

The kitchen and refectory were run off their feet, and even the (under canvas) BBQ had plenty of customers, and the stalls within St.M's did fairly brisk business.

Nevertheless, from my point of view, three o'clock was a long time coming.

Cold wet and hungry, I fed my face, changed my garb and relaxed in front of the box, not expecting much (it being Saturday).

What did I get?   Pure bliss.

I know you will be shaking your intellectual heads sadly and muttering "poor old bat, she really is losing it", but, I watched "Garfield, a tail of two kitties" followed by England/Australia one-day cricket highlights.
Preceded by an interview with my favourite cricketer, Paul Collingwood,  We, that is, England wiped the floor with the opposition.  The ninth one-day victory in a run.

It just doesn't get any better.

Oh yes it does.

Next I shall watch Casualty and after that what is left of Henry 1V part 1.  With, wait for it, Jeremy Irons!

It is entirely possible I may never recover.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

When to call it a day

Recently it has been brought home to me rather sharply that I am not as young as I am in my head.

In my mind I'm 35, but just now and then a wake-up call has reminded me that bodies wear out (yes, even mine).

It became necessary to give up cleaning the brass every week in St. M's, just too exhausting.

Then the crazy weather this year has caused my 'jungle' to grow like the beanstalk and it seemed sensible to get some help in getting it under control.

A few days ago I asked one of my friendly neighbours to show me how to  order some of my household shopping online.

None of these were things I had been prepared to even contemplate a year ago, but there is no sense in clinging desperately to doing everything without help.  Admitting to advancing years is the first step, the second is to decide which chores to hand to someone else and be kind to yourself.

Since  falling over my neighbour's cat and banging my head, I have realised that slowing down, however reluctantly, and taking time instead of moving at the speed of light probably makes more sense.

Accepting the need to let some things go and not to cling desperately to a way of life which is unsustainable does not mean a lowering of standards, just points to the need to look for changing priorities.

I have just finished watching the BBC1 programme on Getting Older, where four well known figures each spent 2 or 3 days in a care home.

Though each of them was able to leave at the end of that time and those they had spent time with could not, it was good for each and every one of them to experience at first hand the drastically restricted lives of the inhabitants of the four very different homes.

The thought of having to end my days in any such place has always been, and still is, my worst nightmare, yet for many people it is the only possible way.

John Simpson was in a Star and Garter home where many of the 'guests' were in an advanced stage of dementia.

Tony Robinson, Lesley Joseph and Gloria Hunniford all had experiences which, however good (or less good) the home, left them quite shaken and disturbed.

One thing which stood out a mile was that, without exception, every single person in each of the homes, would rather have been in their own homes.

The loss of freedom.  The enforced communal aspect of life.  The physical decline and also mental decline partly due to lack of stimulation, and the routine with no variation was mind-numbingly obvious.

And for me, one of my pet hates, and one which is a staple of such places, the manner of address, with remarks like "we are not feeling so bright today", however kindly meant, is patronising in the extreme and would elicit a somewhat rude reply if addressed to me.

I think I would go along with John Simpson's early comment, before his experience, that he would rather take a pill than go into a care home.

It was a well-made and well presented programme, but a chilling reminder of what might lie in wait for those of us without family as we get older.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Get off my line

The genteel image on the left has nothing whatever to do with my current state of mind, temper, attitude.

I am being bombarded with calls from a company which calls itself UK Today.

The opening gambit goes "Hello, is this Mrs Barn ez?" When I growl Barnes, they say, "How are you today"?  I reply "what do you want, what are you selling?" and "Who are you?"

Reply "We just would like to ask you a few questions it will only take  a few minutes"

When I repeat "who are you"? they reply I am calling from UK Today."  When I ask who is UK Today, where are you based"" they hang up.

This has been going on for several days, always  at the same time - around 2.30pm and then again at around 6.00 pm.

A few weeks ago I passed on some advice to a blogger who was complaining of a similar caller, this was, to answer politely then when they begin their spiel simply put down the phone on a flat surface and walk away.

So far, I haven't taken my own advice, but tomorrow I will.

And yes, before anyone asks, I have signed up to  the preference service - it doesn't work!