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.