Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. I hope you are all well. I have been particularly brave this week. I have had a tooth removed and I got through the whole thing without crying or illegal drugs (or both). It’s all very high tech these days isn’t it? I didn’t even feel the needle going in – which is more than I can say about the Covid Booster.

I was doing a bit of housekeeping on the blog this week and, believe it or not, I’ve been at this since 2009. It’s a long time that. And that is one of the reasons that, for now, I’m going to put it down for a while.

There’s a lot going on at the moment (nothing health related – don’t panic) and it has become harder and harder to put this together. Believe it or not, I do put quite a bit of work into it. You may have looked back at some of the drivel and been surprised by that but I do. I want to have a go at other things. More writing possibly – I don’t know.

I’m quite a shy person really and I have to tell you, it has been a complete privilege to write down things I wanted to say and have people want to react and comment and – even better sometimes – find other blogs to read and chat on. I’m still intending to be lurking in the background, reading everyone’s blogs and commenting and I’ll probably be a bit more active on Social Media. Lots of the stuff that has happened on here has been very precious to me. This is the first place that anyone told me that it was ok to be angry about the way a Christian had treated me. Also, here I have spoken about Aged Parent – both the humour and the pain – in a way I rarely could face to face.

I fully intend to come and have another look at this in the New Year and it may return in a different form but, for now, I’m putting it down.

So thank you all so much everyone. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for comments. Thanks for behind the scenes emails and friendships. I have met some of you and there have been some I wished I could meet. I still might do that.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone – if Boris allows it. Speak soon.

Giving up…

…giving in. In the words of the Three Degrees – Seventies sultry chanteuses, I am giving up. Over the past few years, I have expended too much energy trying to fight back Christmas until the last possible moment so this year I am changing tack. I am on the run in to Christmas. I will not get worked up because of Argos’s insistence on playing Wizard from November 18th onwards, I am going to smile benignly when John Lewis are bothering me with some nonsense about an alien and I have paid my money for the work’s Christmas party. I have even bought some Christmas baubles. I also get extra points because they are from a local independent shop. I am a bit worried that the mistletoe one looks a bit like a giant moth but let’s not talk about that. So Merry Christmas everyone. Hurrah.

HOWEVER. What everyone should know is that, if Christmas needs to start now, then I will be getting all Christmas religious a few weeks early. We actually sang a Carol this morning in church. Our minister chose it because some of the words fitted what he was talking about but I thought that if I am already looking at adverts for sofas that are going to, almost inexplicably, make my Christmas more Christmassy then I am going to belt out “It came upon a midnight clear” in mid-November and that’s the end of it.

Let’s face it, there is definitely a need to put a bit of religion back into Christmas. We got some Christmas decorations out at work this week (we are trying to Christmas up our raffle tickets sale – not that I approve of gambling obviously but we need the money – there’s been a pandemic on). Anyway, years ago, I took one of my many nativity sets into work to add to the decorations in a mainly hopeless attempt to add a bit of religion to the festivities and, to be fair, they do put it out every year. However, I had to go and rearrange all the figures. They had the shepherds standing with Mary, Joseph outside with a donkey, the Angel Gabriel was inside the stable with his back to baby Jesus and all the Wise Men were riding off into the sunset having apparently decided not to give the whole event very much of their attention. Really.

I’m not really embracing all of this obviously. I watched a lady on YouTube describing how her run-in to Christmas. She begins her prep by going into every room in her house with a notebook. She makes a list of all the little jobs on hand in each room. Then she does each room individually – making it ready for the festive season. Doing any paint touch up jobs that are needed after pulling out all the furniture and sorting out any small repairs etc. Then all furniture is replaced and each room decorated with a festive slant so that, by the time actual Christmas here, she has a fully decorated home and then she moves on to the Christmas meal. I am in no way critical of this. This is so far out of my universe of experience that I have nothing but admiration. I am hoping to change the duvet cover – that’s about the sum of it.

I suppose, after last year, when our dear leader – through impeccable timing when it came to lockdowns – managed to cancel most of Christmas, that people are really ready for some festive celebrations. You can’t really blame anyone for wanting to go for it nice and early. Christmas is and always has been a good news story – the best story and, in my more optimistic moments, I sometimes think that people are, almost unconsciously tuning into something astonishing. Because, ultimately, we are all looking for a light and when the one who is the light comes, we should feel it – even if we are not sure what it is we are feeling. So, I’m cheering up this year and going along with the Christmas feelings – even if it’s not the way I feel it should be because I think that people are hearing a whisper, a breath of who it is behind all of this and that is to be celebrated.

John 1. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out

You in your small corner….

Hello all. Welcome. It’s my brother David’s birthday today or it would have been. This is me and him at his wedding when we were younger and I found it easier to disguise the jowls in photos. It was a bit extra sad this year because Aged Parent didn’t really remember his birthday for the first time ever and when we took her the customary bunch of yellow roses (his favourite) she was just chuffed to get the flowers. Not her fault obviously and I was pleased she liked the roses, to be honest. You never know how it will go these days.

It’s all a bit off-kilter this week, isn’t it? Once again we are pondering about a senseless death because an MP – Sir David Amess – has been stabbed to death by some kind of extremist. It’s not exactly the bravest act of terrorism, I’ve ever seen – queuing up, in a church,  with ladies who are enquiring about the frequency of bin collections and old gents who are complaining about waiting years for a hip replacement. Then, when the time is right jumping out in a ferocious attack on a 69-year-old man. Still, I suppose it had the desired effect which mainly seems to be receiving validation from those who have radicalised you. We all think Twitter makes public life hard enough – especially when people feel it is perfectly ok to send you a photo of the front of your house and the school your children attend – just for disagreeing with them. This is just awful and surely makes anyone who thinks about popping their head above the parapet to serve in public life think very hard indeed before doing so.

It’s not just public life though. There’s a video going around on the YouTube of an intoxicated man abusing a young woman that he doesn’t seem to know in a Tube carriage. She is not having this and answers back – at which point he steps forward threateningly. This provokes about eight men to stand up and deal with him and better late than never I suppose, although what they were doing up to this point is an interesting question. But there seems to be a kind of all-pervading toxicity doesn’t there?

I have become a bit of a news avoider. We had a routine in our house. 6 pm the BBC news came on. (BBC news has its faults but I can’t stand all the quizzical -head on one side, eyebrows knitted – emoting that goes on on ITV). These days though, I’m generally not switching any news programmes on as much. Because I have a bad feeling about it all. Is it me, or does everything seem very dark at the moment?

There was a time at church when a couple of songs were doing the rounds. One started “Oh Lord – the clouds are gathering…” and the other one was called “Great is the Darkness.” and they carry on all the way through in much the same vein. At the time, I used to think that we could do with something a bit more cheery but I kind of know what they were on about now. Incidentally, I always thought “Great is the Darkness” was written by Gerald Coates but Google is showing it as written by Noel Richards. For those not of a church bent, I wondered how to describe Gerald Coates. In the 80s he was a big noise in certain church circles – probably still is. His autobiography describes him as a provocateur which I think he would be happy with. He was sometimes quite controversial. Did I ever tell you about the time he came to our church? In the mid-nineties, I think. At the time, he was going through a phase where he was anointing people by randomly walking around a meeting and pouring a glass of water over them. Well, I say pouring, it was more a case of chucking it in their face WITHOUT WARNING. This was probably quite a deeply spiritual moment but was also quite funny watching people jump as they suddenly found themselves soaked. For me, there was also a certain tension at the event by someone informing me that they would chin him if he came anywhere near them with “that glass”. (Not HOH, in case you were wondering). The joys of church administration eh? I could write a book. It would get me sued. Am I digressing? Possibly.

So, it is true, that these feel like especially dark times. What is also indubitably true is that you are here for me to give you the deep wisdom and answers these times need, especially when we feel so helpless.  Unlucky.

However, I had been thinking of another song

Jesus bids us shine, with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Popular from the 1850s, this kind of song fell out of favour a bit because people “Weren’t going to cowering in a corner.” and “We need to not just be like a little candle.” etc etc. But, for me, when things seem so overwhelming, then looking after my small corner is more important than ever. I may not feel in a position to address the United Nations – but – where I am I can be kind, be slow to anger, go the extra mile and all the other things that leave dots of goodness that eventually do all join together

It doesn’t seem much obviously but the thing is, it seems that if do my best here to expect the best and have a go at trying to do things right, then God makes my efforts go so much further than I am capable of. Like those little dry sponges, we used to have as kids. You dropped a bit of water on them and they expanded to a full-scale model of the Battle of Waterloo. (Well, not quite but you get the point).

I also think that for those who are able, (don’t shout at me – I know plenty of people have enough on) this may be the time for action. Maybe stuff for the foodbank, offering to brew up after church so the lady who has done it seventeen weeks in a row doesn’t begin to lose heart or actually talking to someone after a meeting ready to enquire a little bit further than “Is this your first visit?”

I’m unlikely to lead a government anytime soon – a girl has to know her limitations but I can set a metaphorical candle in the window where I am and try and make a difference in the darkness. Have a good week.



The Frugality

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. Hope you have had a good week. I still seem to be having technical issues with the blog. It is telling me in no uncertain terms that I should be updating something or other. However, it strongly advises that I should perform some sort of backup before I update. Fair enough, but when I look up how to do that, it seems I have to use coding. CODING! Are you joking? I only got into this blogging lark because I was specifically promised that using code was now only for boffins and people who liked that sort of thing. I do not like that sort of thing and am now frantically looking around (well, not THAT frantically to be honest – there’s a lot going on) for someone who can help me get this sorted and possibly spruce the old blog up a bit as well. In other expensive news, the oven is on the blink and will need to be replaced. I am usually a great fan of repairing things but there are times when a replacement is necessary and this is one of those times.  Also, the vacuum cleaner which has been struggling for a while now – we have replaced that. Not with a Dyson, I hasten to add. Do you know that there are Dysons that cost a thousand pounds now? A thousand pounds! For that, I expect clean floors, a guest role in darling Buds of May and a six-week training course in floristry (or possibly coding). Anyway, expensive month.

Obviously, when I say expensive, I wouldn’t want to insult those people who are rocking backwards and forwards in the cupboard under the stairs while they try and work out how on earth they are going to make ends meet as fuel goes off the scale, food prices soar (when there is any food to buy) and they a looking at £20 a week less to live on. Apparently, this will all be covered by higher salaries and better jobs. So, if you are a lady working in care and being paid medieval level wages, you can soon look forward to being trained in a highly-skilled,  highly renumerated job – possibly in coding – and taking money home in a wheelbarrow. Hurrah.

These – emergency level people are not who I am thinking about when I say that, on the whole, frugality may well be about to make a comeback – if it ever went away. I have to admit that in my early twenties, I was far too preoccupied with what people thought of me and hated the idea of anyone thinking of me being short of money. Therefore, living beyond my means was not a stranger to me and that needed to be sorted out pretty quickly. Later on, when HOH and I were both out of work at the same time, a quick change of mindset was required.

One of the best websites I ever found was Frugal Queen (now Frugal Queen in France) not just because of the helpful information  – budgeting, recipes etc. but the advice on a change of attitude. She was unapologetic about her past spending and also about how her life was now lived much more simply. From her, I learned that charity shops were fine (although I’ll be honest, I very rarely find clothes in there I like or need. My own feeling is that you have to be particularly stylish to make charity clothes shopping work). I learned to shop around for cheap energy etc. budgeting and meal planning became second nature and I found I rather liked being in control of where the money went and not just giving our hard-earned cash up to any Jonny Come Lately with an Instagram page and an affiliate link to John Lewis. I also really liked using vouchers to get money off – something that I never would have done in the past and I trained my kids to do the same with the jaunty catchphrase “Better off in my pocket than in theirs!”

I still got a weird thrill when I discovered the Libby App which allows me to listen to library books on my phone – for free or when I found out that the NHS provides free chair Pilates workout videos so I don’t have to pay those people who keep pestering you on Instagram stories. (Yes I know, I said CHAIR Pilates. Look. I’m old. I have a lot of trouble getting back up if I lie on the floor). I am aware, of course, that some people make a living teaching Pilates but I feel there are other people for whom paying for exercise classes is just a mere bagatelle. Also, they probably enjoy it. Paying for the gym is mainly a pain for me because I hate the gym.

What also follows, is what I should be better at which is a change in values. A shift towards recognising what life is really about. The pillars of life – service, community, friendship operate just as well without dosh. Sometimes, they operate even better without loads of money. I used to notice how Frugal Queen and others who didn’t have much would still manage to support others. She would run workshops on frugal cooking and bake cakes for the Christmas bake sale at her husband’s work (Obviously using non-branded flour, chocolate spread etc.) You can probably think of hundreds of ways to support people without actually giving money – although, if you can give it, that’s very helpful let’s be frank.

Without sounding all prophet of doom (DOOM I tell you DOOM!) I think we all feel we may be approaching a financial reckoning and we are not sure where help will be coming from. (Certainly not from our government – I think they have made that perfectly clear). Jesus was very specific about our responsibility to the poor.

“The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favour, but the favour will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.” Luke 14

You may be better people than me ( I’m quite confident about that) but I look at that and find the idea quite difficult. But, I think it gets easier when you learn to value other parts of life more than money. (I’m not saying you don’t value money – British Gas will not take that as an excuse for you not paying your bills). It is just about tuning in to who we really are and what is really important and what will help us be really alive.


Speaking Up

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. I am a bit low key this week. The weather has been wet – well it is Autumn and Plymouth is going for the old “horizontal rain in the biting wind” approach which could be a Tony Bennett standard but isn’t. Did anyone else wake up last Monday and suddenly it was Autumn. I had been threatening to put all summer dresses away for a couple of weeks now and never got round to it, didn’t listen to any weather (I never bother unless it’s Schffanaker – just a personal thing) so, on Monday I was frantically scrabbling around trying to find something warmer to wear an then trying to iron it on the kitchen worktop without destroying both the jumper and half the kitchen. Did I ever tell you about HOH’s colleague who, in a hurry for work, sort of ironed her nurses uniform while she was wearing it and ended up in A and E with the resulting burns? Equally distressing for HOH was that I told him that I could understand why she had done it and could, in fact, see myself doing it. You are in a hurry, you put the uniform on, it’s creased, you think a little low heat ironing can’t do any harm. Apparently, it can. He still bangs on about that time I set fire to the jumper I was wearing because I was talking and cooking at the same time. It was quite dramatic, like one of those 1970s fire safety videos. Who knew it would go up like that? Anyway, I’ve never done it since so there’s no need to keep going on about it.

He is in the front room at the moment watching one of those Sunday night drama things – something about fascists. I took my leave when the announcer at the beginning took what seemed like fifteen minutes to read out all the warnings about how upsetting it would be. Nope.

We went to the Bond. It seems unpatriotic not to go. It’s fine. I suppose. It’s not for me. There seemed to be lots of people, dying horrible deaths but shouting a lot about it before they went. I prefer Daniel Craig in Knives Out. Been reading a bit as well. I saw a really snobby review of Richard Osman’s latest Murder Club book. “He’s not a writer” and all that. well, he clearly IS a writer because he has written a couple of books that lots of people have enjoyed reading. It’s not Proust (whatever that is) but I really liked it. I’m not sure I would be that struck on Proust I’ll be honest with you. I’ve not got the wherewithal for it at the moment. I have also put a photo up of my next book to read – mainly because I wanted to say ” How ADORABLE was Ed Balls as a child”? I like Ed Balls. they say he has a fine mind but, equally important, he seems a good husband and dad. A good man.

Which brings me to the polar opposite which has troubled us all this week. the murderer of Sarah Everard. Where to begin. Maybe, with one of the most important things, the heartbreaking thought that her mother hugs her dressing gown because she can still smell her on it. I know we were all fighting back tears when we heard that – because we somehow felt it too. That visceral grief. The horrible photo of a compliant Sarah allowing her killer to handcuff her because she thought he was on legitimate duty. First thoughts and prayers are with her family and also the family of the murderer who, through no fault of their own have lost everything. Those children, losing school, friends, lives as they will have been moved on. I’m not naming him. I’m sick of his face.

I don’t know about you but I have heard many conversations this week with sentences including “Well Bless Her – she was a bit naive” No, no she wasn’t. And even if she was. – wrong emphasis. Also “Not all police are like that.” Well obviously, but how do we get to “not any police like that.” Your call. As a tiny thing to change. Maybe we could stop allowing police with misconduct charges to stop leaving with full pensions. All they do is retire early. If you know that is waiting for you – what’s the incentive to do the right thing?

But obviously, it’s bigger than that. Don’t tell women to effectively resist arrest by running away, insist on using the police radio or “flagging down a bus”. (People of colour will be watching this with interest). Work to change the narrative. Make misogynist Whatsapp groups something to be ashamed of. Listen carefully to what women are saying and act as if their voices have merit. You don’t have to believe everything you are told. Just treat it as if it might be true.

Karen Ingala Smith’s website which includes “Counting Dead Women.” says that over 110 women have been killed by men this year – not including those who have taken their own lives after domestic violence. Are we aware of that? If you have a minute go over and have a look at their stories. Their stories could be our stories but also, we need to work towards supporting those who mourn now. Making room for those who need help and, at the very least speaking up to challenge the idea that our safety on the streets or in our own homes depends on our level of street smarts or our ability to be a bit less naive. I’m not very good at confrontation and sometimes, in my conversations, I can feel that an opinion forcefully expressed is, therefore, a right opinion but that’s not good enough. We need to speak up on behalf of the voiceless. In our everyday conversations, challenge the norms that say sometimes women’s behaviour brings this on. If things are to change, despite it probably being unforgivably slow, it’s time to say stuff.

“Speak up for the people who have no voice… Speak out for justice!”