Speaking and Hearing

I hope everyone has had a sterling weekend. I wish I had things to tell you about scaling the North Face of the Eiger or being dipped doing the merengue with Steve Martin but it is is a measure of our weekend that the most exciting thing that happened was our first attempt at a “Click and Collect” from Sainsbury’s. Before the Covid inconvenience, I would do a monthly shop on payday to get the stuff from Sainsbury’s that we can’t get anywhere else (including a month’s worth of wine, which can be very heavy, not that there are excessive amounts or anything) and I would get that delivered. Anything else we need in the course of a month, we deal with by having Aldi and Lidl round the corner. Obviously, I can’t get a delivery spot at the moment because more deserving people are in front of me so we thought we would try “Click and Collect”. We have a perfectly good car with one little fault – neither of the front windows open, so, if people need to talk to us, whoever is driving needs to get out of the car. It’s fine – we are used to it Everything seemed all sensible and distanced at Sainsbury’s but when a masked assistant approached the car, it was quite funny watching him press himself against the next-door car as if HOH was getting out with an axe in hand rather than just taking his ticket number.

On Saturday we decided to embrace our age and took bacon barms and a flask up to a local beauty spot – nice and early before the car park filled up with 4x4s and people trying to take four canoes and a paddleboard off their roof racks and trying to stop their pugs eating seagull poo from the waste bins. We got into a very interesting and nostalgic conversation with two Jack Russell owners. We all discussed at length how Jacks can suddenly take against another dog for no reason. Apparently, this is very common and it made us feel better because our Morecambe just used to get a bit snappy whereas this chap’s dog used to go “straight for the Crown Jewels”. Quite.

After a morning cleaning Aged Parent’s kitchen and helping her with putting on a DVD before we left. Actually, we were glad we were leaving because the beginning of the film had much too much jig-a jig for me to deal with – especially being in the same room as my mother. In the end, it turned out to be a Danielle Steele and not quite as bad as it started I think but Head of House was quite traumatised by the whole experience.

This morning we went to church via our sofa. Is anyone back-back yet? I don’t know of anyone who is. I still find it really strange and with the rowing back on the opening up, I don’t suppose people will be back anytime soon. This morning, we watched an old pastor of ours (he’s not old – you know what I mean) He is a great speaker and very normal. It’s a privilege to be able to hear him again. A weird and unexpected good thing to come out of Covid. He asked the question about whether God still speaks to people directly and specifically – outside of the Bible. (Spoiler – he said God did and gave several examples from his own life) If you are interested in hearing him – his name is Andy Caldwell and he preaches on YouTube at Welcome Baptist Church. I’ve had it happen myself. When I was ill many years ago someone told me stuff about me that he couldn’t have possibly known and then the stuff he said would happen did happen. It’s really a good and vital way to live but, for me, I wouldn’t say that it happened often enough. I think that is probably down to me – if you don’t have it’s because you don’t ask, I think they say. Obviously as well, like most Christians, I have been affected by nutters saying that God has told them to tell me to (a) give them all my money (b) dress more modestly (this was usually my cue to take the hem up on my skirt – rebellious that’s me) or (c) marry them. OK, the last one has never happened to me but HOH had a girl from church turn up on his doorstep saying that God had said that she had to tell him that she loved him. I think that God’s involvement was unlikely because HOH didn’t really reciprocate but I think she got over it all pretty quickly because she asked if he was gay then. I have to admit – I admire that level of self-confidence. “If he doesn’t fancy me he must be gay.” Go you!

Anyone else have God speaking directly into situations? But really though. Not because it would be convenient to say so. My favourite story -which I am certain I have shared before is of Joy Davidman – poet and wife of CS Lewis – having a sense of God at her shoulder all day. Thinking she was in trouble – because she knew she had done plenty to deserve it – she ignored the still small voice, constantly shaking it off. But it was so persistent, she thought “Ok, let’s get it over with” and turned to face whatever judgement she was going to get. Only for her to hear a voice saying. “No. I want to give you something.” and then being shown something lovely about who she was before God. I may be underestimating how much I am loved which is my loss. It seems that God is more than willing to tell me about it.

About Last Weekend

Missing again, sorry. All the blogs about blogs tell you that consistency in posting is the key. I am pretty sure though that the writers of blogs about blogs did not spend last weekend dealing with ambulances called because Aged Parent had possibly taken an accidental overdose of controlled drugs and then spent the next four days trying to get an already overstretched Social Care system to change her Care Plan so that drugs are administered by carers. Arrrgh. So sorry, not sorry. For the record, we are pretty sure she didn’t take too many controlled drugs but just between you and me, I am fairly certain that she took 50% of her course of antibiotics in two days rather than the prescribed week. She seems fine though and if you can find it in your heart to forgive the fact that her easy come-easy go approach to antibiotics may mean that she is single-handedly responsible for all outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections in the future, I would be really grateful.

Aged Parent is, as usual, completely unrepentant and unbothered by the possibility that she may have misunderstood the situation. See thus…

Anyhow one of those Ambulance drivers was very hoity-toity with me. The trouble is now that all the NHS staff are stinking rich. What with all that money that the old bloke with the walker earned for them. They don’t have to bother now.

Other than that, we had a visit from FOW2 which was all lovely and we were all very sensible. As it was HOH’s birthday, the plan was for five of us to eat in the courtyard at Wildwood but, as Plymouth weather had decided not to play ball we ate inside and, although I know there are no guarantees, it all seemed very careful and clean and distanced.

Not much else to report apart from work etc. I have gone to bed and tucked my head under the sheet to read. (Not easy when you are blowing in and out of a paper bag to try and stay calm).

Both books are about feminism/equality/leadership – you get the drift. They are quite different though. Equality is Biblical by Pen Wilcock is a scholarly book. It is short but densely packed and I read it twice. She’s really good on how much of our belief is tied up in what our ancestors told us rather than received Biblical wisdom. There’s a frankly inspiring chapter about women leaders in the early church- Hilda of Whitby, Hildegard of Bingen, Dame Julian of Norwich and Margery Kemp. All fine figures of women leaders with good stout names as well. (Also inspiring because a couple of them are not spring chickens either). Also good is the Chapter on Paul which, while not ignoring the “women be silent” elephant in the pulpit, shows his total acceptance of women leaders in the church at the time. All this alongside pages which connect some of our theology back to the Spanish Inquisition – which I didn’t expect. (You’ll either get that or you won’t). This is definitely a thinky read. I never make very detailed notes. I either lose them or read them back and can’t make head nor tail of ’em but I made some here. I also found it a bit emotional because I recognised a lot of what I was taught as a child/young person and it may well have been balderdash. Who knew?

Ready to Rise is the latest book by Jo Saxton who is a leadership coach, podcast host, speaker etc. I had been watching her on Instagram when the Black Lives Matter movement first exploded and she is very impressive. I have to say up-front that I am not sure that this book is for me. It is a call to arms for women to step into their leadership calling and area of influence. I think that particular ship may have sailed for me, but I recognised a lot in it. She looks at workplace harassment, sexism and power battles. She has experience being the only woman at a top table and how difficult that is. I always hesitate to say that this is for you if you are young because I am convinced that a calling to be what you are meant to be can come at any time but if you have the energy and the drive this is an excellent support manual.

Righty-ho. Off to eat a Magnum on the balcony. Only ordinary I’m afraid. There are no Mint ones left. More proof, if proof were needed, that 2020 is turning out to be one disappointment after another.

Pods and Blogs

Technology. The Revenge. Calling this a technology post is fraudulent in the extreme. If you could see me trying to change the font size on this blog you would know that technology in all its forms is a mystery to me.

However, I have got the hang of the following to a lesser degree – Spotify – The joy of playing the most uncool, 1970s music in my own earphones with no one to mock me cannot be overstated. ( Edison Lighthouse, Crispian St Peters, Limmie and the Family Cookin’ – they are all there and don’t even think of getting me started on Sweet).

Blogs. Is Blogging a dying art? According to Analytics, my reader numbers are up (I knew that holding people prisoner in their homes for three months would sort it) but comments are down. Speaking of incomprehensible technology – Analytics – what on earth is that about? I rarely look at it because I am afraid of pressing the wrong button which will connect me to a matrix and world chaos will ensue. I am still not entirely sure that I didn’t cause the pandemic by trying to find out why so many women in Ohio read this. I pressed buttons I didn’t understand you see. I only read a few blogs now and I miss it. I dropped one or two. There was a bossy woman who had a skincare blog which was always trying to get me to spend a small fortune to stop the march of time being written large in the bags under my eyes. Then there was a seemingly perfect woman with long legs and always clean and attentive children that had me looking into the price of hitmen on Google. If you have a blog. Please feel free to send me details. I would love to read it. I am nosy and I like to read about people.

Podcasts. I like some of these. I am a news junkie which is a weird addiction for someone who often watches the news with a sort of permanent Scream-mask expression. But, I do like news and newsy facts….

…So, this is one of the reasons I like this. Given my lack of any mathematic aptitude, you are probably surprised that I am recommending a statistics podcast but the first thing to say is that it doesn’t assume that any Maths “O” levels have been passed by its listeners. Also, the subjects are interesting and engagingly discussed. It’s only about 15+ minutes long usually. Finally, during the early weeks of the pandemic, when leaders of all political hues were taking turns to see who could come up with the wildest sets of figures, this was the place I went to to see those claims challenged.

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Actually, this one has changed its name again. I think it’s just Newscast now. Initially, it was Brexitcast. It’s just news really. BBC news – which despite what lots of people on Twitter will tell you, is still striving I think to be fair and free. No-one is saying they get it all right but I still would rather have their take than a lot of daily newspapers. Anyway, there is analysis, interviews and reports. Also Katya Adler, a particular favourite of HOH.

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Do you remember when cinema existed? When we all used to pay money to sit next to each other in a big room with reclining seats and watch a film? If you miss that, then this might help. (Also, if you just like lots of minute detail about film stars and their private lives – this is the place) It’s a podcast about Hollywood – its film its actors etc. Karina Longworth is a film academic and critic and I wouldn’t like to give the impression that her stories are salacious – in fact, she debunks a lot of old Hollywood gossip but it is fascinating. I know how this sounds but she did a series on Charles Manson which was serious and sober and purposely took all the so-called gloss off him. It was excellent.

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Lastly, if you are a woman of a certain age I have recommended the Fortunately podcast before. Jane Garvey is a Woman’s Hour presenter and Fi Glover is also a Radio 4 person – she presents The Listening Project. They just have a chat really. I suspect that I am a bit past their target age now but I still like it. They do talk about menopause, hair dye, hairy top lips and big knickers but also anger on the Internet, misogyny in the workplace and how they coped with the lockdown (not always that well). They have guests. Top-notch some of them. (They were really thrilled when they got Anne Tyler) It’s also very funny. They seem nice. And more and more these days I find I’m a sucker for nice.

A list of petty grievances

It has been like the Riveera round here as my Grandad used to say. It has been warm and lovely and there is a lot to be grateful for. My loose (very loose) plan for this blog is to amuse and encourage where possible but so many things are getting on my nerves, I thought I could just tell you about them in a caring, sharing spirit of caring and sharing. Then, when I have done that, it will be off my chest and I will feel better. (I have of course realised that you may not feel better but needs must.)

I see that our beloved leader is now telling us all to stop working from home and go back to our offices so we can go out and spend money at lunchtimes. There is a long term plan apparently (which makes a change) and it will all be over by Christmas. Wasn’t the last time a leader said that the beginning of the First World War or something? How many years was that? I’m not encouraged – I’ll be honest.

I am already wearing masks in shops, although it doesn’t become mandatory until next week. Some bloke behind me in the queue in the Co-op was sounding off about how ridiculous it was and how he wasn’t going to do it. I think it was for our benefit. He’s mixing me up with someone who gives a monkey’s what he thinks. I just feel that unless you have a good reason not to – you just put the mask on. I’m not really convinced that they make that much difference really but it’s not the most difficult thing to do (unless you are President Trump or half of our parliament. The last thing we want is to ruin a photo opportunity apparently).

In other news – poking my nose in where it isn’t wanted or needed. Christian author Matthew Paul Turner has come out as gay. Look – what you are is none of my business. If you are gay, then go and be gay. It’s just you were married for 14 years. You had three children and your wife gave you everything. You say this is not a new revelation for you. 14 years! At one point in that 14 years did you realise that your wife wasn’t making it happen for you? How much of her life have you taken while you have struggled with this? It’s not fair. Do I not understand this properly? Was I the only one who, when everyone was rubbing the back of Phillip Schofield’s hand and calling him brave, kept worrying about his wife who had given 20 odd years of her life to someone only to find out that it wasn’t really happening for him. It kind of makes me full of admiration for those who come out as young people.

AND THEN, as if that wasn’t enough. Last night we watched Bears About The House which was a documentary about how bears living in the wild are captured and kept in tiny cages where they are systematically tortured to have their bile removed. Because someone somewhere has decided that bear bile is Chinese medicine or something. The documentary itself was about the dedicated people that rescue these bears but after watching what they were rescued from, I am thinking of revising my earlier opinion that God did NOT send the pandemic. At least the Chinese ambassador has come on the telly and insisted that Uighur Muslims “live in peace and harmony” in China. Probably all on a day trip put when we have watched them being loaded onto those trains then.

AND, Aged Parent has gone into her “I’m really ill” mode. This means that she thinks nothing of phoning six times when she cannot get through because my phone is on silent because I am in a meeting. She is unapologetic. I have the assurance of all the health professionals that work with her that they cannot find anything wrong – other than the usual stuff but I am all too aware that the boy who cried wolf was actually right in the end and I wouldn’t like to get it wrong.

AND someone had parked in our space when we got back to the apartment last night. They literally reversed into a space with a note on the back of the wall saying “No Parking”

AND the theatre that cancelled our £180 birthday treat tickets for HOH this year has moved them to the same date in 2021 without giving us a choice or a say in the matter.


AND I’m fat.

So, what to do. I’ve no idea really. Except that HOH and I were listening about Hannah – mother of Samuel at church this morning. She was really fed up. So fed up that when she prayed, the chap in charge of the Temple thought she was drunk. (I am not comparing myself to Hannah – don’t write in). She wanted a baby. God gave her a baby but then took her up on her possibly hasty promise to give him back to God to work in the Temple as soon as he was weaned. Maybe not what she was expecting. Maybe it didn’t seem right. But she sorted her attitude out. She did what she could when she could and she kept her eyes on a very long term prize. She did what was just in a very unjust environment. She went to the temple every year with a new robe for her beloved son and eventually, things became clear. Her son became one of the great prophets and she was overrun with children. There is nothing that says that she was a miserable crow until things began to improve. She pulled it together. She was better than the stuff around her. She is an example. I could do with an example.

Have a good week.

Brainiacs

Two brainy books for you to think about. Please don’t get the idea that I have slammed through these in a week so that I can bring you full and balanced reviews on them all. I haven’t. I have been reading these on and off for a few weeks now and they do take a bit more effort than your Agatha Christie (not that Agatha Christie isn’t beautifully written and constructed but her stuff is a bit more of a page-turner). I have been challenged/convicted (do we say convicted anymore?) by my lack of attention span so I thought I might pep it up a bit and learn something useful at the same time.

Here are two books on Covid 19. (First thing that I learnt – there are lots of Coronaviruses – this particular one is called Covid-19. You are welcome). Has anyone come up to you in the last six months and said: “Where is God when this is happening?” “Why is this happening?” Have they? Really? I think you must have more of a deeply spiritual profile among your friends and the neighbours then. No one has asked me anything of the sort. There are two main approaches to this as far as I can see. One is that Covid is a scientific anomaly – just one of those things, just one of those crazy flings and we have to get on with it. The second is that we have messed about with the world so much either through environmental misuse, our treatment of animals and the natural world included or that we have behaved like money-grabbing baboons with little or no moral compass and this is what you get. You know, if we were all shaking our fist at God and shouting “Whyyyyyyy?” he could probably unravel a list as long as his mighty arm to justify why he decided to give us a bit of a kicking – if that is what he had decided to do. (Possibly a theologically unsound opinion)

For more theology and less ranting, you may want to look at these books. The smaller one of the two is by John C Lennox who is very clever and very good at hard sums. No, he is really. He is Emeritus Professor at Mathematics at Oxford University. Can you imagine being made to do Maths for a living? Did I ever tell you that when I passed my Maths O level, my teacher phoned my mum and told her that in fifteen years of teaching that my passing was the biggest miracle he has witnessed? Charming. (Anyway, I don’t think he was much of a teacher – the only thing I remember about him was that in one lesson he took his vest off without undoing his shirt). Professor Lennox’s book is small, succinct and well thought out. It doesn’t assume knowledge – either about virulent diseases or religion. If someone is genuinely interested, I would definitely feel happy giving this to them.

God and the Pandemic by Tom Wright. (Professor Wright is a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews and Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.) This book is longer, perhaps more directed towards Christians and doesn’t really seem to spend much time addressing “Why?” at all. There seems to be a lot more geared towards – these things have happened many, many times before so, therefore (1) what took you so long? and (2) how should the church react?

There is a lot here but let me tell you what I have taken away from the book. Firstly, he has little time for Christian “Leaders” who are telling us that this is judgement in people for being too worldly, too gay, too fond of a drink or not voting the way you are told to. There were pandemics as Christianity first spread across the world and the early Christians reaction was to heal the sick, feed the hungry and hold the hands of the dying – much to the annoyance of the Romans. He backs this us with lots of historical accounts involving people called things like Plinny and Claudius Lucundus. (I may have made those names up)

The first thing he calls for is a return to Lament. To Lament is, to be sorry, to empathise and complain always should be the first reaction. We should be honest about the way things are and that they are awful before we can react positively rub down our knees and get up and be helpful.

Then he deconstructs what will be a troubling verse for many people at this time

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,18 to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8 28

Now, he takes the verse apart and, let me be frank, I had to read it a few times to sort of get it, but he breaks the verse down and what he comes back with is more in line with the Good News Translation

“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.” Romans 8 28

This makes more sense to me. I remember when I was ill, a very well-meaning lady shouting “Be strong because this is all working together for your good.” under the church toilet door at me. But it didn’t feel like that. All things? Really? Well maybe. But for me, the promise that God will work for good with us in the most difficult of circumstances is not only more in line with my learned wisdom but is an equally important promise.

There’s another little telling phrase that he uses almost as a throwaway at the end of a chapter. Actions have consequences. So does inaction. These are books by cerebral men but the responses they are calling for is practical and positive and definitely worth the extra thought that reading them demands