Two Weeks

This is my teddy bear. We have it on the balcony for the local young ‘uns who are doing bear hunts on their exercise walks. Mind you it has been a source of some tension as HOH keeps leaving it outside in the dark and he will be scared. He will see things that a bear his age ain’t supposed to see. Also – he got wet tonight. I thought it was supposed to be unbroken sunshine and the police were going to have to go out yelling at us with megaphones to GET INDOORS!

We miss our kids. We don’t exactly live in each other’s pockets but it’s the knowing you can’t actually get to them. Mind you FOW2 sent me a message today telling me that a spider the size of a car had run out from under her yoga mat and, knowing how I am with spiders, I feel that sometimes it is better for your kids to learn to stand on their own two feet don’t you?

Is it a week or is it two? Lockdown I mean? I think it’s about ten days now. The days are merging into one now, although I am trying hard to get some order into them.

1. Work in the mornings

2. Walk (or route march if HOH is with me – he doesn’t allow slacking) before lunch.

3. Lunch(trying hard not to always add chocolate biscuits to every cup of coffee)

4. Then try and do something a bit extra before tea. Sometimes it’s creative, sometimes it’s gaming, sometimes watching terrible TV.

5. Tea (Trying again not to accompany all meals with chocolate biscuits – I am too close to the kitchen cupboards for too long)

6. Then a new tradition of Lock-down TV. There’s loads of stuff out there – National Theatre online. Disney+, Netflix (Tiger King is the most dysfunctional thing I have ever seen but I felt like I was the only person in the world who hadn’t seen it. Gave it everything I had – wished I hadn’t). Then there’s reading. Am looking for something uplifting but not too taxing after the Mantel. Someone recommended The Shellseekers – has anyone read it? I am developing a bit of a penchant for crime novels. Not too full on – it’s me and I am not going there obviously but wouldn’t mind a change from Agatha Christie. Also – any recommended Christian books? Don’t really know what to ask for. Needs to be downloadable.

Then there’s online church, which we watched this morning. Is it disrespectful to eat egg on toast while you are watching a sermon? Well, we’re all living a new reality now.

This morning, they prayed from 1 Thessalonians 5. (The Message)

Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

I can’t speak for you obviously but this is like a roadmap for me and all the things that I am dealing with now. I am on both sides of this set of instructions. I am a straggler bit also I know that I need to be attentive to others’ needs. I mustn’t be snappy (even if – ooh I don’t know – someone who I might be related to mentions in passing after 6pm that she has run out of tablets after she told me she had three days left and it’s Friday night and the doctors are closed until Monday and you know you are going to spend Saturday morning queuing outside the Asda Pharmacy hoping against hope that they got the emergency prescription. This is just an example of course – can’t see how it would actually happen in real life). I keep reading the Thessalonians passage – it’s like it is written for a time such as this, as they say.

Anyway maybe I have been too pessimistic. Between my phone calls and her daily carers, we have been trying to get over to Aged Parent that this shielding may take a good few weeks but she has pushed us aside.

Me. Well, it could be a while Mum – perhaps even up to seven weeks. You have to be in it for the long haul.

AP. That’s what the carer said and I’m not having it.

Me. How can you be so sure?

AP. Well the same carer said it could be up to seven weeks to repair the lift and that was done in two! See? You never know.

Two weeks then. You heard it here first.

Back

Well, that escalated quickly didn’t it. We came back from London and went back to work and, before we knew it, I was arranging to close our charity down for three months and HOH was wandering the car park at the hospital trying to find someone to put a cotton bud up his nose. (Unfortunately there are no swabbers available at the moment. Apparently, there are key workers and “key workers”). So I have not been around to write this. It has been very full on arranging the closure etc. I’m not sure where people have been finding the time to make yogurt and learn Scottish country dancing etc. I have been rushed off my feet. (BTW can I ask – are you doing jigsaws? I see a lot of people doing jigsaws? I haven’t done one since Mrs Cullen used to help me with them when I was seven – her secret method was colour coding I seem to remember. Anyway. Are they relaxing? What do you do with them when you finish?)

I am sorry that I have not been around to distract you with nonsense. Closing a company – even temporarily – takes a lot out of you. In effect, our transport charity for the elderly and disabled had begun to shut itself down. The places that people like to go to – dinner clubs, Bingo, fellowship groups etc. had begun to close so demand was low. Then relatives and carers began to withdraw their loved ones because they were concerned about what they would catch. In the end, we didn’t think that we were letting too many people down but it was quite upsetting. Only one person rang and snappily asked if we could explain why we were closing. A stressed member of my staff snapped back – “Don’t you watch the news?” which was completely out of character but we all cheered like a scene out of Dead Poets Society when she put the phone down. It has been full on and we are doing our best. So we are all furloughed – although all of us are doing some volunteer work – and the local council have said that they will support us as well as the government’s scheme so, a lot of people are a lot worse than us.

I am also sorry that I have ditched writing about Lent. I could lie to you and write about all my meditating etc but I haven’t done any. I’ve done a bit of staring into the middle distance which might pass as meditating on Lent but – I’ll be honest – it wasn’t really. On top of everything else, our son and his girlfriend have had their wedding cancelled. We are all very upset for them. All that planning and looking forward to having such a lovely day. You know how something can’t be avoided but it still doesn’t seem fair? Well this is that.

I hope that you are well. I would understand if you are not and I don’t just mean if you have a nasty virus. Some people are not doing well in their heads. It really is beyond comprehension for most of us isn’t it? Part of my survival technique is pulling right back on the amount of news I watch. It is possible to watch Coronanews 24/7. I watch the Government briefing (I don’t feel this is the time to be always insisting on fearless investigative journalism. I’ll go with the official line for the moment if that’s ok with you) and a bit of follow on after that and then I leave it alone. I will deal with anything else I need to deal with as and when it happens.

Other than that, I am mainly staying in. Aged Parent isn’t doing terribly well with our lack of visits but I’m not sure how much of that is an increase in Dementia. She has become even more self focused. If I try and explain that no-one can go out because this is a “World-Wide” thing she responds by telling me how much her gums are hurting. Self-protection mechanism? Possibly. Either way – there’s not a lot I can do about it now except phone every day. Also, she is unhappy at limited time with the carers because obviously, they are doing lots of other things now.

AP “Those carers are in and out of here! 15 minutes? 15 seconds more like.”

Me “Mum – there have so much more to do. Serving meals to rooms, fetching drugs, sorting more personal care.”

AP “Money for old rope if you ask me.”

Hmm. My worry is that she will really offend them and they will turf her out. And it’s still quite cold overnight when she is kipping down on the pavement. HOH had a brief word with them and they told him not to worry because they are used this kind of thing. Here’s hoping.

I can’t get my head around churches being closed down – even though it is the obvious and correct thing to do. I heard on a Podcast that the last time this happened was 1208 or something. Lots of stuff is online which is very interesting. I got to see Ang in real life (sort of) which was lovely. We also sought out a preacher that we knew in Essex and watched him preach online. He’s a great preacher and was fantastic (and encouraging) to be able to see him. Is it wrong and sneaky to watch your old pastor?

For ourselves, spiritually, we have joined the people who are lighting a candle every night at 7pm to show that they will be praying around this situation. Actually, after the hour went on last Sunday we pushed it on to 8pm because it was bright sunlight at 7pm when we tried to light it and I felt a bit of a fool.

I’ve also just finished reading the Hilary Mantel. I can’t lie – I found this one a bit of a slog. It’s 875 pages and the cast of characters is huge. I lost track quite often – especially as people have two names. They can be The Duke of Such and Such but also be known by their second name. It’s quite a heavy book and I lost patience with having to keep wrestling my way to the front of it to check the list of characters. I think it’s more me than her as she definitely knows how to write. For me, the sense of impending doom was done a bit too well under the current circumstances. Having said that though, Cromwell’s final downfall (sorry – spoiler – it doesn’t end well for him) is just brilliantly done. She spends a really long time laying down different tiny bread-crumb trails and clues with nothing much concrete happening and then suddenly, he’s on a runaway train and there’s nothing he can do.

Right then. Off to watch a Star War or some such nonsense. You need to stay safe and inside etc. etc. Carry on in a calm and orderly fashion.

Lent Inspirations #3

Hello. This is still technically Lent but I think all that blithering on that I did about what I was going to read or do has been a bit overtaken now and all everyone is thinking about is Covid-19. (That is except Aged Parent who still can’t get her Sky box working and is therefore completely cut off from the whole thing. I’ll be honest – I’m not rushing to get it repaired at the moment – ignorance is bliss – for everyone involved).

We have just returned from a disappointing trip from London. We were prepared to risk life and limb to see Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Albert Hall but he was not prepared to return the favour and hot footed it back to America, cancelling the show. Actually, it’s not so much the cancelling that bothered me – at a time like this everyone needs to do what they think is right – it is more the fact that they had actually landed back on American soil before the cancellation announcement was made. Some of us might not have made the trip to London at all if we had known that cancellation was a possibility. Bah! Still we had a nice time. We spent time in galleries (very quiet) and shops (equally quiet). We went to see the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate. My impressions of his work were

a) Everything is a lot bigger that you think it is – the Mao picture is enormous.

b) So many of drawings of men’s dangly bits does pale pretty quickly

c) Everyone who was part of his “Factory” group of people looked to me as if they all smelled. (No proof obviously – never stopped me rushing to judgement before).

We were very careful – hand sanitising all the time and keeping away from crowds wherever possible. We also discovered that we have reached an age that we need to be staying in a slightly nicer hotel when we can. We decided to save a few bob reasoning that we are never in the hotel room much when in London but – I’ll be honest – the place we stayed in was just the right side of grim. And when we walked in and gave our names, the (mask wearing) receptionist opened her file and to everyone’s general dismay we all saw that there were no entries under “H”.

“Er – we don’t seem to have a booking for you” (I slide my email copy of the booking across the Reception Desk.) “Ah yes. I see. Well I will give you our newest room Yes?” Hmm. The newest room was right next to the toilets and far too close to the bar for our general comfort. So, we have just made a decision that, when we go again, we are of an age now that we need a bit more comfort. Not Five Star level just not the sort of place where you are insulted by a mask wearing receptionist because you are checking in to the kind of place where you are a bit worried about what you might catch – never mind her. That’s if anyone ever travels anywhere again.

I wanted to ask about Covid -19 and the praying. I mean obviously churches and everyone are praying but I am hearing and seeing a lot of the “Lord, please give all the relevant skills to the doctors” and “Lord, let us all care for each other even more at this time.” kind of prayers. These, are important ways to pray but (and apologies if you are doing this) I don’t feel that I am seeing a lot of “God – you are God – stop this now.” type of praying. You know – like a sort of War of the Worlds type prayer like approach where everyone looks for a miracle. It feels a bit like we have all accepted this is going to happen and we are just hoping for the best. Is that just me? If I’m not careful I read all the chumps on Twitter and believe every word. There’s a lovely line in the King James version of Isaiah

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear

Which translates in the Living Bible to

Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you. And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call!

Which makes we wonder a bit if we should be upping the ante a bit when it comes to praying round this. Should we be upping our expectations to call on a God that has never played odds and percentages – you don’t need to when you are God. I’m all for skilled doctors and I love the old science (even though I preferred doing Typing at school when we got to choose) but am I setting my sights too low? I love the CS Lewis quote on living in an Atomic Age which is certainly relevant

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

That should certainly deal with feeling the need to snatch the last packet of toilet rolls from an old lady’s trolley but, on top of this, I feel I need to look to a Big God – who is able – not just to calm me down but to bring the whole thing to an unexpected and wholly miraculous end.

Lent Inspirations #2

O Lord the clouds are gathering……

This is a song we used to sing at my old church. I think it is a Gerald Coates song. (Remind me to tell you about the time he came to our church for a weekend. That was a time and a half I can tell you). *Stares into middle distance thoughtfully. Anyhoo to continue.

This first line of this song is shorthand in our house for doom and destruction and I think that is a bit how life feels at the moment. I have not really given Lent the attention I intended to. My attention span is a bit off at the moment. I am certainly liking the “fast from negative thoughts about yourself” texts that I am getting from church every day. If I was going to be a tad critical, the text comes every morning at about 6.15 am and even I manage to hold the negativity back until I get my glasses on first thing. The trick is remembering to go back to it when I am feeling a bit more awake.

Also, am enjoying the Suffolk Vicar’s musings on his website. These are also only a line or so long which is about the limit of my concentration at the moment.

I am quite taken up with the Corona virus carry on at the moment. Not particularly because I think I am going to get it.Who knows? Talking about it though I have been encouraged by something a friend of mine – a scientist and therefore correct – (albeit a very humble Christian type of scientist person) posted this link Nine reasons to be reassured This is excellent but my friend does recommend that you don’t read it on your phone while you are walking because you may well be run over and he thinks you have more chance of that happening than getting any virus.

It is other things that give me pause for thought. The panic buying. Particularly the loo roll. Why bog roll? Or baked beans? Really? It just seems to be a strange reaction to social media and the news. What is a rational response to this? I read this week that the people who can’t stockpile are those who live week to week, which is obvious when you think about it. And now, these people can’t find food to buy. It’s very depressing.

It makes you wonder what would happen in a full on crisis. Outside of what is actually happening, Covid 19 is posing difficult questions to us as a society – about who we are. If Lent is a time for sober reflection then circumstances are concentrating the mind a great deal.

On a personal note, fortunately, Aged Parent cannot get her TV to work so while we are all watching the news in growing horror, she is using her DVD player to happily hoover up Danny Kay in The Five Pennies – completely oblivious to any approaching apocalypse.

On a completely different note. I was thrilled to learn today that there is a ladies open water swimming group in Cornwall who swam in the freezing cold sea to celebrate International Women’s Day.And the name of this brave group of women? The Blue Tits Chill Swimmers. And, on that cheery note off you go with my blessing.

Lent Inspirations #1

Well, it’s early days so far isn’t it. I haven’t started the Ruth Valerio book and I wish I could tell you that it was because I was busy doing Christian spiritual book things but that would not be true. I have just finished an Agatha Christie (After The Funeral, since you ask. Very good.) Then I accidentally started a slightly nasty murder mystery by Tanya French after I saw a review in The Big Issue. So I need to get organised and put that down and start reading a Lent book. (Challengingly, It’s very good so far though and I am struggling a bit to give up turning the next page.)

This morning, we had an interesting conversation in the church we are attending. A nice lady we had never met before came up to say hello. She began to tell us about her ministry in hospitals – giving Christian support to the sick of the palsy. As you do. Unfortunately though, she had recently been blocked from the old succor providing business by the vicar in the hospital who said that she just couldn’t come in here and say what she wanted, when she wanted to patient. I am afraid that I am unable to share with you the details of her conversations as she neglected to share these with us. I am, of course, very aware that we are only hearing one side of the story. Anyway, things appear to have moved on a bit if we heard the next bit right (And I checked with HOH and we did)

Of course she (the vicar) has done that thing – you know – and she’s a man now. A HE! *Draws arms up under bust in manner of Les Dawson. And I know God loves HER but I am sure, of course, he doesn’t love HIM.” *Knowing nod followed by “Anyway. Lovely to meet you.”

So then. Lent. I have signed up to a church type thing that sends me a negative thought every day along with a scripture that contradicts it. The idea is that we are fasting from negativity about ourselves. Also, I have been reading some posts from https://suffolkvicar.wordpress.com/ sent to me by Kirsten. Also very good.

Looking what other people are doing, there is a lot about Looking after yourself for Lent. Being gentle on yourself for Lent. Learning to love yourself for Lent. Hmm.

Firstly, I have no problem with looking after yourself for Lent or at any other time really. I personally am very keen on me. I want the best for me and, if I am to function in any kind of productive way as a Christian or just as a person, it makes since not to tread myself into the ground. I have seen too many Christians for whom being “poured out for the Gospel” means serving to the point of exhaustion – quite often serving people who, given a decent run at it – can do quite a bit for themselves really. No one wants to be doing that. It cannot be right. Therefore – scented baths everyday for Lent. Hurrah!

Not so fast Kimosabe. I have watched a couple of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP programmes on Netflix. GOOP is Paltrow’s “Wellness” company and the programmes follow her as she and her staff have a go at various things that will support them in their quest for wellness. Some of the things are borderline normal – fasting etc. Some are not – vampire facials and vaginal eggs anyone? (I think she had to pay a hefty fine for spurious claims about the last one). She is very appealing, nor least because she is so fantastically beautiful. I did, however, hear a little negative bell ringing when she described what the thinking was behind her GOOP brand. It goes along the lines “The whole point of life is the optimisation of self”. No, I suppose it depends what she means by optimisation but I suspect it’s a bit like that George Benson song:

“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” (To which Terry Wogan memorably replied after playing it – “It isn’t.”)

And so, if a manicure a day is what you think you need for Lent because it is what you feel you need to restore some balance in your life at the moment, then I ain’t going to stand in your way. So long as you remember that it’s the restoration of your inner life that is the thing. Not nice nails. I know next to nothing about Lent. I am enjoying learning though. I think I am right though that it is a serious rebalancing event, where we clear things out to make room for better things, where we slow down to re-find ourselves and reconnect with God. So, I know giving up things is considered a bit old school and negative but sometimes, I think it’s like prune juice. Despite how much hard work it is initially. It’s for the best in the end.