You’re getting to be a habit with me…

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all.

First of all, thank you for all your input (imput?) on mindfulness, prayer etc. I have downloaded an App. Lectio 365 and am going to try that. I have only had it for a couple of days and, I’ll be honest, I nearly deleted it because I’m not that keen on plinky, tinkly music in the background of things like this. I think it reminds me of all those “I’m not going to prolong this appeal” speeches at the end of Sunday night meetings – we all know a few speakers who were determined to keep it going until someone responded. We used to have an old lady who would occasionally put her hand up to recommit her life but Aged Parent ( a lot younger then) told me that she would only do it if the preacher was holding on so long and it looked like she was going to miss All Creatures Great and Small. (Robert Hardy version – not the equally excellent Channel 5 update which is due back any minute).

I was quite tempted by the Soultime App, which was recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I like Justin Welby. I like the way he says “Hello, I’m The Archbishop of Canterbury”. I find it very comforting. I also suspect that he does a very difficult job with a lot of grace. I wouldn’t take his job in exchange for a gold pig. However, you do have to pay for that App and although I am happy to pay if I think I will use it (I am not as tight as a fish’s bottom as my Uncle Ken used to say), I am not sure how I will be with Apps yet so, we shall see.

Speaking of habits, HOH and I are trying, something recommended by Dr Michael Mosely. You probably know him from the telly. He presents programmes where he tries to convince people that their lives would be better without chocolate, wine and crips and also you won’t die as early  – although you might wish you could. At the moment, he has a short programme on Radio 4 called Just. One. Thing. It’s about the tiny things we can do regularly that make a difference – like walking in the park or. making your own kombucha (what?). Both HOH and I are trying his suggestion to stand on one leg while you are brushing your teeth. It isn’t as easy as you think – trying to keep your balance while trying not to crack your head open on the sink. Apparently, it’s good for your central core. I’m getting quite good at it. Probably best done behind closed doors though. Looks a bit weird.

YouTube is packed with films called “Ten Tiny Changes to lose a stone.” or “30 seconds a day to invest for a million.” and, I don’t think these need detain us for very long but I think we are set up to do things regularly and often. Just the tiniest things can seem to get a hold. Back to the teeth brushing. Do you have to remind yourself to do it every morning and evening? With or without standing on one leg? Not really. Because it is woven into your day to day life.

Sometimes we have a picture of Jesus as a bohemian sort of itinerant groovy type who wandered around and just dealt with life as it came along. This is obviously not true. Jesus was always travelling in one direction – towards the crucifixion but also he habitually prayed, fasted, made time for his friends and gave his time away. It was who he was and he re-inforced that by his actions. Maybe, if we are looking at sorting something out or changing something, trying to build habits so that they can make a difference or help us might not be a bad idea.

Aged Parent  – for those who have been concerned – is doing ok. Dementia is still taking its toll but she is still enjoying herself sometimes. We took a call last night

Me.     Hello. Are you ok?

AP.      Yes fine. Guess what? We have had a bit of excitement today. An ambulance came, but we couldn’t find out who for.

Me.      That’s weird

AP.      Yes. I had a chat with them. Showed them my knees. Still having problems with them and can’t get a doctor to come.

At this point, I hear her door knock and the manager comes in.

Man.    Hello, we were just wondering how you were. The Ambulance seems to think you may have called them.

AP.      Really? That’s strange. Just talking to my daughter.

Me.      Ok. Mum. Lovely to speak as always. I’m off now. Bye…

Rings off as quick as humanly possible – will be denying any knowledge.

 

 

 

All in the mind?

Hello All,

I have been having technical issues with the blog. I’ll be honest, I am not here for my technical ability. I would rather just turn up, do the writing and then go home. If anyone knows anyone who likes to do computer type things and would be happy to help, pleased let me know. I would pay. Obviously, it would be better if there was some technical ability involved, not just someone having a pop at it.

Anyway, I don’t know what it’s like near you but here, the weather seems to have checked its watch and decided to bang in a bit of Summer for the first week in September – which is nice – although I am a bit hot, I’ll be honest.

So, I have been doing sensible reading. I mentioned this book at work, having seen it in the Sunday papers, thought it might be interesting and then promptly forgot the title. I had been interested because part of it is about chronic pain and, as I do have a bit of a tendency to migraines, I thought this might be the thing for me. I then thought, nah (especially having spotted the price). The problem was that someone at work, after having listened to my long and boring story about how I can’t remember 50% of any facts I hear or read nowadays, had, very kindly taken it upon himself to search Google for the book and so I felt duty bound to buy it. And, it’s very good.

When I say I get migraines, the last thing I would like to do is insult anyone with genuine migraines – the ones that hospitalise you – by suggesting that we suffer from the same disease. However, when they kick in, most painkillers don’t touch them and I could do without upping the tablets to the point where I am stopping people outside Boots asking if they will go in and buy another packet for me.

Anyway, this Monty person, who has a plethora of letters after his name, has some really good stories to tell. For instance, there are people who have a condition that means that they don’t feel any pain. (It’s called congenital analgesia – you are welcome). You might think it would be great to live a life without pain but, in fact, people who have this condition rarely live to a grand old age. It seems the body needs pain – to alert us to things going wrong inside our body or to let us know that our fingers are on fire and to cut ourselves off from pain is dangerous. (I think there may be sermon in there somewhere).

He also talks about vaccine hesitancy and suggests that some people may find a vaccine more painful or traumatic than others. Dr Monty suggests that by playing this down – “It’s just a sharp scratch” we ignore a real problem which will not only lead to people refusing vaccines (and not because they have seen something on the Internet that says that they are injecting aliens into us) but also refusing blood tests etc. and passing this fear onto their children.  Like I said, interesting.

One of the areas I found interesting was how he dealt with his IBS – a condition he had suffered from since childhood. He had tried everything – diet, medication etc. and nothing had worked – until he tried hypnotism and meditation.

As a youngster in church, we were always warned off meditation. I seem to remember a scripture about demons moving in and using a Dyson on your brain or something. I know it’s vague. You’ll have to look it up.

Then, last week, we were watching McCartney on Disney Star (Highly recommended) and he talked about visiting India and the Maharishi where he learned to meditate. He recounted that the Maharishi had given him his own Mantra to mediate with. Apparently, he had also offered to give Mia Farrow’s sister Prudence – her own “Mantra” on the same trip. And kept offering it often enough to make her lock her chalet door and refuse to come out. (Prompting John to write the song “Dear Prudence”).

So meditation doesn’t have the best reputation where I come from. It was a bit of a surprise therefore to find it recommended as a Biblical practice. As early as in Genesis, Isaac was meditating and it’s a practice that is very common. So I started giving it a go – using Scripture as a base and it is surprising – in a good way. It makes you calmer and helps prayer and takes you down a peg (not in the way my mother meant when she used to say that I could do with taking down a peg) you just feel yourself come away from anxieties and concentrate. I wish I was better at it.

Has anyone else meditated? Does anyone find it helpful? Am I weird? Does it ever challenge you how much more there is to people than we look to have on the surface. And, to find what makes us tick and function properly as we should we need to slow down, stop even and spend the time reminding ourselves on a deeper level about the things that are true.

Have a good week.

Here for you…

Hello. Welcome one, welcome all. I have had such an uneventful week, that I considered sending you a message saying that I was far too busy doing deep government things and making important government phone calls from my bedroom to send in a blog. But then I thought that there may be a lot of people out there who have seen me walking by the sea, reading books, having coffee with my family and, having at least half a brain cell on the go, they would realise that this would be a big fat lie and I would be found out almost immediately. Dominic Raab, I salute you for having such immense amounts of (admittedly misguided) confidence in yourself that you thought you might get away with this nonsense. Still, not to worry eh? No-one is going to ask you to resign or anything honourable like that. No-one resigns from this government. That’s how it works when the Prime Minister has appointed on loyalty rather than competence. You end up with a gang of no-hopers that cannot be shifted because they all have highly detailed maps of where all the bodies are buried and they hold signed promises of riches beyond their wildest dreams if they would just back the Blond Bombshell in his march to greatness.

Sorry, I’m not sure where that came from, I have had a niggly week. Do you have niggly weeks? I hesitate to even mention it because I am not from Afghanistan or Haiti or even Keyham in Plymouth but there it is.

I had a nice weekend. FOW2 came to visit so that was nice. As an act of outstanding generosity, I allowed her to watch Love Island. Well, there’s an eye-opener. I have never seen anything like it. I think FOW2 was aware of that because, at one point, without turning round, she said. “Close your mouth Mother. It’s not for you.” Which, of course it isn’t. Apart from the ritual humiliation, the pairing people up, the spending the whole day in bikinis, it’s the lips that I don’t get. I have old lady lips now. they appear to be disappearing back into my mouth like Kenneth Brannagh’s. But these young women have perfectly good, normal lips, then they inject things into them (I suppose they do, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert) until they look like Tom from Tom and Jerry used to look when he got his head stuck in a bees’ nest. (Can I just say that I will truck no criticism of Kenneth Brannagh who is wildly attractive for a man with no lips). What are we doing to the young people? It can be quite dispiriting. SO…reasons to be cheerful.

  1. Ruby Wax is back on the telly tonight. The documentaries are repeats but she is brilliant. Did I ever tell you that we saw he live once. Stand up. (Kids roll eyes and say “Yes, you did tell us”). She was very funny. And Alan Rickman was in the audience. What a way to live. Carrie Fisher is on it tonight. Roll on.
  2. It’s been a jolly nice day weather-wise and we made it down to the sea (approximately 15 minutes away) without it raining. Apparently, next week is going to be nice but I don’t know about you – I can smell Autumn in the air. I don’t mind that but there are a lot of people making people’s lives in Devon and Cornwall a misery because the weather is not up to the standard in Morocco. Pshaw! And, while we are at it. It is NOT a “Staycation” to have a holiday in the UK. That is what is known as a “holiday”. A staycation is when you have a week off work and paint a shelf or clean out the salad drawer or lie on the settee watching three Marvel movies a day. (I believe). And let’s not start on HOLIBOBS shall we?
  3. I have taped The Lady Vanishes (Margaret Lockwood version. Is there any other?) for my personal use, later on in the week when HOH is working late. Who says I lack ambition? STOP PRESS – apparently we don’t “tape” things now. There you go again, mixing me up with someone who is bothered.
  4. My Boob squeeze came back clear.

5. I read a book I really liked. It’s a murder mystery. Uncomplicated and easy to understand, that’s the kind of thing I am up for now. It’s harder to write than it looks I think.

So, see, I can do it when I want to – cheer up that is.

In the words of CS Lewis “We are what we believe we are.” So I’m going to believe that I am a cheerful person in the face of adversity – not mine – other people’s – which, I’ll be honest diminishes me a bit but that’s all I have today and, in the words of the Instagram influencers “I am enough”. (Which I am obviously not but God is and he likes me and is very much on my side for reasons that only he knows and that, I think, is more than enough).

The evil that men do

And it is men, unfortunately. Not many laughs here this week chums. For those that didn’t know, I live in Plymouth and last week the city suffered a mass shooting when someone I am not going to name, killed his mother then walked into the street and continued to shoot, killing four more people – including a three year old child and then himself.

Plymouth is a city but it is quite interconnected. Many of us know people who have connections to that area of the City. My son works in that area and he rang to assure me that he was ok but there was certainly plenty of panic and fear.

We said prayers for the city this morning in church and I found it weirdly reassuring that the minister said, he hadn’t really known what to say to those that he had spoken to who were either witnesses or involved in the aftermath. Lord, never let us just be full of formulas and off pat sayings that “heal” everything. To really weep with those who weep means sharing the feelings of hopelessness and injustice and I think that is important. On earth, Jesus, never downplayed heartbreak, always aligned himself with the brokenhearted and despite always being aware of just what people are capable of, never allowed anyone to give up hope.

I am sad for my adopted city but I am mad as well and, I am going to say why, so, if you think it is neither the time nor the place and you wish to leave, please feel free to do so. You are probably right but who is going to stop me? .

When the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall was asked if the shootings were terror related – he replied that he didn’t think so – they just seemed to be a domestic that had spilled over into the street. I beg to differ. I have a lot of time for Devon’s Top Cop. He seems quite normal and I quite enjoyed the way he slapped down London journalists who more or less asked if Plymouth had the man/fire power to deal with this sort of thing. (Plymouth is costal, serene and beautiful. It is also a nuclear, military city and there are plenty of provisions for what to do in case of attacks.) But, he needs to get with the beat. Hate crimes against women are increasing all the time. And, even more worryingly, they are now carried out by people who have been radicalised online. I am being deliberately careful with the language I use here but I think this kind of language is appropriate.

People like the Plymouth shooter, who are full of self-pity and entitlement and who blame everyone else for their failings can go online and find groups that tell then that the reason they are struggling is not because they can’t be bothered to have a wash and think about someone else for a change – no, it is the fault of women. Women are the reason that these lives are so terrible. Women who don’t want to sleep with them, women who have no intention of cooling their fevered brow and women who should put down their own issues and struggles and be who they were meant to be i.e. someone to serve a man. And, when a woman doesn’t fit the bill? Well she deserves everything she gets and, by refusing to behave, she is also responsible for anyone else caught up in the crossfire.

On a larger scale, today we are watching from a distance as Afghan women wonder what the future holds. Stories about daughters being taken to become fighter brides are already emerging. Women’s education will fall by the wayside – these are men who would shoot a girl in the head to try and stop her going to school – so we have no reason to expect anything else. We probably don’t know the half of the horrors that are taking place. Those in Afghanistan who, mistakenly thought the West was there to permanently support them as they moved to a more democratic outlook are certainly paying the price now.

It has been a sad few days and it will get sadder for those who are affected by the events of this week. Those of us married to men who honour us often owe this to their parents who taught them that woman are equal and worth something in their own right. Those of us blessed to be with these men and, therefore hopefully, teaching their own sons the same principles, don’t really get to keep quiet and keep our heads under the parapet while other women suffer.

It is our place to call other women on. To encourage them in their hopes and dreams. To make sure that they know that they are people with a value outside of their attachment to a man and to call out this self pitying nonsense and misogyny for what it is. And what it is, is a hate crime.

Cultured

British Museum

Hello. Welcome One, welcome all. I had a week off social media. You have to sometimes don’t you? We watched a lot of Olympics. It has been a bit marvellous I feel – despite the sneaking suspicion that it possibly should not have been happening at all. You have to feel a bit sorry for Japan – all that work (and money) and not one ticket sold. Still, it has been a welcome dose of normality in the middle of these trying times and possibly will mark the time when we began to turn a corner towards the next stage of life – those of us fortunate enough to live in a country that can afford the vaccination and the healthcare.

We had a week off work. That was also jolly good. We went to London for the day. I have to say that London is a completely different kettle of fish now than it was when we went a month ago. Paddington station was packed as was the Tube and, it seemed to be people from many lands, not just English people. Did we raise all the restrictions early? We went to a couple of exhibitions at the British Museum and they were excellent – if busy. I spent more time than I had anticipated pressed up against Nero’s bust.

The exhibition itself was very interesting. It re-evaluated the reputation that Nero has in history and how much his reputation as a murderous killer of family, friends and anyone who got in his way was influenced by other people who took control of the narrative by having his statues altered and making Christopher Biggins play him in I Claudius. They made a very convincing argument, except for the fact that they didn’t mention the Christians at all. And if Christians over the years have had a bit of a go at Nero’s reputation maybe that had something to do with all the using them as bait in the arena, wholesale arrests and blaming them for the great fire. That kind of thing is apt to make you a bit down on a person. It was certainly interesting to see all the good he did and the modernising but I would have preferred a bit more of a balanced view.

While we were the we also saw the Thomas Beckett exhibition. Also highly recommended. I am still that person who oohs and aahs when she is told that the thing in front of her is from the year 1180. In the past I have not been the biggest fan of the story of Thomas Becket and there is one person to thank for that – TS Elliot. He was the poet/playwright that was forced on us at A Level. Our English teacher said “You will either get him or you don’t”. I didn’t. I went to see “Murder in the Cathedral” and it dragged on for so long that I nearly ran forward and finished him off myself.

BUT the story is fascinating. Thomas Becket and King Henry were best friends. Thomas was Chancellor and worked hard to make sure that Henry got his dues from the church. Henry then made Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no suggestion that religion played any part in this decision. Henry wanted his own man on the inside to deal with the Pope. (This is my own summation. Do not call Simon Schama to check).

Then, well who knows what. What would we call it today? A religious conversion? Getting God? Being born again? Whatever you would call it, Thomas began to take his responsibilities as a man of God much more seriously and started to make sure that he wasn’t in when Henry came round with a few demands that he felt both men had agreed to before Thomas’s “promotion”. As well as this, he got all preachy with Henry and there is nothing more annoying than the newly converted telling you your business. Especially, I would imagine, when you are King and very few people feel secure enough point out the error of your ways. This did not end well for Thomas after the King sort of accidentally on purpose wondered out loud who would help him deal with this man and four soldiers with really big swords stepped in to help.

A cult grew up around the dead Archbishop and lots of healings happened in his name including a particularly interesting one where a man who had his testicles cut off after picking a fight in a tavern (think twice before you have that fifth shandy) had them restored to him in full working order. Look – don’t blame me, there’s a stained glass window commemorating it. Not really what you would expect in Canterbury cathedral I suppose. There are lots of relics of Thomas. Enough I would say to put together and make two or three people. As HOH said, “there are bits and bobs of him all over the place”.

Being brought up in a sparse, pared back kind of Christianity, I don’t really know what to think about the relics but I have been quite thoughtful about what sort of encounter with God Thomas had to change him so radically. He left all the power and the influence behind. Sometimes, I feel don’t feel enough of God’s influence in my life to make me open a Bible – never mind mixing it with the King of England. And the level of faith for miracles that I display doesn’t help me believe for a fraction of the things I think I should do – and certainly not for attaching someone’s bit and pieces back onto his body in full working order. (This is not a ministry I am hoping to develop by the way).

It made me think a bit. About who God is and about a faith made for grown ups that is important and life changing and worth going after.

“Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom.
    Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don’t let the rich brag of their riches.
    If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me.
    I’m God, and I act in loyal love.
I do what’s right and set things right and fair,
    and delight in those who do the same things.
These are my trademarks.”

Jeremiah 9