All you need is…

And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Lennon and McCartney

I have stumbled into Lent – in a non-conformist, struggles with altars kind of way. I understand that I have no business being airy-fairy about altars. I am quite accomodating of the idea that they are (at the very least) an aid to worship – which is good of me I know. Also, I watched the BBC4 programme on monks last week and spent a good proportion of it in tears at the humility and simplicity of it all. There were, as you would imagine, quite a lot of altars in that and it didn’t bother me.

However, after a brief detour into the Church of England when we moved, I continued to find myself quite bothered by kneeling at gold altars when it came to Communion. I think a lifetime of non-conformism which involved meeting in tin huts, prefabs and buildings that were notable for their plainness (and not in a good way) has taken its toll on me and I will struggle to be the sort of person who is spiritually comfortable with too much gold leaf and priests kissing their neckerchiefs or whatever goes on there. However, there are plenty of things I love about the Church of England

  1. The Vicar of Dibley
  2. The Reverend Richard Coles
  3. Stained Glass Windows
  4. The Archbishop of Canterbury
  5. Rev Kate Bottley
  6. Frances Spufford’s chapter on Jesus
  7. CS Lewis (Irish but you know what I mean)
  8. How much they annoy the government
  9. Women Priests
  10. The cool of ancient floor stones on your feet when you slip them out of your sandals on a summer evening.

I haven’t even got to the Book of Common Prayer and “When a Knight Won his Spurs” and the Church of England Vicar who told me when I was a child that Children of God had no limits. Pah! I may be in the wrong church! I obviously secretly love the Church of England.

Anyway – to return to Lent. I have given up two things. Twitter and crisps. I am missing one of them a lot more than the other one. (Especially Cheese and Onion). I was finding Twitter terrifying – despite only trying to follow positive people – I kept watching people shout at each other and found it all deeply depressing. I do miss the little films of dogs being rescued and old ladies in scarlet lipstick and wrinkly tights dancing the Macarena in their care homes but, on balance, I am probably better off without it.

I am also quite taken with the chart above (thanks to Ang at Tracing Rainbows) which is encouraging self-love this Lent. I think it’s very useful and will be giving it a go I think. (Although I think I may be overdoing the bit about taking a nap). If you want to print it – it’s at https://www.tath.co.uk/easter-resources I’m usually a bit allergic to the term “self-love” but, in the current circumstances – where we all seem to be beating ourselves up all the time because of the number of things we are failing at, I don’t think that doing a couple of nice things for ourselves can do any harm.

I started this rambly thing with one of my favourite Beatles lines. Like a lot of things they wrote after all that unfortunate carry on with the drugs, I don’t suppose its meaning is crystal clear. I usually think of it though as saying that to get love out you put love in and thinking about it even more – maybe that also goes for loving ourselves as well.

Have a good week

And on it goes…

In the words of the Aged Parent… “How long will Boris be locking us in?” Well, in the case of the Aged Parent – absolutely no time at all (a) because she is completely ignoring it and visiting chums in the neighbouring flats at will and (b) because she has had the first vaccination!! Hurrah! And they said it couldn’t be done. Well, to be completely honest, I was the one who said it couldn’t be done.

Her vaccination was at Home Park – home of the mighty Plymouth Argyle. We were a bit concerned because the day before there had been queues of over an hour to get in and more snow than a Russian Gulag movie. We decided that the best way forward would be a wheelchair – not for me – although the thought was strangely comforting – but we thought it was the best way to get her through the whole process.

On the day we arrived bang on time. Opened her front door and there she was – or wasn’t – no sign of her. We are now panicking ever so slightly and shouting her name with a teeny tiny hysterical edge into the corridor. Then she appeared, moseying out of her friend’s flat (see above re minimal regard for lockdown rules).

Me. What are you doing in there? You know the rules. Also, you haven’t forgotten about the vaccination?

AP. Well obviously not. I have my black jumper on and my pink scarf…

Me. AND YOUR PYJAMA BOTTOMS AND SLIPPERS!

AP. I got distracted. Anyway – plenty of time. (There was not plenty of time)

For the next fifteen minutes, I am giving putting her trousers on everything I have. To help you understand more about this, I have to explain that she was insisting on one certain pair of trousers. For those of us knocking on a bit, I can accurately describe the trousers by saying the words “Max” and “Wall”. These trousers are not easy to get on, I can tell you.

However, despite all the odds, we managed to get her into the car and into a line of people ready to get their vaccination. Again, the organisation was excellent and we were undercover within five minutes of arriving. People were lovely with her and if they may have secretly suspected that she wasn’t entirely understanding all their explanations of possible side effects, they were too polite to say so and when they pressed the needle into her arm, she was so busy telling anyone who would listen how much she prefers it up north that she didn’t even notice it happening. Obviously, as expected, she developed all the side effects anyway but otherwise, all was well. So we continue.

I am telling Aged Parent that it is not long now until she can go out and I kind of think we all think that, all being well, we are on the home stretch now. We were even looking at booking staff leave at work for the rest of the year. See above – me, Office Manager and holiday list. Yay! (Sorry it’s a bit blurry. No excuses, I am just rubbish at photos etc.). Obviously, there are worries around the UK variant that is sweeping the world. (Who said we couldn’t be world leaders anymore). But, I don’t know, what do you think? Are we on the home stretch of this horrible thing now?

We have watched the advice about holidays with a bit of confusion. We, like most people, are not thinking we can go abroad this year. Normally, I could live with that quite easily but this year was supposed to be a big deal for us – I’m 60 (I know – I could hardly believe it myself) and we have been married for 30 years so the joy was to be unconfined. So, what to do? I saw one lady online who is already booking a UK tour sort of thing to see places she has always thought about visiting but usually fallen back on a cheap plane to Torremolinos. What to do? Any ideas gratefully considered.

Before I go, can I just recommend “The Investigation” on BBC iPlayer? It’s a true story about the police in Denmark looking into the murder of a journalist. So far so Scandi Noir. However, the makers have managed to produce it without, the murder onscreen, anyone playing the murderer and no-one actually naming him. This somehow makes it even more devastating. It’s quite an achievement. It’s not fun obviously. I think it is worth your time though. Other than that, there’s Wanda Vision on Disney which has achieved cult status in our house but if you are not a Marvel kind of person – why would you?

Have a good week.

Well we don’t know everything, do we?

Welcome back one and all. I am writing this in the bedroom because HOH and FOW2 are watching the film Greenland which is a disaster movie about a comet hitting the earth. Part of the attraction was supposed to be that the film wasn’t like the usual crash bang disaster movies but, at the moment, from where I’m sitting, it sounds like a very feisty cat being continually hit by a cardboard box. Still, I’m sure it’s excellent. (Amazon Prime – if you are interested. Very good reviews.)

I hope your week has been ok. Mine has been much the same and I expect yours has too. HOH got his vaccination last week. This is excellent news. Personally, I would have preferred him to have it when he was washing down COVID patients last August but let’s not be negative eh? He has a few side effects – headache and a bit fevery but otherwise, no issues. I refuse to call a sore arm a “side-effect.” Mainly because, well it’s hardly relevant in terms of what it is preventing. Also, someone has whammied a four-inch needle into your arm. It’s not entirely unexpected that it should hurt a bit, is it? We are taking Aged Parent for hers on Tuesday. If you could all start arranging yourself into little prayer teams now, I would be eternally grateful. HOH and I have been doing several deep and involved weeks of planning for this. You’ve seen the photos of Churchill and all the generals leaning over the maps in the bunker and pushing all the tanks into place? Well, it’s a bit like that.

I expected resistance when I told her that a wheelchair might be useful because, although it’s a step-free venue, it is a bit of a walk. Anyway, her face lit up at the prospect of being pushed around. I think she sees herself as Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? This is funny really because I am looking more and more like Bette Davies in that movie as each day rolls on. The bit I’m dreading is when they ask her if her current health is ok. The whole vaccine rollout could suddenly be weeks behind if she insists on going through everything.

They did have COVID in her unit but she assures me that it is all sorted now and that the carers have told her it is ok – even though they are liars sometimes.

Me Liars? Mum, you can’t really go round saying people are liars?

AP Well for one thing they told me that the stew they brought was edible and it was most certainly not.

We have the bathroom heating sorted everybody. Hurrah! It’s a bit embarrassing because, although there was certainly something on the boiler that needed repair, the problem in the bathroom was caused by us reading the thermostat the wrong way round. I hate being old. I have spent more time than is edifying down the rabbit hole of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Instagram today and am grumpy about how beautiful she is – even though she is older than me. Do not give me nonsense about her plastic surgery – I am sure you are right – but, looking at these photos, am beginning to think it is worth it.

Did I tell you about the book I am reading? It’s called God’s Plan for your Wellbeing and I am dipping in and out. I’m not thrilled with the word “Wellbeing” as I said last week. I am usually with Fran Liebowitz who said “It is no longer enough to not be ill and to therefore be well. Apparently, one must pursue Wellbeing.” But, I’m enjoying the book. There are various chapters on physical health, spiritual health etc which connect back to what the Bible says about us. It’s very good. Anyway, you probably won’t agree with this because you are all mature and humble but I sometimes think that I know everything that is in the Bible. Not in the way a scholar or a pastor knows it but there are very few surprises but last week, I found out that I don’t know everything. I saw this verse – in the Message version – recommended by this book and it knocked the stuffing out of me. It’s the one at the top of the blog. I don’t remember seeing it in this form before. I have been repeating it to myself all week. I am thinking of getting it tattooed – possibly onto my forehead. How marvellous are those words?

Anyway – have to go now. The music in the film next door is reaching a huge crescendo which either means the world has been rescued by aliens or everyone is dead or both. Anything seems possible at the moment. Have a good week.

Weary in Wellbeing

January is nearly done now, everyone. Despite having 342 days in it, we stuck with it and we have battered January down. Like most people, I’m finding it all a bit wearying at the moment. I’m in a privileged position I know. I don’t home school. I get to go to work and speak to people (even though most of them are banging on about the same things that I am – Covid etc. etc.) and I am in a position to keep a close eye on my family. Yet still, I find my moods are prone to a drop every now and then – usually for no good reason. And I am really bored of being told to look after my wellbeing.

I am fed up of face-masks, long bubble baths, turning my bathroom into a home sauna and every other suggestion to promote wellbeing. I’ll be honest – I haven’t actually done any of these things. (Well that’s not strictly true as our underfloor heating isn’t working properly and the bathroom tiles are permanently toasty – even when the heat is switched off. It’s good for drying the washing but you can feel a bit faint after a hot shower). The old pamper game isn’t a bad thing obviously. I’m just not sure they are exactly what’s needed for me to float my boat – wellbeing wise that is.

It’s nice of these magazines to think of me, it’s just that I am not convinced that a deep conditioner and putting my hair up in a towel is exactly what I need at the moment. By the way – if you get Woman Alive – were you perplexed at all by the cover this month? It’s a very good issue about being single, and behold we can see a woman taking care of her wellbeing by luxuriating in a dressing gown and possibly a hair mask. (As all single people do during the lonely weekends apparently) She is also wearing sunglasses. Over her facemask. Sunglasses? Am I missing something? (Wouldn’t be the first time) Is she wearing sunglasses because it is very bright in the house? Is it a disability issue? Is she shy? (Probably too much time on my hands pondering such things). That cat doesn’t look as if it has the faintest idea either.

On top of everything else, Aged Parent’s vaccination has been cancelled because she lives in sheltered accommodation rather than a care home. Someone somewhere has decided that sheltered accommodation is actually full of fit as butchers’ dogs 55-year-olds who are trying to sneak under the vaccination wire. Never mind that everyone on Aged Parent’s floor has carers four times a day and she has problems walking to the kitchen – before we even look at getting to a sports hall at the other end of the city. The “powers that be” will not release the name of the doctor who led the team that made that decision. I only want to talk to him and ask a few questions about his thinking. Please do not let this axe that I am holding make you think that I am in any way upset by these anonymous clots.

So, I’m here, asking what you do to promote your wellbeing/good mental health/ability to not run through the house screaming. I have tidied most cupboards in the house but most of them are a bit untidy again because we are in All. The. Time. Anyway, HOH likes to be chief tidier and I don’t like to step on his toes in that area, so doing anymore sorting is out.

I think that possibly what is needed is more awareness when I am actually feeling ok and acknowledgement of when something has done me good rather than so much whingeing and moaning. It’s sort of like the old hymn “Count Your Blessings.” (takes me back to loud verses with tambourines and then putting your hymn book under your arm so you could clap in the chorus). Basically, the idea is concentrating and taking on board when something does you good and holding on to the thought long enough to realise that something good and positive has happened.

In that spirit – could I take this opportunity to recommend The Dig to you. It’s a film on Netflix about the excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial mounds just before the Second World War. Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes are outstanding in it and Suffolk is completely beautiful. It’s not a perfect film. There’s a rubbish sub-plot where it looks as if someone decided “what this film needs is a couple of younger sexier pieces leading up to some unnecessary jig-a-jig” but put that to one side because this is absolutely worth your time and will make your daily wrestle to achieve the elusive “wellbeing” that bit easier.

Just a sharp scratch

Hello. Hope you are all well. How was your week? Been anywhere nice? No, thought not. It seems to be a feature of this lockdown that we are all a bit fluffy and vague than we have been up to now. and struggling to get anything done? No? Just me then.

All our drama this week has been around vaccinations. Firstly, we received a phone call offering vaccination to Aged Parent. I didn’t want to turn it down because we had already refused one because HOH and I were both working and we couldn’t get her there. Also, I kept thinking that people would think it was a very subtle assassination attempt if I kept turning it down. I was dreading it because it would have meant me driving to meet her and then getting on our vaccination minibus. (we are running trips to the vaccination centres for those struggling on their pins and with parking spaces), queuing to get into the hall and then dealing with the inevitable drama that would follow the actual injection. (Arrrrgh! That REALLY hurt!). However, just when my nervous breakdown was reaching a crescendo, we had a call from Mum’s supported living flats telling us that a vaccination team was coming into the building next week to do all the residents and staff and wouldn’t that be better for AP? YES! And they say there isn’t a God. Obviously, I snatched their hands off. AP wasn’t that happy that she wasn’t going to get to leave the building. “I was going to put my rollers in!” but life is full of disappointments. So hopefully all will go well with the best possible scenario being that AP gets a vaccination that keeps her safe and people who are called to be carers as a life choice get to deal with someone who is going to enjoy her day in the limelight – whatever it takes – and I don’t have to! Win. Win. As the young people say.

I also had my first vaccination today. (It’s to do with my employment. They are trying to stop us from passing on anything nasty to the old people we work with). All seemed very well organised. We all queued for a long time but it moved very quickly. I would say that an extra hand would be helpful. I was struggling to hold my i.d., my driving licence, the paper you had to fill in, balancing my glasses on my head, stopping my mask from pinging off and generally holding it together while it poured down. (As far as I could see no-one in the queue had thought to bring a brolly). However, once inside, it all seemed to go well. There were several medium-sized crises because none of us had brought a pen and the gentleman in front of me decided he was unhappy that other people were unhappy about that.

“No-one told us to bring a pen! I am reading the form here and I have seen it on Spotlight news and it says nothing about pens.”

Nurse/admin type person – ignoring him completely – shouts down the line.

“And can you please make sure you write legibly otherwise we can’t read your forms and you won’t get a call back for your second vaccination!”

This is too much for the man in front who, having purloined a pen is now struggling to fill his form in by lifting one leg up and writing using his thigh as a makeshift table – fairly unsuccessfully.

“And just how are we supposed to do that? Have you tried filling a form in on your backside? (inaccurate and frankly physically impossible but he was worked up).

The nurses in the actual vaccination pods were helpful and kind and I was very proud of myself because I held it together and to all outside appearances appeared to be a normal person. (Remind me one day to tell you about him much I struggle with any kind of medical intervention since my illness – much to the surprise of the dental hygenist who looked down to see me crying silent tears because she had to give me a small injection). All went well and despite how painful my arm is, I am being a brave soldier because I am very grateful for the kindness and straight-up genius of the people who have got us to this place.

Anyway, all I have to do now is wait for the second dose which, by my calculations, should be done around May 2023. It’s all going very well.