Things Old Christians Remember (2)

Flannel Boards (Source
When I taught Sunday School the preferred method was the flannel board. Well to be completely honest – it was what you used if you hadn’t prepared anything. It was a sort of fuzzy felt stick-on Bible story. I could never get the hang of it. Everyone in the stories was always turned slightly sideways for some reason and at least one figure would never stay stuck on. I had quite a struggle with John the Baptist I seem to remember. Then I could never get the perspective right, so Noah was always bigger than the ark he was going to fit all his family and all the animals on, which probably confused quite a few littlies. You had to be careful if you were using them with older children. I remember an unfortunate incident at Sunshine Corner with what we used to call “unchurched kids”. I had turned my back for a second, only to find that Mary Magdalene and an un-named disciple had been moved into an “interesting” position. Pretty soon I felt the need to be a bit more creative – although not always entirely successfully. (My attempt to illustrate turning water into wine by using water and carefully hidden cochineal in the bottom of a jar worked a little too well. Younger members of the church were very impressed and rumours began among the children that I may have had special powers) I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that flannel boards have come a long way and are very successfully used now by teachers with more flair than I ever had. However, reading about Summer Clubs and Church camps on the excellent Tracing Rainbows Blog and also seeing what goes on for children at my own church makes me want to wag a finger and say “You don’t know you’re born.”

Lets squeeze this lemon!

Pinching my title from the GREAT Siobhan in “Twenty Twelve”. It would seem churlish not to write about the Olympics after so much good stuff. For me the best bits so far are
a) Anything won on water – particularly the white water canoeing. As someone who is scared of water, I have full admiration for anyone who has enough presence of  mind to keep paddling at great speed when the temptation must surely be to burst into tears and cry “I don’t like it!” until someone comes and rescues you.
b) All the cycling medals. It’s really fast isn’t it? And high up!
c) Mo Farrah. That’s a really long way to run without a sit-down.
d) Andy Murray. To come back so soon to the place where you had lost and then win so well was such a great thing.
e) Gymnastics – that looks like it could hurt quite a lot.

Lots of other things have been great – the beauty of the stadium at night, Ian Thorpe, lovely Becky Adlington, Radio 5 Live’s cycling coverage (outstanding Simon Brotherton), singing God Save The Queen, just saying the words “pommel horse” – the list goes on.
One of the strongest themes that I have picked up from the post event interviews with the athletes was the constant appearance of the words “sacrifice” and “discipline”. People saying that everything they had given up or all the hard work that they had done was worth it. It’s all a bit old fashioned maybe and a bit negative but it does seem that all this glory doesn’t seem to come without sorting yourself out. Like my old mother used to say (or would do if I asked – I’m sure) “Nothing comes of Nothing. ” (Actually just realised that’s Shakespeare. King Lear. Look it up. hah!) If we are looking to achieve anything of worth then it seems that regular “keeping going” and not giving up is the order of the day.

On a slightly sadder note Bob Babbitt died last week. HOH and son have been in mourning for seven days. You may not know the name but you will almost certainly have heard his work. He was the bass player on zillions of Motown hits including – Signed Sealed Delivered, Tears of a Clown and Ball of Confusion. He suffered I think sometimes by playing at the same time as James Jamerson who was routinely called “The Greatest Bass Player of All Time.” Yet Babbitt’s attitude was lovely – eyes filling up with tears when he talked about how wonderful Jamerson was to him and how he was his mentor. Even though Jamerson’s problems with drink and drugs must have made him a nightmare sometimes. Lovely man. Great talent.

I have to go now – I have a birthday cake to finish. FOW1 is nineteen today! Nineteen! Both Hargreaves Towers males have had birthdays this week. Expensive times. HOH had a new turntable. (Still plays vinyl. Says it sounds better) FOW1 had some kind of pedal for his bass that makes what I have called “wow-wow” noises  This has produced much derision. I am not respected in my own home. Still – at least they are cheap dates. Head of House and myself had civilised breakfast overlooking Plymouth Sound last week – see above (nice round here innit?) and FOW1 went out with chums yesterday so tonight we are staying in, eating Chinese and watching Th’Olympics. It is not my job to entertain everyone you know! Even you lot! Have a great week.

Things Old Christians Remember (1)

Before the days of Songpro there was the OHP. But before the technical wizardry of the OHP and its operators, (who were highly skilled people who had learned not to put the acetate on back to front at least seven times out of ten) there was the Redemption Hymnal and its partner – the yellow chorus book.  The big skill we all developed was singing the verse reading from the hymn book and then whipping it under your arm for the jiggy chorus so we could clap. We knew how to funky it up

Branagh Bond Bean

Source:The Independent

Like 27 million other in the UK, we were glued to the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday. Most of the comments seem to be in favour of the event except for a few strange people who seem to be offended by references to the NHS. If all 27 million viewers of this event in this country were lined up and everyone who had benefited from the NHS in some form or another was asked to put their hands up there would be very few people without their hands in the air don’t you think?
I thought I might share a sort of Twitter like running commentary of the event as it played out Chez Hargreaves Towers. It’s quite long but, rest assured, not as long as the athletes parade.

Family are settling down and introductory film begins. FOW2 whoops – “It’s Benedict Cumberbatch!” Even though there is no sign of Martin Freeman the evening is looking very promising already.

Frank Turner entertains the crowd much to the delight of FOW 2. I am concerned that she may be peaking too soon.

The stadium looks magnificent with animals and children and peasants and things. A short film plays with every British cultural reference you could think of, backed by an equally cool soundtrack. As I suspected, it seems it was always a good idea to put someone from the North West of England in charge of this.

The largest bell in Europe is rung by a mod who turns out to be Bradley Wiggins. HOH informs us that Mr Wiggins lives just outside Wigan. rest of family struggle to understand relevance of this to anything at all really. Wiggo (as he is winningly nicknamed) leaves as quickly as possible looking like a man who would rather be back on his bike.

A young boy sings Jerusalem. I burst into tears.

Rather handsome man in very high top hat, strolls through what is now turning into a bleak industrial landscape. He puffs his chest out and begins to recite from “The Tempest” It’s Kenneth Branagh! (He looks a lot better than he did when I last saw him. He was playing Wallander and appeared to be wiping his armpit with a lace curtain) Now he is Brunell, the great engineer. And he’s reciting Shakespeare! Without looking at the words in his book once! FOW2 is fanning herself gently.

There are now too many cultural references to count – Suffragettes, Windrush, Sergeant Pepper, Chelsea Pensioners, Jarrow Crusade. The whole thing is looking like a sort of test film to be shown to people applying for British Citizenship. How many of these very British things can you name? FOW 1 has to be dissuaded from singing “The Red Flag” As Golden Olympic Rings are hoisted into the air I can feel my bottom lip wobbling. A pattern is definitely emerging here.

Then Daniel Craig – in Bond mode takes the Queen of England to the stadium in a helicopter from which she appears to parachute into her seat. Am astonished. Do the cartoon thing of polishing my glasses and checking the screen. She NEVER does anything like this. NEVER. Did Gin O Clock help? Who knows but well done your Maj.

National Anthem is sung by deaf choir of children who sign it beautifully. I burst into tears again.

A lovely tribute to the NHS is now the centre of lots of great moments. These include dancing doctors and nurses (real ones mind you), Voldemort, The Child Catcher, beautiful JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan and children bouncing on their beds as flying Mary Poppinses chase away the monsters. As Good Christian Men rejoice plays I fill up again. Children point at me and laugh. HOH passes me loo roll to deal with copious tears.Family are also questioning the wisdom of FOW1 putting “Stick that in your cake hole Mitt Romney!”  on Facebook. He ignores us, does it anyway and gets 142 “likes”

Rowan Atkinson is then very funny as Mr Bean, which is a sentence I never thought I would write.

There is then a sort of “yoof” section which is a great excuse for us to show the world that British people have written all the greatest pop songs EVER and remind then that Bowie, the Beatles, The Stones, The Sex Pistols, Amy Winehouse et all are well-you guessed it-BRITISH. Hah! As offspring are arguing about relative merits of above we get to see Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web. And British people are your actual geniuses as well! Am now getting quite jingoistic and enquire from children about how to send direct message to Mitt Romney. Children sensibly inform me that they have no idea and quietly move my phone away from me.

David Beckham. Suit. Torch. Speedboat. Enough said.

A tribute to those no longer with us as thousands of beloved family photos flash on screen. Emily Sande sings Abide With Me while beautiful dancers dance their beautiful dance. Beautiful hymn. Beautifully sung. HOH takes loo roll from me as we both sniffle.

Athletes parade. Lasts forever. Pour wine. Eat nuts. Amuse ourselves by trying to spot imaginary countries marching in – Narnia, Tatooine, Allezoop. Mood is also lightened by spotting German dignitary apparently Nazi saluting their team. Does not look like high five to me. Spot Charles and Camilla in fits of giggles. Feel this is not unrelated. GB team come in. High level cheering. Spot Tom Daley. Cry again.

Arctic Monkeys play. FOW2 has to lie on the floor.

Beautiful Olympic cauldron  is lit by young luscious unknown athletes. Brilliant! Am only slightly disappointed that it is not  Harry Potter shouting “LUMOS”

Paul McCartney rocks “Hey Jude” Am fearing for FOW2’s health now.

And that is it. My favourite quote is from Danny Boyle. “I don’t believe in God but I believe in the people who do. This is their show, they really are the best of us.” And when I see how much of our heritage and history rests on the people of God, I can feel big dobby tears welling up again.


I sit down to do this sometimes and I begin to panic. This has been a “meh” week. Nothing to tell you I don’t think apart from apparently finding a dead dog in the back garden. (Morecambe is very keen on lying in the sun) But, one of the advantages of doing this is that I have to say to myself – “Think again – you have to write something. Forsooth, your people cannot survive without you!” (Ha! If only. I have been watching too much Shakespeare probably)

Sooo although, I know that basically, all I did was go to work and the like – didn’t even finish reading a book – I am bringing you highlights from a boring person’s week.

1. We booked our holiday. We are going retro this year with Center Parcs after the offspring requested it. We are aware that they may not want to come with us many more times. If you haven’t been to Center Parcs recently, it is now practically a million pounds a minute so we are combining it with a trip up northern parts to impose ourselves on various relatives and friends. Center Parcs now offers a tree-house experience (I think there is a staircase but the prospect of me getting into a tree-house, possibly by rope ladder, kept my family laughing for what seemed like several hours – rude) The tree house option is about £2700 for a weekend. You can do New York for that! It was also sold out. (Not that we were considering it.)

2. Fruit of Womb 2 made it safely back from a “gig” in Exeter. Some band called “Howler” or “Moaner” or something. Don’t think they have troubled the upper reaches of what used to be called “The Hit Parade”. Still, she seemed to enjoy it and they signed a record for her so that was very nice.

3. Have made it up two levels on LEGO Batman. I don’t think this is suitable for 3 year olds. It seems very difficult to me. It took me twenty minutes to get Batman out of the Batmobile at one point and then I couldn’t find my way back to the Batcave. These LEGO people are fiends.

4. Head of House and I had a nice conversation with someone we hadn’t seen for a while. For complicated reasons, it could have been quite difficult. It wasn’t. God is very good at this sort of thing.

5. Morecambe is now up to date with his injections. It was traumatic of course – as you know he hates the vet. He did have 20mg of tranquilizer but his adrenalin levels were so high it made no difference. Still, once they had wrapped a blanket around his head and wrestled him to the ground, they managed to get the job done. Although his nerves meant that he had quite a trumpy bottom during the procedure. (Morecambe – not the vet.) HOH said he hoped no one lit a match. I wasn’t there of course. I’m a much too sensitive soul for all that kind of thing.

6. Friday night was a rare Friday when everyone was home. Telly was rubbish so we switched it off and while having a drink and munching crisps we sat around and chatted and had an excellent time. Topics ranged from Bob Dylan to Youth Group Charades (Apparently FOW1 remembers spending 45 minutes trying to guess who one of the group had seen outside. The answer was “A Tree Goddess.” – it’s a long story.) It wasn’t exactly an intellectual evening but I enjoyed it.

These are the tiny stitches in the embroidery of my life. They may not tear up any trees or get me interviewed by Fearne Cotton but they make me who I am. When I squint my eyes and look at this embroidery very closely, I think it looks very lovely indeed and I am very grateful.

PS. Family did go to Batman movie this week. It was about half an hour too long but to be honest – in view of this weekend’s events in America, I don’t really feel like reviewing it much anyway.