Trying

I’ve had a trying week. Have you had a trying week? I’ve had a trying week. I’ll just share my week. It’s not that I’m not bothered about you and your week. I’m happy to hear about it. But first – me.

Oh by the way, in a bit of throwback. We went to church on Good Friday. I can get a bit religious on Good Friday as you probably know. It seemed like a good church. We can’t commit to anything at the moment because we have no idea which area we will be living in when we move but this place seemed ok. Certainly ten team points for singing “When I Survey The Wonderous Cross” to the proper tune and not some hippy-dippy 60’s nonsense. We are a bit church burned and won’t be rushing anywhere but we did like it.

Back to the week that was. It was a short work week, what with the Easter Monday thing. Then I had Tuesday off as FOW2 was over for her birthday. She wanted to go to IKEA to buy a desk and we are very much “You shall go to the ball” on our kids’ birthdays so off we went. Unfortunately she had neglected to bring any measurements or indeed, a tape measure to check those measurements so there was a lot of standing around with arms outstretched and running from desk to desk trying to use visualisation powers to work out if it would fit. Annoyingly, it fitted perfectly so I didn’t get the chance to say – “Well if you had just measured your room before you came…”

Then, on Thursday night I got a call from Aged Parent “I’ve just called the ambulance.” Cue a panicked rush round to her flat. To insert a spolier here – she was ok and I think it could have been a medication mix-up combined with a bit of a panic attack but it was a trying evening. It was four and a half hours before the ambulance arrived. I’ll just repeat that. Four and a half hours. (To be fair to them, I think they had pegged her symptoms and past history and had placed her well below young people with multiple stab wounds on their priority list). I arrived at the flat to find her “religious maniac friend” her words not mine, washing up in the kitchen loudly singing “And LEAP ye lame for JOYYYYYYYYYY!!!” over and over again. I’m not sure if this was meant to be a prayer or speaking something into being but God wasn’t having it. No leaping was being done at all and Joy was in short supply. Especially from me.

When the paramedics arrived they checked AP over and came to the conclusion that her symptoms sounded like trapped wind and told her to drink more water as she was probably a little dehydrated. As they were leaving, one of them rubbed my back surreptitiously and told me to go home and get some sleep as there was nothing to worry about. Oh you think do you? Let me tell you about my life. I was in bed by 2.30 am which gave me a whole three and a half hours before the alarm went off. AP took their rejection in her stride and next night was heard telling HOH that the paramedic had no idea what he was talking about but that they had said that she was severely dehydrated and more or less lucky to be alive. Hmm.

Then we though we had sold the house but people who play hardball better than us decided not – no more details – it makes me sweary. Unfortuntely, because we thought it was sold, we looked at flats and found something that we liked and now we can’t bid on it. I fully expect it to be sold the day before we are able to make an offer for it.

Also, I don’t know if you have heard of Rachel Held Evans. She wrote a book Searching for Sunday which is an honest and helpful account of a woman losing her faith, finding Jesus again but not really being that keen on evangelical Chrisianity anymore. I can’t say I agree with everything she has ever written but she does talk a lot of sense and has devoted her life to those struggling with their faith. She has recently become seriously ill and is in an induced coma. Her friends have come online and asked people to pray for her. And “Christians” have come back with phrases like “I’ll pray for her – I’ll pray that she repents!” JUST GO AWAY WILL YOU! Is that seriously an attitude you can ever EVER see Jesus supporting?

On top of all that, Manchester United can’t buy a win and even though FOW1 gamely tries to cheer me up with Tweets about transfers and optimistic predictions, I do care more about football than I should and can get very downhearted. Because of work and other things, we won’t be able to go and see Avengers Endgame until next weekend which means a week of probably unsucessfully avoiding spoilers and I HATE being the last to see anything. Also after lots of family pressure I have started watching Fleabag (Series 2. FOW2 has forbidden me from watching Series 1. “Trust me Mum – you won’t like it.” It is apparently filthy) Annoyingly, I can see what all the fuss was about. It is brilliantly written (I knew it would be) and although I wholeheartedly disapprove (She is trying to get a priest to sleep with her – but there is more to it than that. May blog a bit more when I have seen it all) I can’t help but admire it.

Sometimes, it’s a million little things don’t you think? Comforting myself with this.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

 Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Psalm 27

Also comforting myself with a DVD of The Way We Were and my body weight in Maltesers which do not weigh very much and therefore that’s a LOT of Maltesters. Hurrah!

The Cut Out Girl

The Cut Out Girl by Bart Van Es

Of the 18000 Jews in the Hague in 1940, only 2000 survived the Second World War. A good proportion of those survivors owe their lives to selfless acts of bravery by ordinary Dutch men and women. Lien, is one of the survivors and her story is told here. She is seven years old when the book begins, a child of a non-observant Jewish family. The author says “It is really Hitler who makes Lien Jewish”. But, even as a young child she notices the changes start to happen, almost imperceptably at first – she is made to go to a Jewish school, she sees signs in parks and on libraries saying “Forbidden for Jews”, then one day she comes home from school to find her mother cutting out stars from a piece of yellow felt.

Soon, her mother sits on her bed one night and tells the little girl that she is going to stay somewhere else for a while. A couple of mornings later a lady arrives at the front door to take her to another family. She has no understanding of the fact that she will never see her parents again.

After the war, when Lien is an old woman, she is visited by the author who is a relative of one of the families who took her in and together they tell her story.

It is a deeply moving and sad story. Despite the bravery of those who sheltered her, danger was never far away and she has to move on to another family as the Nazis close in. Not everyone who gives her shelter is a hero and she has to grow up quickly. Also, again despite the bravery of those who fight to shelter her, the experience leaves her deeply scarred. Life after the war is hard – not so much because of her life circumstances but because of the mental and emotional damage she has suffered.

This is an amazing book. It’s not hard going; despite the subject matter. Her story is so beautifully told, I felt so strongly for her. There are little, amazing stories of heroism and tiny shocking moments of anti-semitism and abhorrent behaviour. With all the background noise we have these days around racism and anti-semitism it does us good to see where these things can lead if they are unchecked. But the main thing this left me with was a sense of a human being; the torments she suffered and her path to peace.

Easter Saturday

Holbein

This is my favourite representation of Easter Saturday – if favourite is the word. It is Jesus’ dead body. And he is certainly dead. In Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, sees a copy of Holbein’s picture “Looking at that painting,” he says, “might make one lose one’s faith.”

Easter Saturday is such an important day, but people move on so quickly to the jollity of Easter Sunday. (Obviously – who wouldn’t?) Yet this is the day when the candles had been snuffled out with no sign of them ever being lit again. So I am once again pointing to something I have written before. This is the lost day, the gap, the day of faith for tomorrow. I think it is something that we have all experienced – because Christianity is a religion for grown-ups. Something had been taken apart with no pointers as to how or if it would ever be put back together again. You might feel like that now. Easter Saturday is a hint, a whisper of a God waiting and working. Please feel free to have a read…

So today was the day before the big day. We know that now, so it’s easy to be all full of faith about the promise now. Because we are here all these years later and we know it happened. Harder I think for the followers of Jesus at the time. There were perhaps a few prophecies – half remembered – about the temple or Jesus returning. But all they had for the moment were nightmares about what they had seen yesterday and a dead body. And, because of the brutal times in which they lived, they were quite aware of what a dead body looked like, thank you very much. This man was most definitely dead – none of this swooning nonsense that some people waffle about. He has been tortured and killed. No one could deny that.
And the day lasted just as long as every other day. No clues, no encouragement, just tears and bewilderment. What was that all about then? So they made some arrangements, perhaps to get together and pray. A bit half hearted maybe and not everyone would be there. Peter seemed to have gone back to his old life. Mary Magdalene and some of the other women made arrangements to go and embalm the body – not check if he had risen by the way – look after his dead body. They would meet early in the morning, as soon as sabbath was over. 
And all the time, while the tiniest grains of faith were still binding them as friends, nudging them to pray and to stand their ground in their everyday lives, the miracle was approaching. As each minute passed it was getting nearer and nearer. No warning, no signs but it was on its way.

 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb.

Good Friday

It’s Good Friday and I am blogging something I have blogged before. It’s the first time I have ever done that – repeated a post that is. I’m not repeating it because I think it’s so fantastic but because I started to write something and then realised that I had written it before. This either suggests that my writing is based on rock solid eternal truths that never move or that I lack imagination – you decide. I’m probably going to do the same on Easter Saturday as well if you want to come back and have a look. It’s full on religious in case you don’t come here for that (that is not an apology – just a statement) but here you go anyway…

I’m not really up for writing about the Crucifixion. I don’t have the skills. There have been countless poets and hymn writers who have got a lot closer than me. So I’m not going to do it. Write about the Crucifixion I mean. It’s too much for me and I am useless. I did want to say a couple of things though. 
Firstly, I’m really glad that “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming” Well, obviously it is but it is still Friday. And, if it’s all the same to you, I would like to spend at least a portion of this day thinking on the horror that Jesus experienced. I’m not too keen on pretending that the darkness is never worth dwelling on for more than a millisecond. Partly because I think it does Jesus a dis-service but also, if we refuse to face the fact of a darkness full on, how can we identify with those who weep or mourn? Look how this darkness threw Peter. The night before when he had promised undying loyalty and love, Jesus had told him what would happen.

 “Don’t be so sure,” Jesus said. “This very night, before the rooster crows up the dawn, you will deny me three times.”

And that’s exactly what Peter did – a full throated, expletive filled denial in the end. And Peter was overcome. Overcome at his own weakness, and his inability to amount to anything after all the promising and the enthusiasm. He was so overcome that he completely forgot the rest of what Jesus had said to him. 

“But after I am raised up, I, your Shepherd, will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee.”

Jesus would come back, and would lead him and Peter would be restored. Peter was blinded to all this, so that on this day of days when Peter had said that he would be there for Jesus, he was nowhere to be found.

Later on, all this would be fulfilled of course but for now Peter was absent as his friend was tortured and killed. The fear had overcome him and he felt there was no way back. Good Friday reminds us that sometimes, for some, all seems lost and hope struggles to get a look in and it makes us go missing from God. People are having those times now as well. Hope seems lost, the darkness overwhelms, we are weak and afraid. Sometimes, as Christians we can be guilty of bellowing “Be Of Good Cheer!” at people (Christianese for “Buck Up”) and then leaving it at that. Today of all days is a time when we can at least, gently rub the back of someone’s hand and acknowledge the fact of the darkness for a time.

Bitty

A bitty week this week so a round-up full of irrelevant bits and pieces that together might make a readable blog. It seems the housing market may be stirring a little as, I suppose, people are fed up of waiting for a Brexit that may never happen, and are moving on with their lives. Also it’s a bit warmer and so people leave their little hedgrows and warrens and think about moving. We shall see.

On Brexit – people are very angry still aren’t they? Do you ever wonder how people get the time off work to walk up and down outside Westminster shouting obscenities? Some of them appear to have been there for years. And the trouble people go to. There was someone last week with a six foot papier-mashe head of Theresa May which was beautifully done but I have no idea what purpose it served. I am with Judas on this (not a sentence you hear very often) and feel that the money could have been spent in a more productive way. I was mildly amused to see Monsieur Macron of La France advising us about how to get a move on and what we should and shouldn’t be doing. This is excellent from a leader whose country is on fire every Saturday night. I was more heartened by Angela Merkel who, on looking at something funny on an Ipad, called over a lonely looking Theresa May to join in the laughing to make sure she was included. Mrs Merkel always seemed a very kind sort of person to me. She is at the top of Europe and didn’t need to do that. Impressive.

We took advantage of our Netflix subscription and watched Faces Places. Well I say our Netflix subscription. FOW2 pays for it because she needs it for her studies so it would be almost rude not to take advantage. And anyway, she owes me for her very existence so it is the least she can do. Faces Places is a documentary about two phtotgraphers – JC and the Legendary Agnes Varda (Being honest – no idea but she is very big in French New Wave Cinema apparently. Well, not so much now because she died last month). But…the film is lovely. They travel around rural France taking photos of the locals and blowing them up into huge posters which are then pasted onto walls, water coolers, huge columns of shipping containers etc. It’s about their friendship and celebrating a France that is vanishing. Just a lovely, affecting film.

We have decided to declutter a bit and have started with books, DVDs etc. We are using Ziffit to get a bit of money back. You put the ISBN number onto the site and they tell you what you will get for it. We earned £87 which is good. It will buy us a passport as both of ours need renewing. (Are they still giving out passports? Are we allowed to leave? Does anyone know what is going on?) The big secret with these sites is not to take things personally. When you wonder for twenty minutes whether to put a beloved book or DVD on the site and then they offer you 28p for it, it can be easy to yell things at the computer. But, it gets you nowhere. I find it’s is best to sneak anything like this back onto the bookshelf when HOH isn’t looking.

It is also 30 years since the release of When Harry met Sally. Thirty years! That was the film we saw on a very early date. I can’t believe it is that old. Nora Ephron, the genius writer is no longer with us, nor Carrie Fisher or Bruno Kirby but some of the other people involved went to a Hollywood shindig which looked lovely even though Meg Ryan seems to be modelling someone else’s face for the event. That’s Hollywood I suppose.

I have, perhaps unwisely, left Aged Parent to sort out her own arrangements for a chiropodist this week.

AP I need my feet doing. Amy – the warden got me a phone number.

Me Very good. When is she coming?

Well – HE – might not be coming. He’s a priest apparently and very busy.

A priest? – wouldn’t you be better with a chiropodist? (A poor attempt at humour which was treated with the contempt it deserved)

What? Oh right. Anyway, I spoke to him and I don’t like him. He was a bit funny.

(Remembering other instances of this kind of thing) What time did you phone? Was it light outside? (AP is struggling with times at the moment but is not over-burdened with this and is quite happy to ring people at any time just to check)

Yes it was!…. Just (uh-oh) but I don’t think it’s right.

Well he probably subsidises his priestly things by this second job.

No. Didn’t like him. It’s weird, a priest cutting toe nails. I got in touch with Donna who did them last time. She fitted me in. She said she hoped I was an early riser because she would be round at 5am. I think it was 5am. I’ll probably give her ring just before to make sure she is on her way.