Rest and Play

Another Bank Holiday. Head of House was working and everyone else – friends and offspring alike either revising for, sitting or recovering from exams so no one was playing out. So I retired to the kitchen for the afternoon to make meatballs for tea and experiment with new recipe for strawberry cake. (Very nice, thanks for asking. The fruit made it a bit moist for my personal taste but, like most things in life, it was much improved by the addition of good ice cream)
I usually listen to 5 Live when I am in the kitchen but as all the news is about Cheryl Cole and I am a bit off football after all the shenanigans with Percy Pigs (I’m still not sure what the policy is on naming him in print – can’t be too careful I suppose) I turned to Radio 2. Where-Oh Joy it was the French and Saunders Radio Show. There then followed a lovely two hours full of gentle humour and silliness. I especially loved the riff about what happens when you get into a bath that’s too hot but you put up with it because you think it will cool down in a minute and then you notice that your legs are bright red and that your pulse is racing and you feel a bit faint. Why do we do that? Anyway, I spent a lovely productive afternoon and didn’t miss 5 Live at all. Maybe Bryan Goggs (again, careful not to use the real name) should play away more often. Not that I approve or anything.
We have started to book tickets for summer holiday in London. If everything takes as long as deciding what theatre to see, we will proabably miss the whole thing. Watch and wonder as our suggestions are dismissed by the offspring – without any alternative suggestions.
Parents. What about Les Miserables?
Sprogs. It’s like an opera isn’t it? Can’t cope with two hours of watching “the poor” squawking and moaning.
Parents. The Betrayal – Harold Pinter?
Sprogs. Too depressing. People trying to slit their wrists with the ice cream spoons at half time.
Parents. Legally Blond?
Sprogs. Musical theatre is just weird. People talking then bursting into song for no reason.
And so it went on… until
Parents. Warhorse?
Sprogs. Any singing?
Parents. Don’t think so.
Sprogs. Any scenes that will make us squirm because we are sat with our parents.
Parents. Probably not – it’s taken from a children’s book.
Sprogs. Doesn’t look like a lot of laughs but It’s about the best I suppose.

You’re welcome I’m sure. We also booked tickets for tour of Houses of Parliament. Fortunately, this is during the summer recess which has reduced the chances of Eldest Fruit of Womb doorstepping Nick Clegg and asking him how he sleeps at night.
It’s all very hard work arranging some time to rest. Especially when teenagers are involved. Listen. I’m sloping off now. I have a couple of days in St Ives with Head of House to celebrate staggering to 50. Just a couple of thoughts. Thanks so much for all the comments on Facebook etc. Good to know you like the stuff. Comments should be working on blog now as well.
Also. I have to tell you that sometimes, I really struggle with this Devon accent. This morning I was certain that someone announced from the front of church that Jesus Christ was sent as an Italian sacrifice for all. That can’t be right can it?
Lastly, a famous video clip just to remind you that however you feel you have things organised and under control – your lovely offspring are always capable of frightening the living daylights out of you.

Now we are old

Well, here it comes. 50 next month. I know, I know, who would have thought it? So I thought of sharing a few things with you about all that I have learned over the past half century. Things that may enrich and inform you and that you can take with you into your lives. Then I thought, Nah, who wants to listen to all that and anyway, what do I know? So I’ll just tell you a few things I have discovered to be inescapably true about getting older.

  1. After the menopause, for all but the most genetically stick thin, it really is an uphill battle. I walk approximately 3 miles a day what with getting to and from work, walking dogs and getting youngest Fruit of Womb to bus stop (now eldest has selfishly left school). I think twice before every cake I eat, even if I do usually eat it anyway but I know that for the rest of my life I will be fighting so that when I turn sideways and look at myself in the mirror my belly doesn’t come out any further than my bust.
  2. It’s not the wrinkles that bother me, it’s the general facial flabbiness. My skin isn’t bad but there seems to be a lot more of it under the chin area. Also, holding back the grey hair seems to mean getting the dye out more often. My friend is a year older than me, naturally grey and she looks fantastic. So does that french woman who wants to run the world’s finances. Am definitely thinking of giving it a go. (Going grey naturally – not running for head of the IMF)
  3. It’s not so much that I don’t want to go out. Really I still do. But I find that when I am home, I really like it and, whats more, when I was snuggled up on the sofa, I found my self thinking how nice it would be to have a blanket. No truly, I did. And I don’t care.
  4. I am subject to strange crushes. I find the strangest chaps attractive, Steve Martin, Kevin Spacey,  etc. Its like obviously the Cloonster is attractive, but its more an appreciation than all out fancying. Have checked this out with equally aged Head of House and it is not just female phenomenon. Germaine Greer being his unusual crush of choice. Of course this could have something to do with next point.
  5. I can’t see! No really. It’s all a blur. The optician assures me that its just natural degeneration but, if I forget my glasses, I either have to peg to Primark to get a £2 pair or borrow the engineer’s spare pair which is an interesting look.
  6. I hate 99% of everything on the telly. What is going on? I don’t get X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent etc. Since when did laughing at people who are borderline mentally ill become a national pastime? And, I’d rather scoop my own eyes out with a spoon that watch another episode of Sweet 16 blah blah.
  7. Like they all said they would, simple pleasures have become more important. I like a nice view, a comfy bench, not being cold, cake, a glass of red wine (two glasses and next morning, I will feel like my brain is trying to make a break for it through my skull) a chat and a really good laugh.

Despite all this whingeing, and to be honest, I have cut it short – for instance, if they ever make being tired an Olympic sport. No, no more I promise. As I was saying, despite all this, I am still very grateful. In spite of the ravages of age, I have been able to be here to help bring up our sprogs and that is the main thing, especially when, a long time ago, a doctor told us that that was unlikely. And, even now, there is so much more to do. Not just offspring parenting but lots of other stuff too. All I have to do is raise the energy to do it.

Gratitude 2 – The Revenge

Well its part two of gratitude and this was the only sequel title I could think of. So having decided that gratitude is a good thing, then what?
Like most things that are good for you (Healthy eating, exercise, loving relationships, watching Doctor Who) it doesn’t just happen. A certain amount of  organisation, discipline and just basically getting off your backside is necessary. Thought I might suggest some practical helps, whether you asked for it or not but when has that ever stopped me?
When my friend Emma ran a pre school at the church I worked in she would say to the children that a verb is a DOING word. (Quite loudly actually) and gratitude is a DOING word in much the same way.
1. I would always recommend a journal. If you are an international technical expert with decently plucked eyebrows and a designer handbag you might want to use your mobile. But for me, by the time I have worked out how to actually put the info into the phone, I have usually forgotten the thought. I personally prefer a notebook. It doesn’t have to be lovely, although that helps some people. The advantage that paper has is that there’s something about writing that holds a memory the way nothing else can. I also stick bit and pieces in there – yep with glue. Then write a list. Prayers, thoughts and against that, all the things you are grateful for now. Go back to the list, see what was answered, say thanks.
2. Say thanks to other people. Slam them an email, go up to them after church or whenever, give them a call or send them a card. Cards are good. People get them in the post along with all the dross. They keep them in their undies draw and come across them when they need encouragement. I find that I have to say to my kids “This is a pen and when you drag it across a piece of paper, it makes a mark. We call this writing.” Email is better than nothing and sometimes its the only contact you may have but more personal things are better still.
3. It’s not all about you. Don’t just say thanks to people who do nice stuff for you. In your church, people are working like Trojans to keep the place on track. Think about noticing that. If a shop assistant is nice to you. Be nice back.  Local charity workers in Plymouth with lots of volunteers would love a thank you just sometimes instead of loads of moaning all the flippin’ time…(slightly personal that, sorry) – you get the idea.
Last week, I had to say thank you to someone who had given me some advice I didn’t like. Didn’t do it straight away. Not because I was sulking (for a change) but just because I had other stuff on. However, once the dust had settled – I went back and said thanks. Consider thanking people who were right  – even if its retrospectively.
Its now up to you to get DOING.
Very nice meal out thank you. Lovely table and view over the Hoe. Very nice food. Unfortunately we manged to time the trip out so we found ourselves smack in the middle of quiz night but I knew the answer to at least five of the questions in the sport round so win-win, I think you’ll find.
Sorry for the length of this post but just wanted to talk a bit about the footballer/super injunction thing. The footballer’s name is out there now,  I guess we all thought he was one of the good guys but there you go. All I’ll say is that when he says – “You can’t reveal this because it will hurt my wife, humiliate my children and destroy my credibility.” Whatever happened to “I can’t sleep with this person because it will hurt my wife, humiliate my children and destroy my credibility.” Call me old fashioned if you feel you must.

Longitude or Latitude…..

….my attitude is gratitude

Victoria Wood

This blog’s title is pinched from a Victoria Wood sketch. (I prefer to say its an homage – please say with French accent for effect)
One day I would like to write a book about this. It will be loosely titled “Things that Christians knew already but the rest of the world thinks they were the first to discover it but Christians don’t exactly live it anyway so no wonder everyone else thinks that they discovered it.” It’s a bit unwieldy for a title I’ll give you that but, its a work in progress.
After years of suspecting as much, scientists have now found actual evidence that a life filled with gratitude actually has health benefits. See here for one of the main studies.
When I was a child in church, still balancing my crochet hat precariously on the back of my head and trying desperately to learn to play guitar without any discernible talent because that was what young Christian people did, we would sing a hymn and, at every chorus, tuck our book under our arm, (we were too poor for an OHP) clap loudly and sing “Count your Blessings”. Now you see, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Gratitude lowers blood pressure, helps you to sleep, improves your relationships and grateful people live longer. In Luke 17 v 11 Jesus makes the comparison between gratitude, faith and health. Hah! Interesting don’t you think that an untrained carpenter living 2000 years ago should have such insight. (Cue dramatic “dang, dang, dang” music)

As usual, I’m not talking from a position of nah nah, I’ve got this right. When we used to sing “When you look at others with their lands and gold” I used to think – wish it was me and I don’t think I’ve progressed that much really. Still, like most stuff, just because I don’t do it all the time doesn’t mean it’s not true. Gratitude at its most effective when you struggle to find something to be grateful about. At those times, it sometimes helps me to make a list. Watch Woody Allen get over himself.

On another subject. If I were a maths teacher and one of my pupils (who also happens to be Fruit of Womb Two) posted on Facebook “If all exams are that hard – I’m going to run away and live in the woods” then gets 30 likes   – I would be slightly concerned about the results. Just saying.

On a more positive note, Head of House and Yours Truly celebrate 20 years of the old marriage on Wednesday. And they said it wouldn’t last. Well some of my Mum’s friends did.  Anyway, a chum has sorted us out a waterfront table at the er “Waterfront”. Looking forward to it. Don’t get out much at our time of life.

Time – it takes it out of you

Apologies for the poor photo of the mantelpiece in the back room. Hargreaves Towers’ Official Photographer is busy in the kitchen putting the shopping away while listening to obscure Northern Soul with his earphones. The rest of the family will not interrupt as they are deriving too much pleasure sniggering while he sings, unaware of loud he is.
Anyway, wanted to talk about time a bit as you may have noticed. I recently received the welcome news that I had won a writing competition. Excellent. Really chuffed. But then it came. As I knew it must. The email asking for the photo to accompany the piece. “Head and shoulders. Facing the camera please.”  Everyone in the house tenses up. Your mission – should you chose to accept it is –  To obtain a semi decent photo of Mum. It’s a tough job. Smiling or not smiling? Wry or serious? Then the rejections. Out – I look bald. Out – I look like Yoko Ono. Out – I look mad. Out – I look like a bald, mad , Yoko Ono.
Then I apologise. “I’ve never taken a good photo” I say. Head of House replies kindly. “It’s not true. We are just getting old.”
After wondering uncharitably, “Is he saying I look old?” I have to agree. I think most of us think they will have found the cure for age by the time we get old – but they never do. But there is so much to do still and where will I find the time? Well, I could start with the time snatchers. We all probably have these. Things we do that just slowly, almost un-noticed, snatch the time away. I’ll tell you a few of mine . Please take care to notice how spiritual they all are

1. ENews! If I watch it, it takes an hour and I’ve hardly ever heard of anyone on it. Do I really need to know where the third vampire from the left in Twilight buys her frocks? Yet still I sit in front of it like its packed to the draw strings with A-Listers. I need to stop. (This does not include Fashion Police with Joan Rivers which is essential viewing)
2. Facebook games. Facebook is fine. I go on for a while then go away. It’s the games that suck you me in. How long trying to get a fish to spit bubbles up a tube? I’m a grown woman for goodness sake.
3.Houseporn This is pure nosiness and dead easy with the advent of the Internet. I can spend many an hour grubbing around other people’s cupboards.
4. Moneysavingexpert.com A bit different as this can be quite useful but I can disappear into the forum for days on end. Still, did get a very good recipe for fish pie and I can make my shower gel last a lot longer.
5. Head of House wants me to add “The Mentalist” to this list but I like it. We can’t all be watching moody French police serials with policewomen who look like they need a good wash. (Spiral – I’m talking about you.)
You probably have lots of your own time wasters. For me, I know I need to deal with it. I truly don’t want to be a woman with an untrimmed, un-oily, oil lamp when time runs out just because I spent so much time wasting the precious time God gives us. All advice gratefully received.