One of the differences between blogging and say – writing a book is that a blog is a living document with a timeline. So, unlike the printed word, the fact that I haven’t been on here since well before Christmas is as plain as the nose on your face, as they say. I have spent a few months concentrating on other things. I spent a long time dealing with my brother’s death. Read lots, walked a lot and worked a lot. We got though Christmas ok although there was literally a spare place at the table. But now, having accepted that you never recover from something like this, you just carry on, a bit more frayed at the edges but essentially believing all that you believed before. The blog returns with apologies for its absence. More news to follow.

To celebrate the coming of Autumn I present one of my periodical lists of things I am learning at the moment. The more eagle eyed among you may notice that some of these things are slightly contradictory – in other words they are complete opposites but I’m just that way out at the moment. Take it or leave it..

1. Sometimes Christians really get on my nerves. Almost to the point where a punch in the face may be necessary. People who really should know better are judgemental about people they really should be loving and they call it being righteous or separated unto God or something. If Jesus had decided to stay separate unto God what sort of a mess would we be in.
2. Sometimes Christians are really nice and kind.
3. Sometimes I am too judgemental about Christians.
4. Punches in the face aren’t ladylike either being given or received.
5. All teenage boys make a sort of strange exploding noise when Nigella Lawson faces the camera and takes her jacket off to start cooking.
6. I am the only person in the room watching Nigella for the cooking.
7. Eldest son’s first university offer has come through and I am very,very pleased and proud
8. Eldest son’s first university offer has come through and I am devasted that he will be leaving before we know it.
9. Despite my tutting and moaning, Argos, Boots, Tescos and all the rest of them will continue to start Christmas whenever they flaming well like.
10. It doesn’t mean I have to be happy with it.

11. Its a bit of a distant memory but I’m pretty certain that daughter’s French is already better than mine was when I was messing up my A level horribly. That has to be a good sign (for her anyway)
12. Barbara Pym books make me very happy as do books on knitting.
13. That last point makes me seem about a hundred and three and I don’t care.
14. Saturday evening with some chums, a chicken supper and a bottle of wine is one of the best restorative cures I know.
15. Along with lunch with the chap. Long live bacon sarnies with a coffee and a walk round Waterstones.
16. I am a very cheap date.

Those who know me know why there has been a blogging gap. Last week I lost my beloved brother to pneumonia. I have struggled with the idea of writing about this as
a) T’aint really anyone else’s business and
b) You may well not be that bothered anyway.
But I would be dishonest to ignore it as it occupies most of my waking thought (and quite a lot of what should be my sleeping thought) at the moment and although I cannot promise any really coherent train of thought, this has been where my brain has been at.

There are things in life that you just don’t see coming. You can waste a lifetime’s worth of energy worrying about what may or may not happen and than one sunny Saturday afternoon you get an unexpected phone call and everything changes. You can almost physically feel the land crumbling beneath your feet. My brother was ten years younger than me, successful, happy, popular with, as they say, it all in front of him. Within three weeks he was gone.

It’s the little things that make you the saddest. His sunglasses on the dashboard of the car, canceling the hotel that had been booked for his Christmas visit, hearing that his dog still runs into the kitchen looking for him.

Try as you might to find a reason, sometimes you just can’t. God doesn’t let you know. Indeed sometimes God is a distant figure in this. People try and invent reasons to make you or them feel better. Sympathetic, quizzical looks asking about his lifestyle but that approach never washed with me. There are better people in the world than him but there are worse. This doesn’t give anyone a right to judge.

CS Lewis talks about the absence of God in your grief
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.

Its tough but true I think. Almost as if a part of your grief has to be gone through alone. Eventually though (and I admit, I am only at the beginning of this) you move on a little to a place of accepting that you may never understand it.

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of “No answer.” It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, “Peace, child; you don’t understand.”

And I think you come to accept that you don’t get over it. You learn to cary on moving forward in sorrow but also in faith, accepting that your soul will always be a little more ragged at the edge than it was before.

When I was at primary school, every week we were visited by a vicar. He was a decent enough bloke although he often seemed to be in the middle of some kind of spiritual crisis which he felt  compelled to share with us. It may well have helped him to share but I do remember that he often left a class full of ten year olds feeling slightly bemused and a little depressed. Well, come on. At that age you want to be counting the animals as they go into the ark, not wondering why God allows pain and suffering.
Anyway, one thing he said did leave an impression on me. He asked what everyone who wasn’t a Christian had that Christians didn’t have. (keep up) and the answer was “Limits”. See what he did there?  I have to admit, that the idea that there are no limits for me as a Christian is an attractive one and there are loads of scriptures that back this up. However, I do think we have to be careful not to set ourselves up as a super duper achievement machine sort of visualising ourselves moving onwards and upwards in life while singing “Ain’t no mountain high enough” and being generally impressed with ourselves. Obviously our power to achieve anything comes from God and we need to get our priorities right.
The thing is though, I’m beginning to wonder if there are limits sometimes. Are there times to stop and accept that we need to slow down. Do we have to accept that we can reach a point where we have quite simply had enough. Someone said to me recently that sometimes people don’t think before they speak to me because I am such a good coper (is that a word? I mean good at coping) that they always felt I could take anything that was thrown at me. Er No.
Been thinking about Elijah’s hissy fit. After having been party to a massive miracle, which changed the direction of a whole country, it only took one woman waving a bony fist at him to make him collapse in a heap. Why was that do you think? Maybe he had reached his limit. It looks to me as if God thought so. God’s response was more or less to tell him to get some food and some rest and they would talk properly later.
Maybe there comes a time in life when we have to say enough. Limit reached. I have to stop for a while now. The photo at the top shows that when my Morecambe needs a rest he takes one and don’t interrupt if you know whats good for you. I am aware that at 10am in the middle of a staff meeting you can’t always get your head down on the desk but as soon as its practical maybe I need to notice my limits and take some action. As my mother would say – no one else is going to do it for you!

WHAT! Boots have got their three for two Christmas gifts out. You have absolutely, completely, totally got to be kidding me!! September 15th! Has the world gone mad? ARRRGH.

Come on. Admit it. I can’t be the only Christian who is intimidated by all the scientists with letters after their name shouting about how there is no God and they an jolly well prove it because the sum square of the genome string theory proves blah blah blah….
As I think I have said before. Why so aggressive? You believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe and then when I’m proved right you’ll have to apologise. Seems reasonable enough to me. But they all seem so sure and so certain and although I know that faith isn’t provable by facts I also know I don’t have the brains to win an intellectual argument.
Anyway found a letter in the Times on Saturday. Try not to put dosh into Murdoch coffers but cannot give up Caitlin Moran – sorry can’t, so have to buy The Times on Saturdays. Back to letters. Found letter by Dr DR Alexander, who has lots and lots of qualifications and is Director of Faraday Institute at St Edmund’s College Cambridge no less. The gist of his letter says that Dawkins etc. are talking about the “God of the Gaps”. As I understand it, atheists say that when new scientific discoveries about creation come to light, that this means that God is diminished. BUT Alexander says that this is not our God because our God is bigger than all the gaps in science and all the gaps only exist under him. So science explains how the earth exists but theology explains its meaning.
Basically – science’s God is too small. Blah-so rubbish at explaining this but hope you get it. It helped me.

Anyway, on a more mundane note. Younger members of Hargreaves Dynasty are now back at school. Only to find that looming cuts mean that students’ bus subsidy has been withdrawn . Apart from the fact that it is now costing us nearly £100 per month to get sprogs to school on the bus (Trying to be green and use sustainable transport is costing us a fortune!) I don’t think the Tories realise how difficult it has been to keep eldest from joining the Communist party and this isn’t helping.

Just letting you know that my friend hit 50 this month and texted us to say that she was on her way up Snowden with her husband to celebrate. I cannot for the life of me think why she would want to do something like that but there you go. Congratulations anyway chum.