January Dip.

I’m sitting in the middle of Plymouth weather. Ok, that’s not strictly true – I’m not outside or anything. I’m just trying to add a bit of atmosphere. Suit yourselves.
Anyway – it’s all so stereotypically early Januaryish at the moment. Fruit of Womb One has returned to York University taking his complicated politics essays with him. Fruit of Womb Two is back at school and agonising over The Crucible, medical discoveries of the eighteenth century and creating a garment from a paper pattern – not necessarily in that order. I am showing my ignorance I know but I had never read the Crucible before. There’s not a lot of laughs in it are there? Head of House and I are back at work and I can only just fasten my pants. How New Yearish is all that?
Went to church this morning for first time since Christmas. The speaker was Jonathan Edwards – General Secretary of the Baptist Union. (Not to some of the youth’s disappointment the laser-eyed, triple-jumping, athletics commentator. I suspect this feeling of bringing constant disappointment to people is something the Baptist Union Secretary is used to) Anyway. I thought he was rather good. Seemed very normal and nice. Didn’t once threaten to raise a chicken from the dead to prove God’s power, which I always feel is a plus point in any speaker’s favour. Although he wasn’t exactly packed to the drawstrings with good news. The financial situation in the country extends to the church apparently and these will be difficult times for us all. This probably explains the decision to close the Baptist Times which I read about this week. Apparently readership numbers are well down and they can’t afford to subsidise it any more. I agree that they have to be sensible but I find this a bit depressing. Why isn’t anyone reading any more? I know that the Internet has had an effect on everything but speaking like an old Christian woman that you have found in the woods – it seems like people just don’t seem to read Christian books the same as we did. When I was a young luscious thing, we were all reading something. It was sort of expected that you would be lugging some sort of Christian paperback around in your handbag. Some were better than others obviously but there was so much out there and you just read loads. If you had a leader or a mentor they would always ask – “What are you reading at the moment?” It doesn’t seem to be like that now. I love a bit of shallowness as much as the next person (witness my Strictly obsession before Christmas) but surely if something is as important as a Christian faith then it’s worth going into a little more deeply than a Tweet? Is it me? Plus, to drag the tone down a bit. Reading is hot. As a teenager, I couldn’t fancy someone who didn’t read. Dangerously self obsessed those people are – trust me.
One problem is undoubtedly our busyness. I came across this idea though the Kindred of the Quiet Way blog. The idea of having a “landing strip” where you park everything as you come in  so it is all ready for you to pick it up and carry on the next day is pure genius I think. I also think it might help me in my Bible reading. Too often, I read something then close the book. I come to it next day with a limited amount of time – can’t remember where I was so open it randomly at a particularly depressing bit in Jeremiah which I read out of context and then, in a fit of helplessness, try to trap my head in the door. Maybe, if when I put the Bible and notebook down, I do so in a way that is ready for me to pick it up and continue next time (Notebook, notes and pen ready, open at new page etc.) it will be helpful. You are probably already doing this. I’m going to give it a try. New Year and all that.

Finally, some friends came round for a meal last night. One of them is quite frightened of little dogs so thought she would use the visit to help her. How could anyone be afraid of these two lovely things, ready to greet people on the door? Well yes they are growling a bit – I’ll give you that. Not sure the evening helped with dog terrors much but a good time had by all otherwise.

It’s a cliche but…

..the New Year is on us again and despite resolutions to never make any more resolutions, I find I am looking at resolutions. I have read all the stuff about mid-winter not being a good time to do this kind of thing because it’s dark and cold but, I can’t seem to stop myself. Firstly, all the Thornton’s chocolates, Pringles and Roast Potatoes have all left their mark on my waistline and something will need to be done about that immediately. It’s no good waiting until the nights are shorter. I need to deal with these dig in marks my jeans are making now!
Also, there’s not very much on the telly now. Christmas has exhausted the meagre supply of fairly decent stuff (except Sherlock is back…Sherlock is back… *does little happiness jig in kitchen*) and I would rather spend this time being a bit more introspective than sitting through “When Naked Celebrities Buy Cheese” or something similar.
And.. well it just feels right to be re-assessing a bit. It’s the turn of the year- it’s changed it’s name –  we call this one 2012. I feel the least I can do is have a glance over the year that just went and have a think about what I wanted to change.
So – what to do? Apart from the aforementioned waistline issues, which, to be frank, usually resolve themselves when we run out of Thorntons and I am back walking to work and walking dogs and getting Fruit of Womb Two to bus stop on time and dealing with unsatisfactory cleanliness state of bathroom on a more regular basis etc etc.
I think I would sum it up by thinking about moving from thoughts to action. I read v interesting blog that sums it up well here . Lucy talks about moving from dreaming into action. That doesn’t mean we give up dreaming but, for me, I should be looking at what I can actually do something about – rather than just hoping or praying that it will change – and then actually doing it. I find I waste a lot of time/energy thinking about things I would like to change on a personal/household/local/national/international/cosmic/hyper-space level and then struggle to summon up the motivation to switch the laptop on and actually write something.
So, what would I like to be doing in twelve months’ time or this time next week? How much of is it up to me to actually do it? Looking at it from another level – maybe it’s a bit like “Faith without works is dead.” I’m not sharing any personal lofty ambitions with you. T’ain’t nothing you need to worry your pretty heads about but I wanted to share the principle.
Thanks for coming back and reading this after Christmas absence. Decided to spend as much of Christmas break with whole family as possible while everyone was here. We did miss the boy and now we are about to send him back. Will miss him again. Will not miss stupid digital time clock sound from “24” which we can hear at all times of day and night as he is trying to make his way through the box set before he goes back.
Have a great week. Hope the change of posting day hasn’t discombobulated you too much. Like to keep you on your toes…
Happy New Year from all at Hargreaves Towers

Making Memories

So we are in almost full on Christmas mode. Even Head of House has begun to join in a little. Fruit of Womb One is back from York – although we have haven’t seen that much of him so far. Places to go, people to see etc. Strictly has finished and with it – It Takes Two so I have no excuse now not to drag my bottom off the settee and actually get on with some work in the evenings.
I continue to harp on and on about Christmas being another time to make memories with family and friends. If you are arty farty and organised you can scrapbook or embroider scenes from your hearth. I am none of these things unfortunately so we had to look at other ways to build memories. For us it happened by accident. When our kids were little, we bought them a copy of the DVD of Father Christmas. We all loved it, we sang together at the end. We all debated the controversy because you got to see Father Christmas’ lovely, biteable cartoon bottom. Then, when Christmas was over – we packed it away with the decorations so no one could watch it until next Christmas. Over the years we have added other films. There’s Scrooged. It’s just nasty enough to be funny, Karen Allen was never more beautiful and there is a brilliant frying pan smack in the face moment. However, the best version of A Christmas Carol is without doubt the Muppet Version. It has lines that rival the best of Dickens – “Light the Lamp: Not the Rat!” and it is undoubtedly Michael Caine’s finest cinematic hour. Forget Hannah and her Sisters and Cider House Rules. This was the role that should have delivered the Oscar. We have been known to sing along to this as well which frightens guests who haven’t seen it coming but there you are. There’s also The Bishop’s Wife. Cary Grant as an ice skating angel and David Niven as a downtrodden vicar. Perfect. Very difficult to get hold of. Ours is a Korean version. We have to take the sub-titles off. (They are Korean by the way not English) There’s also Miracle on 34th Street. Unusually, we prefer the new version because the little girl is lovely and I personally DO believe that Richard Attenborough is Kris Kringle. Still – you pays your money and you takes your choice. So you get the idea. All the DVDs go back into the decoration box after Christmas so there is no cheating until next year. Then, every Christmas, we sit and watch them together. Not all in one go you understand.
So this way we create memories and I don’t have to crochet or anything. Obviously, the offspring are a bit bigger now than when we first started doing this and it can get a bit more difficult to fit everything in but it works for us.

On a completely different note , for lots of complicated reasons, Head of House and myself did an Anglican Carol Service this year. They certainly give good choir – that’s a fact but I prefer things a little more raucous myself – just a bit.

So, on that note, that’s it for a couple of weeks.Next Sunday will be Christmas Day and I’ll be up to my pants in gravy, custard and Nana so you are on your own.

Have a brilliant Christmas. Indeed a super-duper Christmas.

Christmas Decs

Yep, have given in and they are up. Christmas is a time for re-meeting old friends. By that I mean decorations. You can just see our huge gold cherub which hangs in a dreamy Christmassy way from the ceiling. We love it. Not everyone does. Sample conversation with my mother.
Mum: Who bought you that? (Points at Angel)
HOH: We did.
Mum: Oh. (Pauses to reflect) Do you like it?

Anyway – wouldn’t do for us all to like the same thing – as they say up north. Lots going on in the run up to Christmas but very little of it of interest to you I would think. Still have two weeks of work to go although I keep thinking it is only one so keep getting rude awakening jolt when I look properly at the calendar.

Am writing this while Head of House is repairing my attempt at putting up decorations yesterday while he was at work. I try to help with decking the halls etc. but inevitably HOH has to come home and do them properly. He attempts to make them right in a kind way as surreptitiously as possible but it is quite difficult to get a step-ladder out without me noticing. (Some would say that the fact that I DIDN’T actually get a step ladder out is the reason why the decorations need sorting out. You may have a point)

Fruit of Womb Two has been out on her own and bought her dress for church Christmas Do. She has done this without my advice or input this year, because apparently, last year when I helped her to choose it, she went out feeling like she looked a bit old. Wounding.

Tried to go and see Woody Allen Film this week but COULDN’T GET IN BECAUSE IT WAS FULL! I would just like to say that Head of House and I have stuck with Woody Allen through thick and thin – sometimes against our better judgement i.e. “Soon-Yi-gate”. We saw The Curse of the Jade Scorpion don’t you know (which I quite enjoyed actually) and, although we didn’t make it totally to the end of Match Point, we did at least try. Now all these fairweather jonnies re-attach themselves because this film is supposedly a return to form. Well good manners would suggest that you get to the back of the queue. This is just not acceptable.

Fruit of Womb One is returning on Friday. This is very very lovely obviously and only slightly complicated by the fact that he originally said he was coming home on Saturday and we have selfishly arranged for friends to come round. Actually this won’t make a difference because he won’t be home until the early hours. If you are reading this boy – be warned – me and your dad are gettting seriously in the mood for hugs and kissy lips for you!!!

So why am I boring you with all this trivia? Let me explain with a story. A moth and a woodlouse were walking along the road. Suddenly, they see a beautiful bright light in the sky in the far distance.
“Let’s go and see what it is!” says the woodlouse.
“Nah.” relies the moth. “I’ve got so much to do. Washing, cleaning, working. You go and I’ll follow.”
But the moth never did get round to following and many days later he met the woodlouse as he returned.
“Well” the moth asked. “How was it?”
“It was am-az-ing!” replied the woodlouse. “I have never seen anything like it! The light we saw was a bright star and under the star was a stable. In the stable was a baby surrounded by shepherds, who were saying that the baby was going to be the saviour of the world. And I saw angels singing and praising God. It was truly awesome.”
The moth was bitterly disappointed. He would have loved to see such a sight. And now whenever you see a moth you notice that it flies desperately towards any light that it sees – just in case it gets to see the baby Jesus.
True Story. Scientfic actually. OK, even if it isn’t wholly true the sentiment is important – don’t let day to day happenings good or bad take you eyes off the prize and the meaning of this spectacular season. Have a great week.

Ceremonies

I am writing this with a head full of cotton wool which is how I normally feel after a migraine that would fell a horse so please excuse any extra incoherence. It’s been an “interesting” weekend and just wanted to share a couple of bits with you – do what you will with them.
Went to see a wedding on Saturday. Working in a church has meant that I have been to a lot of weddings as I think I have said before but I have to tell you that Saturday was one of the loveliest. There are a lot of things that Christians don’t do well. No time or inclination to give you a list here but when Christians do a wedding well – they really do it well. A Christmas wedding with evergreen on the pews and a huge twinkling Christmas tree in the corner, AND we got to sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” which was lovely. Everyone sang with gusto as well which is usually confined to Christian weddings because everyone knows the tunes. (I went to wedding where we sang – barely –  “We plough the fields and scatter.” I thought it was because we were in Wales and close to the land and all that but apparently not. It was because the bride and groom had thought that we would all be singing Whitney Houston songs and when they were forced to pick a hymn, that was the only one they knew.)
Anyway – back to the lovely wedding. I don’t know if it was because the bride and groom are dancers and all their friends were there but the whole congregation was scoring very high on the beauty-ness-ometer. As Head of House put it “There is a lot of lusciousness in here today” which was very true. I love the West Country sometimes – lots of men with longer hair than their girlfriends and yet – somehow, down here it works. Then the bride walks in and she hasn’t come dressed as meringue – she has come in beautiful vintage and looks stunning. She is followed by her bridesmaids who, as my grandad would have said, were “total Bobby Dazzlers” I liked the fact that both parents stood to give her away. I liked the way the groom looked suspiciously at us all when we were supposed to let everyone know if we could think of a reason why they shouldn’t be married and I LOVED how, when they had kissed after the ceremony he grabbed hold of the bride and hugged her in a spontaneous flash of joy that she was actually his. The whole thing thrilled the living daylights out of me. The bride is actually the daughter of some friends of ours who have been very kind to us as we have been our most wobbly as we moved churches. We were so pleased to see them have such a lovely day.
On a slightly different note, I have spent a content hour this afternoon sobbing gently. Our church put together an hour for people to remember those they had lost. Especially as Christmas is approaching like a runaway train and it can be very difficult for those who have lost someone. I sat quietly and thought about my bro and how much I missed him. As we had arrived, we had been given beautiful long stemmed white roses which we were invited to put on the huge cross at the front of the church and then to light a candle. It was lovely. The sermon was a bit deep for me to be honest and I found my thoughts wandering to the story I heard on “Rev” of all places this week about Heaven,
There were some little bugs who lived underwater. One day one of the bugs crawled up a branch and out of the water. There he was surprised to see that he turned into a beautiful dragon-fly who soared into the sky with a freedom he had never known before. He was so happy he wanted to go back and tell his friends how wonderful life was out of the water but when he tried to get to them, he found that he couldn’t reach them and get back under the water. This made him sad, until he realised that one day they too would crawl up the branch and join him and experience heaven with him,
Of course – I can’t give you chapter and verse on that one but it feels right to me. And now having spent that hour with God thinking on these things, I guess I am ready to start Christmas. Tree is being bought tomorrow so all systems go.
Just wanted to leave you with the hymn we sang. For anyone who struggles with Christmas.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.