If you’ve never made a mistake..

..then you’ve never tried.

As so often happens Tom Jones was right when he said “Its not unusual” and indeed it isn’t unusual for me to have messed up. My motives were good. Time together as a family. So when free tickets were available for an evening out together, my interest was stirred as you can imagine. The event was “Cinema in the City” – a showing of Blade Runner outdoors at the Lido – Plymouth’s beautiful old outdoor pool. This evening would combine culture, supporting a local event and a flippin’ good film. What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot as it happens. Firstly the event was on the same night as a bbq the offspring wanted to attend. However, we weighed it up and as we spend at least three nights a week ferrying them to events all over Devon and as family evenings together may be more difficult to come by after October, we decided to issue a three line whip and insist that they come with us. This does mean, however, that the pressure is on to produce a fairly entertaining event, as they are missing something they would prefer to be at.
Things started to go wrong when the weather changed mid-week. “Changeable” was the phrase used by the man in the 1980s suit who does the weather. “Apocalyptic” may have been more accurate. Still, we wouldn’t let a little thing like the weather put us off. So, we wrapped up and off we went. 8.30 it said on the tickets and we turned up a little earlier than that because we are northern and that’s what people who have manners do. Trouble was, when we collected our blankets (maybe another ominous sign) the lady on the desk informed us that it would be kicking off at 9.30 (ish) Sorry? An hour and a half? Sitting a yard away from a not exactly mill pond like ocean? And it won’t start until 9.30? I enquired at reception about the reasons for this but was told that it was an experiment and they weren’t sure what time it would go dark enough to project. My feeling was that this is quite an exact science and the aforementioned weather man in 80’s suit may have been able to help them with that one.
Still, we sat there for a while. Waiting. Although I knew that fingers were getting numb and tempers were getting short. I also realised that if the film was the director’s cut – we could be there until the early hours. And then it started to rain. Reluctantly, I admitted that I had made a mistake and we left, returning home to warmth, a glass of wine and a Top of the Pops compilation.You can’t win them all.
But the truth is that if you don’t try, you will never know. If you don’t put yourself out there and have a go, you might as well just curl up and not bother. I have a natural tendency towards invisibility. I hate to draw attention to myself. Sometimes this blog is almost painful for me because my default mode is keeping my head below the parapet. But you do have to have a go. You have to take what you are given and push it a bit. It may or may not go horribly wrong – who can tell? Things just might need adjusting a little for them to work next time. In the case of the outdoor film – a reasonably accurate start time would have helped me. Just give or take an hour or two – I’m not unreasonable. Sometimes, you may need to keep trying and build a higher skill level to make things work. Sometimes you may have to give up and admit it was a mistake. Would that be so bad? Isn’t it worse to watch life slip away and never know how good it could have been?
Wiser people than me have said that life does not fall into your lap. It has to be lived. Jesus sometimes gets a bit of bad publicity for saying
 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Seems quite harsh. But if you read the whole story, it is an observation rather than a curse. Those who risk may fail but those who don’t try never get the chance to succeed. Succeeding could be quite nice I think.

Sometimes failure brings its own joys too. Maybe not for Blake Bergstrom though but bless him for allowing it go out there.

We’ll have none of that

I hate the hairdressers. Not in a personal way just the fact of it. I hate having to try and make conversation so I end up feeling like an autistic savant who is auditioning for Rain Man as I occasionally bark out phrases like “The weatherman said it could rain by three o clock!” or even more bizarrely “I don’t think I’ve ever had my legs waxed!”. So I prefer companionable silence as I watch her cutting my hair and then blow dry it into a shape that makes me look like I am wearing X Men’s Magnito’s helmet. And, I suspect like many other women, I find myself thinking, “Never mind – I can do it how I like it when I get home.”
So then begins the game in my head which I have always played. Loosely titled – “We’ll have none of that in heaven”, it’s not a very interesting game. It’s just me making a list of the things I’ll be happy to see the back of when I get to heaven. This morning it was hairdressers. I’m not sure how it will work but I never get the feeling that there will be much hairdressing in heaven. Although in the children’s bibles I read a lot of the angels looked as if they had benefitted from a good body perm, I’m not really convinced that there will be much call for it. I would forgive you now if you were thinking about about that CS Lewis quote that says “if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them” (Mere Christianity). Quite right. As I was saying, it’s thinking about the things that will no longer exist in heaven like war, famine, the cult of Katie Price and cankles. It can be quite comforting.
The is another, more beneficial, game about heaven that I play sometimes. My friend Mary worked it out and I developed it a bit. In the Bible, where Jesus says “In my house there are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you.” I also add mentally that my house will have a garden shed. And in that shed there will be a shelf. On that shelf I put in jars, all the things that have happened to me that I can’t understand why. Some are minor. Many are major. The most recent being the death of my brother. I know that I will never fully understand about that while I live on earth. I can then choose whether to allow this to affect me for the rest of my life and particularly affect the way I feel about God. Or, knowing what I know to be true about God in other things, I can put it in a jar, on a shelf in my heavenly shed, and get on with my life as best I can. I then know that one day, if I want to, that I will be able to take the jar down and ask a few probing questions along the lines of “what was that all about?”. In practice, I expect that I will be so caught up that I probably won’t bother. But I feel it’s ok to reserve the right to ask anyway.

Speaking of “What is that about?” I give you John Daker. I have no idea what is going on here but I demand that this man sings solo in our church this Sunday! Do not bother me again with your Tim Hughes and your Hillsong!

Recognising Your Joy Bits

I have to start this with an apology. I have had a week and a half. Nothing exciting – only work etc. Usually, I sit down with what I want to say on the blog and think about it and craft it into the finished product. (this may come a surprise to you but it is true.) So, if you will forgive me, this is a bit different this week. Like I said, a busy if mundane week and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and then remembered the things I had written about gratitude. But gratitude is really difficult if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for and, I have to be honest, I’m not as good as I should be at summoning gratitude for the health of my nearest and dearest and the fact that I have a job and can eat etc. So I have looked at this average week and highlighted some of the bits of it that brought me joy, even though I may not have recognised it at the time.

In no particular order..

  • Saturday afternoon. One sprog camping overnight in Cornwall. One in town looking at shoes. Just me, the Women’s Wimbledon Final, and a Magnum I had hidden at the back of the freezer.

Friday. Head of House, me, bottle of red wine taken in the grounds of Hargreaves Towers in the early evening.

  • Friday afternoon around three pm. Realisation dawns that its nearly done for the week and a couple of days off is moving into view.

  • Saturday night. All week I have been telling myself to try that dress on because I haven’t worn it for ages and I don’t want to be on the last minute because I know we have to be at the ‘do’ at 8pm and I also know that I don’t have a Plan B as far as clothes for the evening go. But I never did try that dress on and now its 7:45, I am late as usual and I step into the dress in a state of dread and….it zips up perfectly!

A line of whites.

  • Sunday morning. The pastor says “and now the children and young people are going to leave us” and as I watch them file out, laughing, chatting and holding hands (mainly the girls that one), I am struck by two things. How glad I am that I am not a youth leader anymore and how brilliant it is to watch these amazing young people in here on a Sunday Morning.

  • Most nights of the week. Two adults. Two teens. Around the tea table. Laughing, sharing the day’s events and interesting if sometimes combative  (from Sprog One) conversation.

  • One beach. Two Jacks. Half a dead seagull. Let joy be unconfined!

Does it really get any better than the Charlie Brown clan dancing to Sly and the Family Stone?

And I find to my surprise that I could go on. Try it for yourself. (well you can if you want to) you don’t have to obviously. You may have had a better week than me!

The Comeback Kid

I have made it part of my mission this week to follow Head Gardener round on one of his tours of the grounds and impart my gardening wisdom and opinions, whether they are asked for or not. I have included this photo of one of our roses, not because it is the most beautiful, but because it is the most comforting. We only have three roses here at Hargreaves Towers. The other two are my Roy Castle Rose and a white one that was supposed to be a climber but has stubbornly remained at base camp despite verbal threats and Morecambe lifting his leg on a regular basis, which I would have thought would have encouraged it to grow upwards if only to get away from the smell. Anyway, the third one is the Comeback Kid. This is our Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. If you don’t know the story of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree you can look it up on YouTube or something. I also think that Friends shamelessly stole the story so you might be able to see it there. Anyway, the Head Gardener picked this up at some garden centre for 50p. (despite my best advice) It didn’t look very well at all. There was one tiny green bit on it and the rest looked like it was as dead as a dead thing in a half price dead sale. But this year – roses. Lots of them. Of course, I come from a religion, that thrives on comebacks and the longer I live, the more I see that makes me believe that anything can be recovered from. So I asked Head Gardener, who is pretty smug about his success to stop smirking and tell me what things he had put in place to ensure the Comeback Kid had the best chance of recovery.

  1. Put it in the right place. Try and keep it safe from pests including Morecambe (Lucy doesn’t wee-wee up things – it’s a genetic fact) In short, give it the best environment possible.
  2. Feed it well. This takes a bit of investment. (Rose feeder – Wilkinsons – £2.49 on offer – bargain!) but the time and the money is worth it.
  3. Keep things gentle for a while. Watch it in frosts or scorching sun. Don’t expect it to be able to take everything that is thrown at it straight away.
  4. Expect the first recovery roses to be a bit weedy but don’t lose heart. This rose probably wouldn’t win any awards but keep doing the right things and the next set will be stronger.
  5. In the end though, you put everything into place but it really is down to the rose. The right conditions are important but it has to actually do the recovery thing itself.

You are probably way ahead of me but these are good principles for anyone in recovery from any trauma – physical, mental or spiritual. Surround yourself with people you trust and know care for you and if you don’t know enough people to actually be surrounded by then ask your closest friends to do their best for a while. Watch what you are feeding yourself with. You know as a Christian, I know no better source than the Bible but as well as that, keep away from the stuff you know drags you down. Be gentle on yourself. If at first you don’t succeed and everything.. If the first signs of recovery are disappointing – it doesn’t matter. Keep going. But in the end it is up to you. People can support. God intervenes. But it will take your commitment and effort to get back into the sunshine.

On a less edifying note. Head Gardener has an anti social habit of getting rid of snails by picking them up and throwing them over the wall. This is anti – social both for the snail and any poor person walking past. Anyway, all his chickens came home to roost this week when one of his snail projectiles just missed a neighbour. He thought of trying to get out of it by playing innocent and pretending the snail had either jumped or been dropped by a passing seagull. In the end grovelling just about got him out of it. He’s too old for all this delinquent behaviour.

Challenging website of the week. This lady does the cleaning in 15 minutes a day. I do cleaning but could never get it done in that time. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t factor in stopping for a slice of lemon drizzle like normal people. Thats probably it.

On a personal note. My niece is now a bona fide holder of a degree. Congratulations Jessica.

Blah Days

When my brother was little he would get really, really excited about the coming of a big event, such as Christmas or his birthday. He would struggle to sleep for a few nights and on the day itself, he would be bouncing round like a demented Tigger. Then for a few days afterwards there would be no coping with him. He would be moody, sulky and generally depressed. My Mum would describe this and would say
“He’s having an anticlimax he is.” Although we were never sure if that was quite the right word, everyone got what she meant and the phrase has now passed into Hargreaves Towers’ vocab.
I think we are all having an anticlimax here at the moment. Birthdays done for a while, exams mostly over, back from lovely break, financial detox (caused by lovely break) in place. Just basically having to knuckle down to work and everyday life.
Facebook doesn’t help here of course. Every time you go on you are greeted by fifty people shouting “Had FABULOUS day at spa/Glastonbury/with 50 of my closest friends/at Take That concert etc. which can make a coffee at lunch with a chum seem a bit inadequate. (I think I may be the only woman in the country who is over 21 and didn’t want to see Take That. I don’t dislike them or anything, just don’t er, care. Does that make me a bad person?) Apparently, this is a recognised phenomenon. Because so many people only post on Facebook when they are doing something interesting and, for obvious reasons, don’t tend to put much on there about clipping their toenails or arguing with the dog, it can give the impression that everyone else but you is living the life of a modern day Marie Antoinette (Before all the guillotine type nastiness obviously.) This has led to depressions and all that sort of stuff  because you think that all the good stuff seems to be happening just round the corner and you never seem to experience it. (I found Paris a bit like that.) Can’t say it has had that effect on me particularly because well, it’s only Facebook. I love it but its not real life.
Anyway blah days. Love them or loathe them, we all have to knuckle down sometimes and get on with it. There are compensations to blah days. It is quite nice to have the ironing up to date (well at least to the point where I can put the lid on the ironing box) and getting to the bottom of your in-tray can sometimes mean that you find the file with the urgent stuff that you lost a month ago. (I’m not talking about me there or anything) And loads of spare time can mean more time for the 30 Rock box set.

Read a bit of Spurgeon this week (as you do) really good stuff on the effectiveness of a two word prayer. “Help Lord”. I am sometimes a bit hesitant about petitionary prayer – treating God as my personal slot machine but Spurgeon pointed out that asking God for stuff is a form of worship. It acknowledges his position as God. Which is brilliantly simple when you think about it which is probably what Spurgeon did. That is probably why he was a great theologian and I am not.

Wish I could say I was above all this but cannot wait. Fruit of Womb 2 slums it and always sees this with me on our own first so we can dissect and discuss. We are seriously considering going for late night first showing with all the strange people who dress as goblins. Well, it is the last one…