What a week that was (not really)

Hello. Welcome one welcome all. I wish I could promise you something of value this week. It’s been too hot to do very much apart from go to work, come home, lie on the settee (preferably face down) and try and sleep through the night. We don’t have windows in the apartment – we have to leave the sliding doors open if we want any air, which I feel leaves us vulnerable to any passing serial killers. (HOH wisely points out that the serial killer would need to be a world class climber as we are two floors up). However, axe murderers not withstanding, we had to leave the doors open overnight. All went well until about 4.30 am, when the Dawn Chorus began. Except that, round here, our Dawn Chorus is provided by about one hundred seagulls who like to spend the early hours flying in circles above us, trying to outdo each other in the screaming department whilst trying to peck each other to death. It was like having one of the mass killing scenes from John Wick playing out over your head.

Not that I have ever seen John Wick obviously. Too much slashing with knives for my gentle sensibilities. We did watch a cartoon on the Disney Channel last night – Raya and the Last Dragon. Very good and about my limit at the moment. Mind you, Disney is a bit different these days. Apparently, they are about to show the entire Walking Dead series. It’s a far cry from the days when the nearest to violence Disney got was a cartoon King John pulling an arrow out of his hat. (Robin Hood – top movie).

AND on top of everything else, my feet have swelled up. I understand that, against everything else that is going on in the world at the moment, this is unlikely to even raise Ursula Von Der Leyen’s eyebrow but, it gets on my nerves. I can’t get shoes on and it’s unflattering. My grandma (I used to call her Big Gran – it was about her height rather that her wrestling name) had flaming red Rita Hayworth hair – I didn’t inherit that. She had startling green eyes – I didn’t get those. She had alabaster skin with tiny freckles – I didn’t get either of those. She had a propensity for ankles that swelled like tree trunks in the heat – guess what?

Or to use Aged Parent’s succinct summing up of the situation

You do remind me of your Big Gran but you got none of her good points did you? Just her rotten legs.

Quite.

Despite all my travails, we made it to church this morning. One of the leadership team was leaving – nothing I said I don’t think. She’s called Deacon Linda. Is it a Methodist thing to address people by their titles this way? If I’m completely honest I feel it sounds a bit Handmaid’s Tale but she probably worked hard to get the title so fair play really. Also, I’m never really that comfortable when senior members of the clergy say “Hey! Just call me Steve!” They never mean it.

Anyway, for Deacon Linda’s final sermon she spoke on the really famous passage from Jeremiah 29

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.

When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.

I think sometimes when a passage is really famous, we can just read it, nod our heads sagely and miss it a bit. We have had a few struggles here at Martha Towers. Aged Parent is moving to a different stage in the dementia journey and, though I had hoped that this might mean her standing in front of a full length mirror in a flapper dress, twirling round and generally being happy in her world, this does not seem to be the case. In reality, it involves paranoia, distress and lashing out – primarily at me. This can be all the more difficult because we have never been particularly close – she always preferred my brother and this makes for trying times. It was therefore a huge comfort to read famous – but no less true – promises about plans and security and a God who listens.

Have a good week. And thank you for listening too.

Com-moo-nion

Hello. Welcome one. Welcome all. Phew, it’s hot. I think it’s due to finish in about seven hours so, those of you who like this kind of thing (usually, younger people who haven’t macheted their way through the menopause) – you need to make the most of it.

It’s not even the school holidays yet,. although anecdotally, I believe at least 90% of the school population (pupils, teachers. dinner ladies, caretakers, people who sell drugs at the school gate) are all isolating at the moment so it feels like the holidays because there are young people everywhere. We live very close to the sea and, there are approximately 300 paddle boards, bobbing along nose to tail at any given moment. Bless them.

Today being Sunday we, as faithful, faith filled Christian types went to church. This morning was communion morning. I have spoken to HOH about this and have his full and cheery permission to talk about this, but HOH has more reason than most to dread communion. It’s not that he his battling inner demons (well not this week anyway) but HOH has a tremor – nothing sinister – it is a genetic thing. His mother had it, his sister has it and FOW1 has it. On a day to day basis, it has little effect on his life. I barely notice it – which can be problematic when he is waiting for me to carry a particularly full cup of coffee. But, when it comes to communion. he hates it.

His unfavourite way to take communion is in a very formal atmosphere. If he has to walk forward, kneel and take a small glass and drink from it, it can tip him over the edge. His big worry as he lifts the glass, is that we will all get bit. Also, when communion is given out by people who walk between the rows and thrust the tray at you for you to take your little glass – he often has to refuse. This leads to whoever is serving giving him a long hard stare because they think that there is some deep undeclared sin. (There is – you are really annoying me – by not taking that tray away after I said nicely NO THANK YOU).

We have had some problems with this in the past. We once drew a vicar’s attention to it because we weren’t sure how we could make it happen. His response was “I don’t think I have a solution really. We do tend to take communion kneeling at the front. We always have.”

The thing is, I sometimes wonder if we overdo it a bit. Obviously, it is a solemn and mature thing that should always be taken carefully and thoughtfully. But does that means that, we place lots of hedges around it to make sure it retains its mystery and solemnity?

When I was in the youth, people who served communion to the congregation were given instructions about what to do if they approached someone who didn’t know that there were there because they were deep in prayer/pretending to be deep in prayer/asleep. Servers were always trained to touch the person’s shoulder gently and say “The body/blood of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Lovely. except my friend’s grandad could never remember that so he would improvise. He would set off with his little tray and to get someone’s attention he would touch their shoulder and say,

“What about the Wanderers on Saturday eh”?

Or there was the time when an older child of Sunday school who was “working through a few things” (in other words – absolute nightmare – we all had to keep reminding ourselves that God loved him) told the rest of his class that he had heard what the server had said to gain someone’s attention. (The server was a man who was looking hard for a third wife and had the reputation of being a bit keen on the old jig-a-jig). The boy reckoned that the man had gained people’s attention by touching their shoulder and whispering a rude word that really make their eyes open quickly. Of course, it wasn’t true but it took us ages to close the rumour down.

This is the position that Communion has sometimes – anything that challenges the norm is sacrilegious.

Except one year on a youth camp. I went as one of the leaders. It was quite a long weekend, with a lot of back rubbing, tissue handing out, praying and explaining that the Second Coming may not be so imminent as to prevent you ever getting married. I wasn’t that sure that Jesus would hold off for weddings but it wasn’t my place to say. It was also the weekend where someone prayed for me and said the loveliest thing ever. ” Can I pray for you? I promise I won’t go mad.” See? Lovely.

Anyway, the leader decided that Communion would be taken in a field on the farm. We would take blackcurrant and bread and pray in the great outdoors. Except, he didn’t check the field first. The floor was full of cow pats, flies and, to our horror a couple of interested cows. The youth leader knew immediately that he had lost the room because people started laughing – despite trying not to. And he said, “It’s supposed to be a meal of remembrance, remembering love and joy and grace – and laughter and I can’t help but feel that God is fine with this”. And I have never forgot that morning.

As it turns out, during the pandemic, we have been using these little self sealed cups with bread and wine in them (see above). They are much easier for HOH to use and he can take communion along with everyone else. After the meeting, we asked the minister, with some trepidation if would be ok for him to continue – even though communion was going back to normal. We wondered if it would go against the grain a bit. His answer was an apology for not thinking about the problem and saying of course – he had a boxful of the things he was going to struggle to get rid of anyway. It was, in short, a relief.

You may feel different to me and that it is a solemn thing to always be done with great solemnity. I don’t have a problem with that – as long as it is done with bucketfuls of grace as well. Have a good week.

Is it? Well, no it isn’t.

Hello all. I hope everyone is well and you are. recovered from the huge football disappointment yesterday and it not coming home etc. (Unless of course you are not English, in which case you probably couldn’t care less). I also quite understand if you feel we got way past saturation point there although someone I follow on Instagram spent most of the match putting up photos of herself with captions along the lines of “Er, is this ever going to end?” and “We must have been here a million years now.” I mean, no-one is making you watch it love. Switch the telly off and read some Proust or something.

Anyhow, England lost and I am reminded again how much football can affect you. (Or me mainly). I have loved football since I was young. My grandparents were Salford born and bred and when I visited my grandad, we would go and watch Manchester United train at the local ground called the Cliff. I’ve included a few photos for you to get the general idea. I did take my brother with me and his little scallywag chum but, if truth be told they were more interested in walking on walls and seeing if they could sneak in a photo of one of them picking their noses without me spotting them and boxing their ears. Apologies for the quality of the pictures, most of them were taken by nine year olds with a very short attention span.

These photos were taken more years ago than I care to share with you but football is still very important to me. I have matured as the years have rolled by and a defeat is less likely to result in me storming out of the room crying than I was when I was 14. This is partly because I am now a grown woman with a life, a faith, a family, a small amount of savings and a waistline that just won’t stop. Also, when you have watched your team lose as many times as I have, you do develop a natural immunity – a thick skin as it were – or a scab.

For those who were disappointed by the semi-human creatures that crawled out to abuse the footballers who were doing their best for their country, (all the critics were ultra high achievers I am certain). I need you to know that football itself is indeed a beautiful game with skills to make you catch your breath sometimes, people who support each other in a total Band of Brothers kind of way and at the top level, all the brain. power of a top notch game of chess. So, if, in the light of the racist abuse, the people who tried to sneak in without tickets and the general bad behaviour that will probably lead to more Covid infections than you could shake a stick at, you wondered if football was worth all the fuss, I an only tell you that for me, it is a glorious and wonderful thing.

This blog is brought to you partly by us finding MY long lost photo album under Aged Parent’s bed. I informed her that I had been wondering where it was but she was unrepentant. I took the album home but then felt a bit guilty so HOH and I spent a couple of evenings putting together an album for her – full of family photos, old friends and pictures of her when she was young. We delivered it to her, feeling quite chuffed with ourselves and sure she would be thrilled.

Me. Did you like your photo album?

AP. Yes, lots of people in here have remarked on it.

Me. Aw, that’s nice. I thought it would be good for you to see your old friends. Did you recognise lots of people?

AP. No, not really. Did you bring any Wotsits?

Have a good week.

It’s The Arts Dahlink…

Happy 4th of July if you are American. Well, Happy 4th of July if you are not American as well. It may not have the same symbolism but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a nice day anyway. I have spent an ultra quiet day because HOH was working. I did consider putting on my trainers and walking to church but to say it has been raining a bit is a gross under hyperbole so I took my posh jeans off, and went to church in my living room with a Double Decker and a coffee. Swings and roundabouts then.

I have also been really busy at work, filling in for someone else as well as my job. the result of this is that you don’t feel you are doing anything particularly well and I tend to go home at the end of the day just thinking about the things I have missed rather than the things I have achieved. I am therefore pooped and ready for a lie down at all times.

What I have found helpful in the middle of a small but perfectly formed nervous breakdown has been artistic endeavours – not mine you understand – other people’s. Obviously, as a mature fully formed spiritual Christian type my go-to is the Bible, Prayer, Exorcism, Naming and Claiming things etc etc (I know, I know don’t write in) but usually spiritual practice is a part of my day to day life and I don’t think it precludes reading a book, watching a film or singing the Three Lions Theme on your balcony. (I’m not particularly proud of the last one).

So to the pictures to see After Love. I am a bit of a fan of small, independent films. this doesn’t mean I don’t like mainstream stuff. I love a Marvel (apart from Ironman. Never liked Ironman) I queued round the block to see Star Wars in 1977 and have loved them ever since – even the rubbish ones – and some are very definitely rubbish. However, in my dotage, I have developed a yen for smaller, more thoughtful films as well. Now the unfortunate thing about these type of films is that they are usually shown in Independent Cinemas which can be a bit full of their own importance with people drinking wine and chatting loudly about the ballet. Ignore them. They just want you to look at them. Anyway, this After Love is about a Muslim convert English lady, whose husband dies suddenly. After his death, she finds out about a secret second life he had. It’s small, beautifully formed and would make your cat cry.

No less a man than CS Lewis said that, if a book isn’t grabbing you, you shouldn’t carry on with it and I have been doing this. It makes me feel a bit guilty because of all the work that has gone into it but I can’t carry any more guilt round. However, there has been one outstanding exception Simple Pleasures by Clare Chambers. HOH read it first because I was wrestling with one of those spy novels that you can’t put down because you want to know who the double agent is and then, when it ends , you are still not that sure. Anyway, while HOH was waiting for it , he read the Clare Chambers one. It is excellent – the story of a woman whose life, which consists entirely of her job as a newspaper reporter and looking after her mother is turned upside down by a family she meets as part of a story she is investigating. It is a beautiful and incisive snapshot of a life. HOH said it reminded him a great deal of my relationship with my mother. (He’s right) It’s a great book but be prepared for a gut punch at the end.

Lastly, a statue. As part of the Plymouth Mayflower Celebrations Sir Anthony Gormley was commissioned to produce a statue. The result was Look 2 or Rusty Reg as it has been re-christened locally. Now, I am in a small minority here but I am a big fan of it. Firstly, statues by Anthony Gormley are as rare as hen’s teeth in England and this appearing here is a real coup. Also, to the man who shouted “Waste of money!” for what seemed like forever when it was unveiled, one – most of the money was awarded specifically to build this and two – you shamed your city by being a complete donk. I mean, if nothing else, it’s very bad manners. The statue looks out to sea representing someone looking out to new worlds and it is terrifically impressive when you see it. I found it quite moving actually and am not that keen on trolls who haven’t even seen it passing judgement online.

So, there is my review of the arts. Take that Mary Beard. Try not to be too much in awe of my knowledge and insight. There’s nothing from the telly because all that is on the telly is football (no complaints here) and Love Island. Can I just say, I have no idea how Love Island exists. I will not go into the sordid details here but the fact that people are willing to do this for our “entertainment” just does my head in. These are real people and already one of them is getting death threats. It’s like some terrible George Orwell prediction. Trust me. You are much better off with a football match, a nice glass of wine and a rousing chorus of Sweet Caroline. Possibly not over the balcony though. Common behaviour. have a good week.

Well I’m sorry but I AM bothered

Welcome one, welcome all. I am watching a lot of football at the moment and, in the interests of total transparency, I am watching a match now. I apologise.

I hope your week/weekend went well. We had a lovely day yesterday, taking the ferry over to Mount Edgecumbe. We live a five minute walk away from the ferry and it is literally a five minute trip (sail?) to Cornwall where we walked round a very lovely area basking in the sun and a Caramel Magnum. (I wouldn’t have one again – a bit rich for me. Felt a bit sick on the ferry on the way back. I’m so old). By the way, don’t let this tranquil scene fool you. Once the ferry has gone out into unsheltered waters, it is like a five minute clip from”Sink The Bismarck”. I spend a lot of time watching the ferry driver (Captain? Admiral?) to pick up any signs of panic in his face.

I have come here tonight though to tell you how I feel about the Matt Hancock shenanigans. You are free to agree or disagree but you seem like a pretty decent bunch and think I can tell which way your mops are going to flop.

So, this week photos appeared on the front page of a British Tabloid showing the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock in what can regrettably only be described as a clinch with someone who works with him. Most of the reaction I have heard seems to fall into the “Ugh, do I have to look at that?”category. For those who are not British – Monsieur Luva-Luva Hancock isn’t going to give Harrison Ford a run for his money anytime soon.

Hancock resigned (eventually), mainly, it seems because he is the man in charge of England’s response to the Pandemic – including Social Distancing. It doesn’t take a complete genius to work out that dipping a non-member of your bubble over the photocopier is problematic for the man who has been insisting that we should all be distancing from friends, families, babies our wives have just given birth to, wives who are on their knees grieving for lost loved ones, members of church congregations who want to support the lost and the lonely. etc etc. And the vast majority of us, although not happy with it, have done it because we knew it was necessary. People are very upset then, that while most of us were doing our best, the Health Secretary, while encouraging other rule breakers to fall on their swords, was having what can really only be described as a half hearted stab at keeping his own rules.

Yet, am I the only one who has been unhappy with the Government’s response? When the news first broke, the Transport Secretary informed us all that “of course what people do in their private lives is their business.” Er… Then, our Dear Prime Minister, on receiving Matt Hancock’s apology, accepted it and let us all know that as far as he was concerned, the matter was closed. Well he would say that wouldn’t he? A man who has Standing Orders all over the world. (That was banking slang for lots of unacknowledged progeny, because a Bank Clerk I once worked with spent a lot of time managing child support payments for a sixties pop singer and they went all over the world).

The thing is, I am bothered. I’m really bothered. Whatever happened to decency? Or standards in Public Life? You are supposed to be better than us. It matters to me – the things that have been done to a wife, a husband and children. I know that, as a child who has been affected by adultery in my family, it is not just a case of – well it’s private.

For one thing adultery makes you a liar. It has to, To spend time with someone outside your marriage – you have to lie. “I’m sorry I was a week late home from the office darling. I have been busy managing a feeble response to the pandemic.”

It also makes you Machiavellian. You manoeuvre and plot to get situations working to your advantage. So Mr Hancock’s inamorata is given a job as his advisor – to be around whenever…well, you work it out for yourselves.

Rules and standards are bent and broken. An “advisor” gets a job without interview and any discernible qualifications and is paid public money as part of an allowance. I’ll be honest, I am still bothered.

There is a tendency in Christian circles to be a bit careful about casting the first stone. You can read this story here. A few thoughts though about Jesus pushing back those who wanted to stone the woman found in adultery. Firstly – where was the man? Was there no judgement for him? Also – does his wife know what he was doing? “I’m sorry I’m late darling but a funny thing happened on the way to the Sanhedrin.”

But, most importantly, when Jesus shows mercy, in the midst of a misogynistic and hypocritical hierarchy, he is at pains to tell the woman and those watching – to not do this again. He never tells anyone that what happened in your private life is your business – because it isn’t.

I also think that sometimes, in our hurry to be seen as cool and groovy and not like Mary Whitehouse and also hoping to be seen as trying to make up for church mistakes made in the past, that we don’t say when something is wrong and horrible. And watching Mrs Hancock dodging paparazzi and hearing that all members of both families are completely blindsided by all this. my sympathies are with them and all they will need to cope with. For them, this matter is not nearly closed. Not at all.