Holiday – What? Again?

I know. I live the life of Princess Grace – I disguise it well though. Anyway, this is not a holiday where you scamper abroad, only to find you have to hotfoot it home tout-suite because the government is going to lock you up for a fortnight because your destination of choice is packed to the drawstrings with the old COVID. Anyway, it’s not that sort of holiday – it’s the one where you don’t go to work for a week and that is very nice.

By the way, can I just apologise for the absence on Thursday. I had a migraine that would fell a shire horse so I decided to give screens a miss. Only sensible really when you think about it. Except, I did go back to the cinema this week. It all seemed very safe – lots of masks and distancing etc. It was just so good to see a film on a screen again. For the record – it was Tenet – which is a spy caper with traveling backwards and forwards in time in it as well. I enjoyed it a lot but I would be lying if I said I understood it all. However, as a bonus, it did have Kenneth Brannah chewing the scenery as a wicked Russian which is totally worth the money of any cinema ticket.

I just wanted to share something with you about God’s Long Game playing. This week, my charity was awarded a grant that will help us over some of the problems caused by COVID. I don’t want you to think that everyone involved didn’t work really hard (including me to be fair – because as I have told you multiple times before – I am always fair to me) because we all did. It just struck me that the roots of this grant were in a mistake or a wrong turn that I took months ago. I was trying to sort out leases for new vehicles and I misunderstood the lease terms and we couldn’t really afford it so we pulled out. A lot of nice people said that the leases (Leasi?) were badly worded to kind of reel you in, but that is by the by. Anyway, because these agreements had fallen through, I was ringing round to people I would not normally need to be involved with and ended up speaking to someone from the Charities Aid Foundation who was really nice and said she was impressed by me (Thank-you – I’ve had a wash) and my team. This led to us working together on some financial modeling which she helped me to get a grant for and then I applied for another grant that I would only get if certain organisations recommend you for it – including hers. And that’s what she did – recommend us for it.

So we seem to be on the way to some investment that might dig us out of a horrible COVID shaped hole – at least for the next six months. And I have thought about how we got here. About how useless I felt at the beginning of the process and somehow it has worked out ok. And I have thought about Joseph (I am not comparing myself to Joseph do not call the Biblical Patriarch Police) and how – let’s be honest, he did bring some of his troubles on himself – “OOH look at me in my lovely Coat of Many Colours for I am indeed the Donny Osmond of my family and the most popular and famous” – etc etc. That may have been true but, a little modesty and decorum would not have gone amiss. And I thought about God, looking after us – playing the long game and despite our failings – still being in charge and meaning all these things for good.

I don’t know. It may help you this week. It helped me. It’s not about me and what I achieve. I’m loved by a God that cares – not because of what I achieve but – well he just does. If I ever flippin well get hold of that fact, I can’t tell you how much weight it will lift off my shoulders!

Anyway. Have a great week. Try not to spread anything nasty. Aged Parent is doing ok. She is hiding all her drugs which is driving her carers crazy but welcome to my world is what I say and you are getting paid for it! She is happy as Larry. Enjoy it while it lasts everyone.

Holiday

Hello. Happy Bank Holiday. That is if you have a holiday today. Obviously, you will not if you work in retail as, for most people who work in retail, a Bank Holiday just means longer and more bolshy queues. I think the sector I envy least at this time of year is the shoe shop sector which has horrified looking parents queuing outside from half an hour before the shop opens. All of them are accompanied by children who are giving fair warning of how the visit is going to pan out by shouting – “I don’t want anything in there! I want to go to Primark for pink trainers!” School uniform policy is of no consequence when you are nine.

In fairness, I don’t think proper shoe shops always help themselves here. FOW2 had slightly larger feet than normal and when we gave the assistant her details they would usually come back, admittedly looking shamefaced, with a pair of shoes that Corrie Ten Boom would have worn in her “Tramp for the Lord” days. Ok for an eighty-year-old – not so much for a fashion-conscious schoolgirl. And that is why parents go to these terrible stores because you can get nice shoes that are good for school, in lots of sizes, and usually have the money left over for the pink trainers. And yes, I know how terrible the working conditions are but when you have to be as rich as Lady Docker to afford shoes in an unusual size – normal people will do this.

Anyway, if you have today off, please enjoy it while you can. Someone in the know told me that large supermarkets lobby the government every single year to allow supermarkets to open on Christmas Day. They say they have the staff and there is a demand which I am sure is true but not everything we can do is necessarily something we should do – as a wise man very nearly said.

Anyway, I seem to have started off with a rant which is unfortunate but not unusual. Apologies for the non-appearance of this last night. I have been running late all weekend because we had an unexpected visit from some friends in Dorset which was lovely. Although, doesn’t it take some time to work out what the rules are when someone different turns up? Because no-one was sure, we spent a lot of Saturday afternoon route marching them up and down Devil’s Point to keep everyone in the fresh air, just in case. Fortunately, the weather was as above so it was very nice. Anyway, HOH was watching Strike last night and I kept getting distracted. I kept looking down at my computer screen and it was nonsense so I left it. (I know what you are thinking but please keep your thoughts on the nonsense level under your hat. I am a sensitive soul).

Because I am on my jollies, I started the week with er…Start the Week on Radio 4. I have to admit, I rarely seek this out because I’m not sure I have the brain capacity for it. However, today was really interesting. Some of it was a bit dispiriting. They were talking about how all these post-Brexit trade deals that are being negotiated by TOP people may well have clauses in them that prevent our food from having the country of origin on them. This means we will have no ideas about animal welfare and husbandry etc. and no way to keep an eye on standards. How is that a good thing, Michael Gove? Answer me that! In a slightly better segment, they were talking about how lockdown had affected the natural world. We generally think it was a good thing with sheep popping into the local newsagents and mountain goats setting up homes in the middle of the A38. But it isn’t that simple. Apparently, some areas need strict husbandry to thrive – certain nature reserves, species, and natural areas need human intervention and have struggled in lockdown. Well, who knew? Well, you may well have but I didn’t. I think I always had the impression that the world would be much better if humans just packed their bags and cleared off.

God blessed them:
        “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
    Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
        for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

This is in Genesis. It struck me that we are really good at the taking charge bit – or subduing as older versions say but not as good at realising that following on from that is the fact that these creatures are our responsibility. We are meant to look after them. This is not a call to veganism. I am with Princess Anne on this one. I am not a vegetarian but proper animal and land husbandry is our responsibility.

My question is, how do I help? I’m sorry but I am not prepared to dress up as someone from The Handmaid’s Tale while walking around Tavistock banging a snare drum. There must be a way for people without that level of confidence to have a say. I did the “I am the Devil” sketch on Bolton Precinct once and I am never, ever doing that again. Ever.

Anything I should be reading? Or joining? Any other ideas gratefully received.

The answer my friend…

…is blowing in the wind etc. just like everything else in Plymouth. I was trying to take a photo of my book to tell you about it and the wind just keeps interfering with the cover. If I had an ounce of sense in my head I would have done it inside but the idea was to show you a late summer evening. Ha! I’m thinking of calling time on Summer this year and getting HOH to bring the balcony furniture in. I have a recurring nightmare that it will blow over the balcony and kill a dog walker and I will be filmed for Spotlight news, handcuffed, and getting bundled into the back of a Black Maria. I must get more sleep. It has rained the bally down half the day here and even when the sun came through, it was a bit choppy. I understand that for some of the people of many lands who read this, it may be a completely different season but I can’t help that. It is all about me, as you know.

I have just finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Someone recommended it online but I can’t remember who. What a lovely book this is. Set in 1922 in Moscow, it tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov – a member of the Russian Aristocracy. As the Russian Revolution trundled on and it became clear that the score was going to be Bolsheviks 1 Aristocracy 0, many aristocrats were brought before tribunals. Rostov was sentenced to live under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol. Previously, he had lived in a luxurious suite but now he must live in an attic room in the hotel – for a long, long time.

This is a story about how he lives his life in these reduced circumstances. How the people who served him, become his friends and colleagues. It’s about the guests he meets and those who make room in his heart as he does in theirs. It’s funny and affecting and tense as well because he is sometimes in danger. The whole book gives your soul a bit of a rub down in these testing times. I loved it and I have decided it will be a brilliant film starring Ralph Fiennes. Who do I call?

Speaking of calling, Aged Parent has found the 999 buttons on her phone again. She has a chest infection and had decided that it needed top-level attention. Now, you may not remember but last year she went through a heavy 999 phase and for about only the third time in my life I lost it with her because one night she phoned them without running it past me first, I had to wait with her for five hours for the ambulance during which time it became obvious that there was nothing wrong with her – later confirmed by overworked paramedics. So this time she was a bit cagey when I heard the ambulance had been called again – twice.

Explanation 1

I don’t know where they came from. I just opened my eyes and two paramedics were standing there.

Me – Unlikely.

Explanation 2

The carers called them.

Me – They say they didn’t. They say you did.

Explanation 3

Did they? Well, I did dial the numbers but someone rang me up just before and said “Listen to your chest, Beryl. Ring 999 now.”

Me – Who was that then?

No idea. They just rung and told me to phone.

Hmm. Was it you dear reader? Just put your hand up and confess and we’ll say no more about it. Please don’t say it was God because he loves me very much and would not do that to me. Anyway, she is on antibiotics now so should feel better. I, however, am very tired. Have a good weekend.

Definitely Older

Saturday morning, flicking through the newspaper and noticing yesterday’s telly page I say “Drat!” HOH enquires what the problem is. “I missed Gardners’ World.” There’s a brief moment when we look at each other and then I realise that I am officially an old biddy. (We don’t have a garden but I love Gardener’s World. We have a couple of small balconies which HOH tends to but we are unlikely to be harvesting corn on the cob anytime soon).

I have also sent for a knitting kit, which I confirm is absolutely NOT the most cost-effective way to do any kind of craft. No laughing at the back all you craft types. Big needles, straight lines – that’s the kind of knitting I like. It will be a cardi one day – you mark my words. Unfortunately, I am unable to give you any kind of clue as to when that day will be but the finest knitting minds in this apartment are working on it. Aged Parent used to knit a lot when she was younger. She was very good but she wouldn’t teach me – she said she didn’t have the patience. However, she did make me the most amazing cable cricket sweater so swings and roundabouts eh? She gave it up in the end because she said it was making her nerves bad – all the counting and the concentrating. I suspect that will not be a problem with me.

She is doing ok by the way. This week she has been to a picnic, a cream tea in the dining room, watched a film about spies that sounded quite confusing, and attended 4 afternoon’s worth of Bingo. So, last week I spent every night in, watching telly and knitting while she is giving the Bouvier sisters a run for their money. In answer to your next question – no it isn’t cheering her up particularly. I suppose the potency of such a glittering social life pales for the best of us in the end.

Is anyone noticing a slight autumnal tinge out there now? There does seem to be a little edge to the air and HOH’s habit of leaving the doors to the balcony open (fresh air/sunset views/annoying me – pick your reason) is beginning to attract wildlife. One evening this week we were joined by a moth that was so large, it could easily have been accompanied by the theme from The Dambusters. I did my usual thing of running into the bathroom and closing the door. (Please do not comment and say they are more scared of me than I am of them. Firstly, you cannot possibly know that, and secondly, I am not sure that would be physically possible). HOH goes looking for the moth and can’t find it anywhere. This is troubling news and I announce that I am like Gene Pitney and I can never, ever come home again or, at least until this is found. Anyway, it turns up two days later when HOH is on a late shift – flying out from behind a rice jar. Do not tell me it didn’t know that the most insect-useless person in the house was home alone. That was a long night.

I think the change of the seasons is bringing the continuing pandemic into focus. I have really enjoyed lots of the online offerings and particularly want to draw your attention to Tony Collins on Kindred of the Quiet Way this morning but I would like to go to church now. I would like to sit in the same room as like-minded people and drink rubbish coffee and have myself steeled against the week to come.

COVID-19 has put a foot on the brakes and that is not an entirely bad thing. Leaving aside the death and destruction, there have been things to learn, things to enjoy, and time to look at a different perspective. But, there is a sense that time is passing and opportunities are being missed. I saw a brief thing by Paul Scanlon saying that the cavalry isn’t coming – start what you can now, begin what you think you may be being called to do, and expect God to do what is needed. Outside of my paid work, I sometimes feel I have been a bit lazy in lockdown but time is passing, the days are shorter and opportunities are more precious and I am older. I am definitely older.

Knights and Honour and all that jazz

How is your week going? Unfortunately, I, like the great Karen Carpenter, have been talking to myself and feeling old. (Rainy days and Mondays in case you are wondering. That’s the first line. The rest of it doesn’t cheer up really). Even the fact that Aged Parent gave me her Mint Aero which she won at the Bingo (Chocolate gives me wind – you have it) has not brought me any nearer good cheer.

I have watched the media this week and like another husky-voiced songstress, Bonnie Tyler, I have wondered where all the heroes are. On an entirely useless digression, does anyone remember that “I Need a Hero” was the theme to a terrible 80s TV series in which a beautiful model type chap would flirt furiously with his widowed lady boss while fighting crime etc. etc. Despite him being quite obviously gay which meant method acting was off the menu. I think it was called “Cover Up”. Lasted one season. One season too many probably.

So, where are the Good Guys? When we sang “When a Knight Won His Spurs” at school it was considered to be a good thing to be honourable, courageous and true. Please do not write in about the problematic Crusades. I’m just trying to make a point here.

When I was young, if people, especially people in public life made a big cock up – when they were proved to have been negligent – they resigned. This will be astonishing to young people. It never happens now. This week the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson took his abject failure to provide anything like a credible results service to the young people of this country as an opportunity to arrange a photo-shoot behind his desk which was adorned with a bullwhip. (For one moment I thought his ego had allowed him to imagine he reminded us of Indiana Jones – trust me, no-one looked like Harrison Ford in that movie – no-one). But apparently it was because he used to be The Chief Whip or something. Anyway, resignation does not seem to be on the cards.

Also in my day cronyism or jobs for the boys or nepotism whatever you would like to call it was considered bad form. Now we can close whole science departments down, set up new ones and give them to our friend Dido Harding to run (Apparently, giving it to to a scientist to run was a no go). See also Liz Truss/Michael Gove etc.

Then when a young man commits an atrocity at the Manchester Arena where 22 people die, and he doesn’t feel the need to attend the sentencing or listen to the witness statements of the bereaved, he doesn’t have to. Perhaps he is a coward, perhaps he had something more pressing on. I can’t help thinking that I would have been happy to fireman’s lift him up into the courtroom myself but he does have rights and I understand that. But to attend and look these people in the eye would have been the right thing to do.

The lines around right behaviour seem more blurry these days. There doesn’t even seem to be a pretence that you are at least giving it a go. I don’t know if it makes you more or less cheered if I told you that even as far back as Ezekiel in The Old Testament, God was looking for people to do the right thing. (How far back is was Ezekiel? Not sure really – Old Testament – long way back – certainly further than Jimmy Tarbuck)

I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defences of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this landI couldn’t find anyone. Not one.

Thing is though. He didn’t give up. Not on me. Not on you. Not on the principles of there being a right thing to do. I’m not saying everything in the olden days was good – see press-gangs, rickets, Terry and June. And I am aware that lots of dastardly people used laws and justice to do very unjust things. All I’m saying is that right is still right, honour has not left the earth and all the original instructions on how to live still stand.

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

There you go. Be of good cheer and follow this – not all that other stuff. You’ll feel better for it.