Hello All. Welcome to Sunday night chez Martha Towers. Actually, I am on a bit early this week because there is a programme I want to watch at 9 pm. It’s called Gods of Snooker I think. I used to love the snooker. I’m not sure why. I think it was because it was good late-night telly and snooker is very difficult. I have tried it once – a lot harder than it looks. Like many Christians who are knocking on a bit, I remember when a snooker table was compulsory at the youth group and, if we were trying to catch the eye of one of the fine figures of men who attended “youth” on a Friday night – the snooker table was the place to be.

Anyway – no more Line of Duty. HOH is annoyed about it – apparently like everyone else who followed it because “H” turned out to be somebody who took the bins out or something. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it myself. Probably something to do with never watching it. In its place, the BBC is showing “The Pursuit of Love” and knowing myself I know I won’t be able to stand it. I am never that keen on anything with “beautiful young things behaving badly”. Even the preview is doing my head in with Lily James swishing like billy-o, Andrew Scott playing decadent and controversial (again) and lots of people being “terribly, terribly” horrible darling. Blah.

Like most people, we have done very little this weekend. We spent a lot of the afternoon booking a train to London for our wedding anniversary. The last time we went was when we took the photo above – a couple of days before the first lockdown. We will have been married for 30 years next week – and they said it wouldn’t last. No really, they did say it wouldn’t last. HOH had a bit of a reputation as a lothario when he was younger – which he STRONGLY repudiates and I was warned off; by a girl who was part of a group that I had been to a Cliff Richard concert with the week before. How rude. Wouldn’t mind, I was never that big a Cliff Richard fan. I only went to be sociable. (I don’t want you to think I am picking on Cliff – he seems a perfectly nice man – and it was hardly his fault. Also, I’ll say this for him, he sounds exactly the same live as he does on the telly. Also, I bow to -one in my admiration for “Wired for Sound”). No, what I am saying is, lots of unpleasantness ensued and it was all because I was at something I didn’t want to be at and someone there found out I was seeing HOH and it all went downhill.

We used to have an older lady in church who would warn us severely that nothing good could come of being somewhere where you weren’t meant to be. To be fair, I don’t think she meant a Cliff Richard Concert – I think it was more like an opium den or something like that. Although, she wouldn’t ever go to the pictures because she said that if the Second Coming happened while you were watching the Sound of Music or something, that you would miss the Second Coming because God wouldn’t come looking for you in the cinema. This may be a fair point because you can’t really imagine God flashing a torch down the aisle whispering “Is Martha sat next to you? She needs to come now. The Second Coming is on.”

Am I digressing? Yes, I believe I am. As I said we spent a goodly proportion of the afternoon weighing up whether to go to London for a day for our anniversary. I mean we have both had Covid and are fully vaccinated so we are double dog-dare covered but it does give you pause doesn’t it? We only wanted to do the Tower of London (one of my favourite places) and a walk around St Katherine’s Dock where we spent our honeymoon so we decided to go for it. So, after we had ordered our Railcards (loads of money off with those) and booked the train online I switched the radio on to listen to football while I made tea and, according to the news, the whole of GWR’s rolling stock is out of action because of hairline cracks or something. Brilliant. Two weeks to sort it GWR. I wouldn’t mind but, as far as I can make out the whole network has only run one train a day for the last twelve months. You think they would have been able to keep on top of this.

For those of you wondering, I finished the Barbara Pym autobiography. I enjoyed it a lot. She’s not quite the person I expected her to be. At first, I thought she was just odd. Now, I think I understand a bit more that it was a different time and, although I still think she was quite odd, I think I understand her a lot more. And she did write lovely books.

I’m now reading a Brian McLaren “Faith after Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It” the title of which you shouldn’t read that much into but I heard him on a Podcast and he seemed really interesting. HOH and I have had taken quite a lot about some things we are working through in our faith which I might talk about another time. Or I might not. Unless you wanted to hear.

Righty-ho. Off to watch the snooker and then the football. I promise I will not be watching the telly wearing a flat cap and holding my pet ferret although I will be weighing up whether it’s too late for a chip butty. Have a good week.

Ordinary People

Hello. Welcome one, Welcome all. First of all, just to let you know that Aged Parent has had her second injection. We made it. All I will say about the experience is that, on the way out, I was offered an “I’ve Had My Vaccination” sticker. The consensus of opinion being that I had earned it. I shall say nothing more. Although it was quite funny when, on trying to give details as we went in, I tried to whisper “Could I possibly leave MY contact details as there is a little bit of dementia.” Only for AP to ask “Have you? Well, I never knew that.”

If you are in the UK I hope you are enjoying the Bank Holiday Weekend (unless you work in hospitality, retail, the NHS etc etc) In fact, unless you actually work in an actual Bank, the Bank Holiday may not be troubling you at all. Anyway, be of good cheer – it’s apparently going to pour down all day tomorrow.

Just a prior warning. I am probably going to be ranting in this blog (no probably about it really) and some of it will be quite political. So there you are.

I have watched the politics and the news and stuff this week (curtains, lobbying, cladding and all that jazz) and I want to say something. I am an “ordinary person” and it matters to me. It matters a lot. To backtrack for those checking their agendas and wondering if they have skipped a page. Early this week or possibly a lifetime ago, when there was a lot of hoo-hah about who had paid for the refurbishment of our Dear Prime Minister’s abode, a “top person” in the Corridors of Power seemed to have decided that the way to steer the Great British Public’s attention away from swindling, cheating ignoring of politics code kind of behaviour (allegedly) was to waggle the sock puppet of the vaccination programme and its success so that we would all look at that going “oooh” and forget everything else. In fact, that really was the only sensible way to behave with everything we have got on. So, some nondescript sacrificial lamb was pushed out on wheels to say that they didn’t think that “Ordinary People” were bothered about who paid for the Prime Minister’s curtains. In these times, what with the old Panny-d, sensible “ordinary people” had enough on their plates.

Now, this is a bit of a risk. Drawing people’s attention to the Pandemic that is. Let the number 151,243 (number with Covid 19 on the death certificate) sink in. It’s a lot. Somehow, it seems even more when combined with the charming phrase about letting bodies pile up on the street. But there is no doubt that the vaccination programme is outstanding. My trouble is that I will insist on giving the lion’s share of the credit for that to the NHS, the scientists, the volunteers, the civil servants – all the people who seem capable of organising their way out of a paper bag. But the consensus of opinion seems to be that we – the Ordinary Common People will give bad behaviour a pass because – well at least we are still alive and we can have a reasonably priced full English breakfast in a Wetherspoon’s beer garden now. But I need to say that it matters. For me, Integrity matters.

When politicians give out favours to their mates so that they can make millions from PPE etc. – bypassing people who actually did this for a living and then drag their feet about an enquiry.

When ex-Prime Ministers phone current government ministers to try and get favours for a failing financial institution.

When people who have apartments which they have bought, having done the necessary checks are told that those checks are not sufficient and, in fact, the building was always unsafe but was waved through anyway – when those people are told that they will have to pay to put this right – despite previous promises. ‘We are determined that no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they didn’t cause and are no fault of their own.’ B. Johnson.

And yes…those flippin curtains as well.

It matters. It really does matter. It’s not old fashioned or unrealistic to say that I want (as far as is humanly possible) to believe that these people are not out and out lying. I know, from personal experience that there are a lot of decent people in politics. I also know, because of the job that I do, that some people in politics are more aware of the power of an Instagram image of an MP with an elderly woman on a scooter than they are of the power of doing something fantastic to actually make that woman’s life better.

I am that “Ordinary” person. And I really am very bothered. And really quite sad.

Because I have ranted, I just thought I would leave you a little cheered with just how ordinary Aged Parent thinks I am

AP Whatever happened to your hair. It used to be lovely and long.

Me Well, it’s quite long now.

AP No, I meant really long, and pinned up on your head. (Points to my wedding photo)

Me Mum, that hair took my friend Mandy nearly an hour to do. She can hardly pop round every morning and do that.

AP (Looking hard at me and then looking away) Oh. Pity.

Bits and Bobs

Afternoon all. Welcome to this week’s latest missive from someone hiding in the bedroom from Line Of Duty. Too much shouting and pointing of guns for this gentle soul. I understand that I am almost completely alone in this and I am living with it. With no difficulty at all.

Thank you to everyone who sent me details of blogs and Instagrams and all that jazz. It’s very much appreciated and I’m really liking reading them. Reading actual books has been a bit hit and miss. I finally decided that I’m never going to make any progress in my mission to like Josephine Tey. The signs should have been good. Murder mysteries set in the 20s and 30s. A handsome and brilliant Inspector Grant looking into the cases. People saying things like “Terribly, terribly” and having kippers for breakfast. I’m usually all over that stuff like a rash but… Well, first of all, I’m not that fussed about Inspector Grant and the author is obviously completely in love with him (as she should be). Also, without sounding like some woke teenager, I am a bit uncomfortable with the racial stereotypes and it’s a long time since I heard a Mediterranean person described using “that” word. I know, different times and all that but I struggled and I apologise. Also, for what it’s worth, her classic Daughter of Time book – where Inspector Grant is laid up in bed and examines the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. . I’m sorry. I still think Richard The Third did it – murder the Princes in the Tower that is. So, into the Ziffit box with you and it wouldn’t do for us all to like the same thing as my old mother has never said because she thinks everyone should agree with her.

So I moved on to the Barbara Pym biography which I have been very excited about for some time – excited enough to pay full price for the hardback which is a very rare occurrence for me. I’ve included a photo above, partly because you might want to see the cover if you want to buy it but also so you will be impressed with me because I have bought such a weighty tome. Those who know me at all will know that I had no idea how thick that book was when I ordered it. It did cross my mind when it arrived that, if nothing else, it would be helpful to prop my laptop up for Zoom meetings but it’s actually very good so far and the chapters are very, very short. Lots of ’em but short. Miss Pym fell in love with a Nazi at the beginning of the war apparently. Can you name me a posh English woman that didn’t fall in love with a Nazi in the war? I mean, I like a sharp cheekbone as much as the next woman but good grief. Anyway, she came to her senses – apparently after some unpleasantness around concentration camps or the like and joined the war effort. (On the allies side, lest there be any doubt)

I’m quite pleased that I am managing to read anything at all, to be frank. I came across this article on Long Covid in the Sunday Times this week and then spent ten minutes with Head of House playing Covid Bingo. I have a lot of Long Covid symptoms. I don’t know if you know but I had Covid in November. I don’t know how you would know – I never mention it. (Head of House coughs uncontrollably). It’s not the terrible stuff that leaves you bedridden but there’s brain fog, memory loss, knackered (or exhaustion if you are trying to keep the tone reasonably high), my eyes are struggling a bit. Head of House came up with a few symptoms but I beat him hands down. I always do when it comes to moaning about my ailments. I have no idea where I get that from.

Anyway…Aged Parent gets her vaccination Mark 2 on Saturday. We are expecting some issues because, when she had the first vaccine, no one had told her about any possible side effects and by the time she heard about them and decided she was going to get them, it was too late and medical people were telling her that, whatever was ailing her, it couldn’t be the vaccine because it was too long ago. She’s ready for it this time and we are expecting full-on side effects before we get her back in the car. Never mind eh?

Other than that, this has been a low-level week here at Martha Towers. Both Fruits of Womb have returned to their lives after lockdown although we did get to spend FOW2’s birthday in a pub garden in Exeter with her. It was a very lovely afternoon, in the end. We weren’t too sure at first because, despite full-on sunshine, the South Coast of England is doing a passable audition for one of those disaster movies where everyone has to strap themselves to something because some kind of hurricane has changed course at the last moment and is wreaking havoc. Anyway, we found a very civilised, sheltered spot and the worst the weather did was burn my forehead leaving me with an alluring stripe. Is it because we don’t get out much that one afternoon in a pub courtyard can leave you feeling like you have spent a week with no sleep?

So that’s it. I thought maybe I should leave you with a scripture for the weary or something, I found this in Psalm 49

“We aren’t imortal. We don’t last long. Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.”

Probably not quite what you were expecting, especially if you are feeling a bit tired but don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger, tough love and all that.

Have a good week.

Well hello there

Nice out there isn’t it? Breakfast on the balcony today. The sun took its sweet time moving over to warm us up a bit but we were determined. Also, I went away. Well, obviously, I haven’t been away because that is illegal but I didn’t do this here blogging. That was partly because work has been awfully busy. Planning for the imminent return of the elderly to society has been time-consuming, to say the least. Although, a lot of them are back already as you will know if you have been anywhere near Marks and Spencer Foodhall. Lots of the elderly have had their second vaccination and they are on the boogie. I don’t mind – much – except when this newfound freedom results in seniors standing five abreast in the aisles while they collectively debate the merits of an individual steak and kidney pie.

The second reason for my absence was the second vaccine. One would never want to be ungrateful and I am aware that I am in a privileged position but I was warned that, if you have had Covid within six months, your immune response could be a bit full-on. Correct. Fortunately, it was Easter Sunday so I was able to spend a day and a half in bed. I still feel a bit slow on the uptake but no one seems to have noticed. Not all bad news obviously, I had wall to wall Midsommer Murders to catch up on.

On top of everything else, Aged Parent managed to bring the police to our door. Well, not our door – her door. They had to bring her home because she was lost. This wasn’t one of those times when someone with dementia forgets the way home. She is perfectly capable of finding her way to Asda and back. However, she decided to go on Easter Sunday and it was closed. Someone, who was trying to help, directed her to another shop which he felt may be open and she gamely decided to give it a go. That’s when she got lost. And the police became involved. As usual, she had no remorse about the incident – never apologise, never explain. According to the carers, she spent most of the afternoon complaining that she forgot to get the handsome policeman’s number. Hahaha. Hillarious apparently.

FOW2 returned to her home in Exeter last week as her furlough was ending. We have had one child or the other staying with us for over six months now and it feels a bit weird. It isn’t meant to be a judgement on anyone if we say that a two bedroom apartment isn’t really big enough for three people for any length of time. We are not offended at all that both the sprogs had seemed ready to move on and, as a bonus, I have somewhere to hang my coats again.

I spent an hour yesterday watching the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh. I mean, a lot of it was a bit “BBC Deep Slow Voice” kind of stuff (although I wouldn’t watch it anywhere else) but it was much more moving than I thought it would be. As I pointed out to Aged Parent when she asked what he had died of and I said “Being 99” we both agreed that it was a good innings but I did notice that Her Majesty didn’t seem to raise her little head all the way through it. I wondered if she just wanted us all to go away and leave her be. You couldn’t blame her if she did really.

What else has happened? Well, I signed up for an online diet thing – won’t say which – no need for you to be influenced by me. Anyway, I cancelled within 24 hours. When I got to see the recipes, they were all either really spicy or they were overnight oats and everyone knows that overnight oats are of the devil. Also, I only wanted to drop half a stone to get into summer stuff so I am not going to change a life of avoiding any food that makes my nose run for such a piffling amount of weight loss. So back to the drawing board. HOH – who isn’t bothered either way really – has said that possibly cutting back on a few mint Aeros could have the desired effect. He may have a point.

Also, while you are here, if you have a blog or an Instagram or something that you wouldn’t mind if I followed, please let me know. I would love to read people’s stuff (possibly I am a bit nosy). There are more people that read this than you would think (I know, I know) and I would love to find out what sort of things are going on (so long as it’s all above board)

Anyway, judging by the lack of people bellowing in Irish or Brummie accents, it sounds like Line of Duty has finished now so I can probably go back into the Living Room. I have tried to like it (well not that hard I’ll be honest) but I genuinely have no idea what is going on and (whisper it) I care even less. Also, too much unexpected shooting, garroting, finger off-chopping for my personal taste. If you are after something decent to watch, can I humbly recommend The Life Ahead on Netflix with Sophia Loren. Just brilliant. Have a good week.

Preacher Envy

Hello from yet another Plymouth walk. It can get a bit relentless now this walking, can’t it? Just me then. I am bravely typing this with a (very) bad back. Embarrassingly, we have worked out that it probably happened after we watched an old Top of the Pops on glam rock. HOH and I had a not insignificant disagreement about the quality of music produced by “Sweet”. I decided to put an end to this discussion once and for all by throwing Wig-Wam Bam into the pot along with the dance that goes with it. I am too old now for that sort of carry-on. I may well have always been too old for it. If you look the dance up on The You-Tube (if you feel that you can take it) you may well realise why I am now being helped out of chairs.

Anyway, I do have something else to chat about this week but it is a bit niche so if you haven’t been to or have any interest in church – especially the modern groovy ones – you might not be too bothered about this. No probs.

I found an account on Instagram this week. (It’s a very famous account – I’m not Sherlock Holmes or anything) It’s called preachersnsneakers and it is full of photos of preachers mainly in America rocking designer clothes. They include Pastor Steven Furtick in $1000 YSL shoes, Bishop TD Jakes in $1250 Christian Laboutin spiked belt bag, Pastor Troy Grambling in a $1000 hoodie. And so it goes on. There are loads of them. I need to say that the author of the site is always (well usually) very respectful. He would describe himself as an evangelical Christian. He’s just presenting facts and I had a few thoughts.

I have no objections to pastors making a decent living. I am old enough to remember when we didn’t sort out pensions for missionaries, many of whom retired to poverty or the charity of friends. Their old clothes and hand to mouth existence were seen as a badge of honour. There was a whiff of the keep em poor and keep em keen about it and it was horrible. I don’t think anyone is advocating for a return to that nonsense.

This is also the week when Hillsong completed its report into the problems in its East Coast churches after uber-cool Pastor Carl Lentz was fired. There is a plausible school of thought that contends that to reach out to cool young people – you have to reach them where they are and show that you are just the same as them – you understand what drives them and who they are. Hence Justin Bieber rocks up at Hillsong and finds himself mentored by a young senior pastor who looks just like him – dreams the same dreams – and all that. (As an aside, if your basic troubled young man without the famous name turns up for help at a church, would he normally be given one on one mentoring – including Instagram selfies together – by a senior pastor? Just asking even though I’m pretty certain I know the answer.) It is a credible theory. I think you have to be a bit careful though that the signal you send out isn’t “You are safe with me. I understand who you are. In fact, I am the same. I am cool and groovy and love expensive leather jackets and love Jesus and you can too.” The risk is you send out “I am a Christian but also I dress like you because under it all I would quite like to BE you.”

My feeling is that some of this is about control. It’s about a leader saying “I am higher up than you. I am not to be questioned.” Some of the reaction in America post-Trump has been interesting. Leaders of big churches have either seen congregations close ranks but also a lot of questions have been asked – around leadership, discernment, accountability etc. and some leaders are not used to it. when First General Baptist Church Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark made the news with the following remarks in his sermon

I’m not saying every woman can be the epic trophy wife of all time, like Melania Trump, Maybe you’re a participation trophy. … But you don’t need to look like a butch either.

You need to know this, men have a need for their women to look like women. Sweatpants don’t cut it all the time, huh, Men want their women to look good at home and in public. Can I get an amen?

Why is it so many times that women after they get married let themselves go?

Don’t give him a reason to be looking around … I really don’t believe women understand how visual men are,” he added. “I don’t think women understand how important it is for a man to have a beautiful woman on his arm. God made men to be drawn to beautiful women. We are made this way, we can’t help ourselves.

I am including a photo of the good pastor here – without comment.

He is now “on leave” of course but, if I were a betting woman I would guess the thing that has surprised him the most about the backlash was that it happened at all. He would not be used to being questioned. He can spout this kind of nonsense because no-one ever pointed out that it was offensive claptrap.

There is an equally famous clip on YouTube where Pastor Kenneth Copeland is being questioned by a female investigative reporter on his use of private jets. Initially, he acts like he usually would with a young woman – smiling benignly etc. until it becomes clear that she isn’t going to just leave this. Then his face changes. Someone who doesn’t know who he is said “He looks deranged”. He’s not deranged – he’s bewildered – no one challenges him in his life like this.

Is it possible to be filthy rich and be the sort of Christian Jesus was? I’m thinking it probably is – although this does carry a very high level of difficulty (See Jesus’ story re camels, eyes of needles etc etc). What is even more difficult I think is to be someone in a position of such power that makes them unaccountable. Knowing that you may well never have to say you are sorry, for anything, is not the quickest road to gaining a humble spirit. And that there is the target – the humble spirit – not the Armani suit (no matter how lovely). Because that’s how the boss of us saw it.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Phil 2)