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.

Fathering

Happy Fathers’ Day. I understand that, when I wish you that I have to follow it with lots of caveats. I just wanted to say it in a non-controversial, sort of jolly way. Partially to say to Head of House – on behalf of me – I am expecting offspring to sort themselves out – that you are a brilliant Father and I appreciate it.

Thoughts do go out to the following groups who may find Fathers’ Day tricky

  • To all those who no longer have their fathers with them.
  • To all those who want to be a father but cannot
  • To all those who struggle to parent from a distance
  • To all those who don’t know their fathers

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. I have not included

  • Those whose fathers are no longer around and are quite glad about it
  • Those who don’t want to be a father and this day gets on their nerves

See? Tricky.

On top of everything else, there are Fathering issues around gender and femininity. Maybe people out there can help me a bit with this but I never understood who decided that Women were to bring the nurturing and kindness to parenting and that Men were to bring manly things like not crying, hitting girls you like and then running away and watching football.

When I was ill, Head of House had to be both Mother and Father. The thing was that he was just as good at cuddling, washing and ironing and wiping away snot and tears as he was swinging them around by their legs and encouraging then to keep their chins up. And it seems to me that the division is unnecessary nonsense and I also think we need to entertain the idea that someone , somewhere may be making money out of getting us to buy cards and beermats with “World’s Best Dad” on them. No really.

Is it Biblical? People talk about God being a Father but you would go a long way to find anyone more loving, kind and nurturing. This probably explains why the radical, international terrorist wing of the church keep insisting on calling God “she” and upsetting all the men in blazers on the Church Council. For myself, I always thought that God was above ideas of gender – male or female so I have never been that fussed about it. It’s a cop out that I know but there you are.

Many years ago Floyd McClung brought out a book called “The Father Heart of God.” For those of us with a difficult relationship with our fathers or those who had no example of what God meant when he called himself Father, it was a revelation. Those who had only known stern, cold and sometimes violent fathers were startled to hear that God’s definition of Fatherhood was actually nearer to the word “Daddy” than Father, in that “Daddy” speaks more of protection, care and unconditional love. But isn’t that what Mothers want to provide when they push out a much bigger than expected baby or invite a child in desperate need of love and security to come and join their family.

So I think I am trying to say that we shouldn’t make such a big deal of the titles – Mum, Dad etc. Certainly not to the point where you get upset because everyone else seems to have one and you don’t – like a Furby or a Chopper Bike. The things to be grateful for are the people who perform the jobs we understand as parenting – loving, being there, telling you that you are missing it by miles but you can sort it – that sort of thing. If you have people who do that sort of thing for you and they are called Dad – that’s great. If they are called Chum, Gran, Sister, Pastor it doesn’t matter. The thing is to have people that are like that with you or to be like that for someone else.

Heigh-Ho

Evening all. Just a quick check-in if that’s ok because, I have had a week off work and am only now, at 8 pm on Sunday night, having a go at getting my stuff together for Monday morning. And there’s football on. Three matches a day at the moment. HOH is taking it very well so far. This is more than can be said for the doctor being interviewed in the pre church “mingle” this morning. He had his head in his hands as the minister explained that not only were there three matches a day but that the Euros Tournament is going to last a month. Ain’t life grand.

Incidentally. A mingle is something the church has introduced to actually stop us mingling in the current trying circumstances. A member of the congregation is dragged kicking and screaming onto the stage, placed on a comfy settee, and asked cheery questions. It works quite well I think. Although, I am not sure about the word “mingle”. It reminds me of a terrible pop song from my youth which gloried in the line

I’m young, free and single and I just want to mingle with you girl ♫.

I’m no expert, but I don’t think he is talking about just having a nice chat with new people in the church at all. Sometimes I feel Auntie Dorothy was right when she said I should be careful with the radio. (not my real Auntie – “Church Shepherd” she was. Big hat. Husband ran a funeral parlour and it gave her bad nerves. Got really upset when she saw a youth member’s car parked outside a public house one afternoon. No one had the nerve to tell her that he had a job selling those cardboard things with little bags of peanuts and pork scratchings on them).

I’ve had a brilliant week off thank you for asking. I’ve been to Exeter, FOW1 and FOW2 visited bearing gifts. I’ve had too many meals out – although no one was making me go and no one was making me have pudding either. I had lunch in a friend’s garden and, at the end of the week, we went to Bath. We went to see an exhibition of Canalettos – his Venice paintings to be precise. They are amazing. the attention to detail is extraordinary. There are obviously the sweeping views of the canals etc. but also you can see people hanging out their washing on the roofs and tiny dogs and cats fighting. Apparently, his standard of draughtsmanship was so high that current Venice architects and climate experts are using his paintings to compare to current water levels to see how far Venice is sinking. Apparently, the visiting cruise ships aren’t doing it any good. You think, Sherlock? If you are passing Bath – as you do – the exhibition is at the Holburn Museum, (Picture at the top of blog. Very Bath. Very Austen etc.etc). I think it’s until the end of September (don’t quote me). Apparently, it’s from the Woburn Abbey collection and was last loaned out about 70 years ago.

The week was only slightly marred by phone calls from Aged Parent complaining about this and that. Including telling me that my Auntie Joyce was asking her to go and live with her. (not my real Auntie. Mum’s friend for about 40 years. Rich as Croesus. Lives in the Isle of Man. Good beaches and tax breaks). Interestingly, one night Auntie Joyce phoned me to ask if AP had Dementia. Please, see the previous comment re Sherlock Holmes. They speak three times a week for goodness sake. Anyway, Joyce tells me that my Mum is asking if she can go and live with her on the Isle of Man because she never hears from me, there is no food in the house and all the carers hate her). Joyce is a nice lady and it was my pleasure to correct her on all points. But thanks Mum – much appreciated.

HOH tells a story about a nursing colleague who was taking her Aged Mother to the weekly shop. ” Thank goodness, it’s you.” said the mother “I never hear from your sister. Never lifts a finger for me”. Guess which sister was taking her out. It’s stories like this that encourage me not to take AP’s pronouncements personally. Usually.

HOH did get Mum to sign a birthday card to me but didn’t check what she had written. Please find here a perfect description of my life. She means well. have a good week.