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Life is like…

Right then. Welcome one welcome all. This is the one you have been waiting for. It’s the obligatory “I’m Nearly 60 and this is what I have learned.” Blog. Except it isn’t. Because, if the passing of many, many years has taught me anything, it’s that I seem to refuse to be taught anything. Well anything that will make my life easier.

So, accompanied by a rare as hen’s teeth photo of me (I’m leaning to the side because I had just noticed that it looked like one of the plants was growing out of my head) here is a not at all exhaustive list of things that are quite obviously true but I seem to struggle to catch hold of. Some of these things may seem trivial to you. In fact, the vast majority may seem so but if you want profound, I would think that, if you have been here for any prolonged period of time, you would know that this is probably not the place to find it.

Anyway, without further ado

MY LIST OF TRUTHS I FIND IMPOSSIBLE TO GRASP (not an exhaustive list)

The Dentist is not my mortal enemy. I know, in my heart of hearts that it very rarely hurts and I need to suppress the urge to punch her in the throat when, without asking permission, she feels my neck for lumps during a check-up.

People are not looking at me because my hair looks funny. In fact, people are generally not looking at me at all.

Spiders do not have a personal vendetta against me despite a bucketload of evidence to the contrary – such as finding one the size of Africa sat on the back of my hand or discovering one ON MY FACE in the middle of the night.

At least 98% of the things I insist on worrying about are never, ever going to happen.

In the end, Manchester United will always let you down.

I am not the worst Mum in the world. Neither of the children appear to be serial killers (although I am aware that sometimes these things take years to be discovered). I will never make their clothes from curtains, I have not given them the skills to survive on the Isle of Wight after a nuclear attack and I don’t think either of them will play football for England. However, both are kind, courteous, and as happy as anyone can be expected to be under the current circumstances.

That last glass of wine is always, ALWAYS a bad idea unless I want to wake up convinced that I have a brain tumour.

Photographs that are on the wall are not watching me when I am alone in the apartment and fancy a little dance. They are also not transmitting films of me dancing to aliens in outer space. I was told this as a little girl by a boy next door and have never been completely able to shake it off. He also told me that when you do a trump, people can tell because your skirt lifts. He was not a nice boy.

I can download all the exercise apps I want, buy all the magazines with all the exercise plans, and count all the steps in the world but my stomach is never going to look like this again. Especially with my penchant for prawn sandwiches with a bag of crisps.

It is unlikely that Aged Parent means anything by it when she says “What a lovely bride. What happened?” Please note that I haven’t said she doesn’t mean it. She does mean it. She just doesn’t mean anything by it.

The fact that the handsome and generally top chap in this photo is still here, despite – well, living with me for thirty years – may well mean that he intends to stay. Unless Nicola Walker puts in a bid and then I might be in trouble. And fair enough to be honest.

If I wanted anything on my gravestone it would be a quote by William R Newell. Unless I was killed by a spider bite – in which case, please see quote above and put “I TOLD you so”. By the way, as far as I know, am not making any plans to need a gravestone any time soon. This is a ham-fisted attempt at profundity. Actually, it would be any of about thirty quotes by Newell from his “A Few Quotes About Grace” essay. Christians say a lot that they are saved by Grace without stopping to think exactly what that means and how fantastic that is. Like all the points above, I struggle to accept it sometimes. That doesn’t make it any less true or lovely. When I get hold of it – even sometimes if it is for a fleeting few seconds – it changes everything. Not least my levels of gratitude and security. Have a good week.

To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.

To refuse to make “resolutions” and “vows;” for that is to trust in the flesh.

To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth.

To testify of God’s goodness at all times.

To be certain of God’s future favour; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him.

William R Newell 1868-1956

Being You

Good evening and welcome. Nice out there isn’t it? As you can see Plymouth (or as is more likely, the Covid raddled rest of the country) is out and about. It’s a Bank Holiday again although, as I believe I pointed out last time, banks are more or less the only institutions that actually have Bank Holidays now. I get tomorrow off though. For HOH, the call of those sick of the palsy in hospital has proved too strong and I will be here alone – ironing, meal planning, etc., and definitely not sneakily sunbathing or gaming on the PS4 at all.

I am writing this on a brand new computer thing which is for my big birthday. It’s a MAC something or other and it is (a) very light and (b) far more expensive than anything I would ever buy for myself. HOH asked Aged Parent if she would consider putting her hand in her pocket towards it and she was very aggressively positive about it. That is very nice of all involved but at the moment, I am frightened to death by the flipping thing. My suspicion is that people are trying to guilt me into doing more writing. ( I have just asked that question and everyone has just said – well obviously) Anyway, I haven’t got the hang of it properly yet and so, if any dodgy words pop up, it’s not my fault.

I thought about writing about the weather but, I’ll be honest, if one more person says to me “It’s about time isn’t it? We were ready for this weren’t we?” I may well run amok. For the record Aged Parent does not like the heat and, if the nightwear I found as I was making her bed is anything to go by, she has spent most of the time swanning around in a negligee that would not look out of place on Ava Gardner (Mogambo phase). As part of the sterling attempts from her sheltered living to drag their old people back into reality, they have started eating in the dining room again now. All on separate tables obviously. AP was a bit nervous about going downstairs so we took her down on our way out. I was surprised to see one lady partaking of lunch in her woolly bobby hat so she must have been a bit chilly. Unless it was a fashion statement. I’m a bit behind the times with all that these days.

I thought I might write a little about action choruses in church. It’s a bit of a niche subject so if you don’t want to stay, feel free to leave the room. I did mention last week that HOH and I had not joined in with the actions at church last week. (If anyone is not aware of what an action chorus is. You take a children’s praise song and add actions to the words. In the olden days, this tended to be just for the children. It involved clapping, jumping, turning around, pointing up (for God) and pointing at yourself (to signify yourself). These days, action choruses are definitely not just for children. They usually involve enough footwork to give a decent Paso Doble a run for its money and more elaborate mimes than you would have seen in a 1973 David Bowie concert. It is also a bit strange at the moment doing these actions when you can’t sing. At one point, I did look around at lots of people waving their arms in front of them and silently rocking from side to side and it looked like the longest, most boring Zombie invasion ever. Anyway, I digress.

When I was a young slip of a thing I used to teach at Sunday School. I like to think I was quite creative. Not as creative as Ang but still, I gave it my best. I may have even overdone it sometimes. Like the time my depiction of the Fall of Jerico, involving a pile of chairs from the kitchen with a piece of string tied to one of the legs resulted in a few namby-pamby children getting a bit upset because they said chairs had fallen on them. It’s true that there was a conversation about whether that child’s finger should be at that angle and was a trip to Casualty necessary but I felt that was overblown. And I’ll tell you this. The children used to fight to get into my classes. Well, the more robust ones did.

I used to be happy to lead choruses. I really did. I have deeped and wided, I have flapped my hands to signify ravens feeding Elijah and I have INSISTED that children should not have a face like a coffee pot. (I don’t remember why) Because it was fun. And ultimately, it didn’t really matter. Some people liked it. Some people didn’t. Uncle George who brought his accordion to Sunshine Corner for the children to sing songs to for the best part of twenty years would rather die than show us his flag flying from the Castle of his Heart, but nobody cared. Uncle George would turn up every Tuesday in his Reliant Robin and faithfully support people as they taught children he wasn’t that keen on and that was fine and we really appreciated him. When I met HOH I knew that he was the walking, talking definition of the word Introvert. (Not shy – it’s different). He didn’t want to do action choruses. I wasn’t that fussed either way, although more and more I would not join in just to show a bit of solidarity and because he was so handsome.

Then, one day, when we were in a church we were looking at joining because AP said she liked it. (In the end, she just liked the vicar. Same old. same old) A young woman got up before “Children’s Worship” and informed us that anyone not actually joining in was teaching the children to NOT worship and that we would be holding them back and possibly even being responsible for them not having a relationship with God. Oohh kayyy…To be honest, I have very rarely done actions since then. Not a big deal and in my speaking days visiting a church when someone would say “Let’s get the preacher up to show us how to do it!!” I would do it – you don’t get any trouble from me. But, in general, I decided I wanted to stand with those who felt uncomfortable with it, who don’t feel they need to be released into it because IT DOESN’T MATTER. A little less condemnation, a little more following God’s example as Elvis or was it Eric Cantona so nearly said.

God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. John 3

Nearly Normal

Welcome one. Welcome, all. Well, we did it. Celebrate the 30th anniversary that is. We are at the end of a week off work which has been chock-a-block with stuff that used to be a bit boring but is now on a level with eating ambrosia on toast whilst riding on a unicorn across the lost cities of the Amazon (not that one).

What did we do? Well, everything we said really. We went to Ikea – you couldn’t have any meatballs unless you were willing to book seven or eight weeks ahead but otherwise all was well and I managed not to buy an armchair. We had some friends round and we let them in! (not for long mind you – no point overdoing it) We had a takeaway. It was supposed to be Chinese but they are closed on Tuesdays. (Is that a cultural thing? Tuesdays?) We went to the pictures. It was not a very well known film and we were the only people in our screening. I am not sure about the protocol around masks when no one else is there so we did what all Brits do when they are unsure about masks and spent a lot of the film with it under my chin.

We also had a day trip to London. Unsure of what to do when we got there (I didn’t let the lack of any sensible ideas stop me going) we had pre-booked tickets to the Tower of London. No – come back – the Tower of London is really good. There was hardly anyone there. Certainly no People from Many Lands. Well, I tell a lie, there was a French lady there. I was a bit confused, is France open? Anyway, if France has another wave, I can tell them who their super spreader is. Unencumbered by social distancing, she kept popping up and standing so close, I think we are probably engaged now. The lack of people meant that we could get near to things and have a good look. My favourites are always the ravens because you can talk to them and they talk back. Yes they do. HOH reckons that whatever they are saying, it didn’t seem that friendly. I have to agree. One raven, slightly bigger than a Jack Russell and pulling on what looked like pigeon entrails didn’t seem in a mood to chat. Probably best to leave him to it. We also got to see the Crown Jewels without queuing. Since we were last there, they have installed a moving pavement past the jewels so you can’t hang around plotting ways to sneak them past the 28 guards on the door. I can understand why they did it but it does give the whole thing a kind of Generation Game feel which is not that helpful when it comes to the dignity of the thing, to be frank. We continued our cultural tour of the Capital with a tour of Zara. Also, very nice with lots to look at.

We also went to church…yay! We had only been to this place a few times before the pandemic broke. The idea being that we were taking things very slowly and gently, and after the frankly rude interruption of a worldwide disaster, we went back to the original plan. Church is strange at the moment – especially if you are newish. No singing obviously and table service only at after church coffee. (I am not sure if table service in church is scriptural; surely mingling is compulsory after the meeting). The one thing that is still allowed is an action chorus (hurrah) and for those that know us and are looking for reassurance that life is returning to normal, if you look closely at this photo you will be able to see HOH and me studiously ignoring the action chorus going on around us. In an ever-changing world, some things remain the same.

It was lovely to hear a sermon again, in the flesh. It’s quite difficult to let the preacher know that you are listening when you are wearing a mask. You have to try “smiling with your eyes” like Tyra Bancks on America’s Next Top Model. Your cheeks can ache a bit by the end.

So it’s back to work and getting on with it. 30 years can take its toll as many of you will know and this old photo of us is your actual physical proof of that. But, it has been excellent finding someone to put up with me (and sometimes Aged Parent as well) and as Aged Parent was pointing out to me “My Son in Law is marvellous. He comes in here and does all my shopping and runs around after me – he’s marvellous.” There is then an awkward silence while she has a half-hearted attempt to think of anything I do for her that she feels needs any acknowledgement. Oh well. Never mind. Have a good week.

Nothing Really

Hello – welcome one – welcome all. Just a brief catch up here because my life is still just a mish-mash of work, going home, sitting on the settee and wondering if it will ever stop raining. All these things happen every day and not much else. Sometimes I have extra chocolate biscuits just to jazz it all up a bit. You can’t even sit outside and pretend you understand cafe culture. We went for our daily walk yesterday and watched young people sat outside in the freezing drizzle, trying desperately to stop shivering long enough to raise a glass of chilled white wine to their lips. To add insult to injury, if you sit near enough, the waves come up over the sea wall every so often and prove that you can actually get even wetter.

I have a week’s leave to look forward to and, I confess, I intend to risk life and limb and go inside with people. We are going to IKEA. We need coat hangers and serviettes that’s all. Expect the final bill to be around the £140 mark. We have booked an anniversary meal at our favourite restaurant. And, we are still hoping to get to London, as long as the trains are running. We are going to the Tower of London and listening to Beefeaters making history interesting. I understand that all these actions are risky – less so now with vaccinations hopefully – but either way, I am a bit “Where Eagles Dare” about everything at the moment and I need to give it a go. Hopefully.

Even Aged Parent is looking forward to going downstairs to the communal room and taking part in the odd game of Bingo. It’s not her favourite but there’s no word as yet about when they can expect to see the return of Steve Carrundo and his Spanish guitar, so you have to get your thrills when you can. Aged Parent is very keen on him and I have to say I admire him myself. Apparently, he always tries to respond to requests, even though I don’t suppose “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” is naturally part of his skillset.

The cinemas will be open again soon which is excellent – or would be if there was anything on. For some reason, the powers that be seem to think it will be enough to show all the Harry Potters, Peter Rabbit 2, some terrible horror film that involves people being forced to kill themselves in horrible ways and Nomadland on a big screen. By the way – Nomadland it’s on the Telly. It is utterly brilliant. Frances McDormand is brilliant. This is not me opening a debate. It is fact. See it and feel better about things. Anyway, big cinema people, lots of people have enjoyed staying at home to watch films. If you want them to turn up and watch things at your place, you need to find films for them to watch. Just a thought.

I think I said last week that I had started the Brian MacLaren book about him deconstructing his faith. I have to tell you that, as Mastermind hosts so often nearly say – “I started it and I finished it. ” Although I think that depends on your definition of “finish”. If by finish I mean keep trying with it as long as I possibly could and then get to a point where I simply had no idea what he was going on about and gave up – then I did finish it. (I didn’t finish it)

If you are wondering what I mean about de-constructing faith, I think (I may well be very wrong) it means that people have things about their faith that they no longer believe and they choose to leave them behind. Sometimes this is about Biblical doctrines like the things in Genesis, heaven and hell, purity culture etc. Sometimes it’s about a different approach to gay people, people of other faiths and er….women. That’s really simple but so am I. I consider myself a fairly thoughtful person and I found the first three or four chapters quite interesting and challenging and there was a lot that I agreed with. After that though, I just couldn’t get on board with all his certainties about how life should be. Maybe he’s a lot further on than I am. Maybe, as HOH says, I should settle down with a nice murder mystery for a while. There is a time and a place for deep stuff and this may not be the time or the place. For some people, this has been a time of yoga and sourdough. Others have faced their own mortality in a deep and intelligent way. For me, at the moment, it is a time for Agatha Christie, Mint Magnums, a new Trinny London eye-shadow and a nice white wine on the settee, with HOH. Sometimes you know, I am very grateful for where I am now and a nice sit down.

Sunday

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.