…some as big as yer ‘ead!

It’s October and that means it’s Spider City in our back garden. I think it’s the combination of a mild climate, lots of shrubs to spin webs off and that fact that all spiders have a contract out on my life. You can go on as long as you like about how wonderful they are and how many flies they eat and that they are a great part of God’s creation-yeh right. Just imagine one on your face sucking the blood out of your eyes. That’s what I think they secretly all want to do and you can’t prove otherwise can you? Thought not. Just in case there are any spiders reading this. When it gets a bit colder and you are considering moving indoors – remember there is an hysterical woman in here with a rolled up newspaper. You may want to consider next door instead.

It’s been a busy week with more to come next week so everything is a bit random again. Have just bought fitted sheets for eldest son’s university bed only to receive an email telling me he had been allocated a 6′ 3″ bed. Hurrah!! I keep thinking of things he will need or might need or probably won’t need but maybe should take anyway. (He thinks an iron comes into the last category)

Been out and about quite a lot for me. Last weekend we went to see “Earthquakes in London”. We felt it was important to support the National as they were visiting Plymouth  – oh and we had free tickets. I have to tell you though – absolutely no idea. Could not fathom what was going on. We tried really hard because we were with people who get theatre and have professional involvement in the arts but really. I was completely lost. Something to do with the environment and a hospital in heaven I think and the Government and then an annoying girl got her ning-nangs out for no discernible reason as far as I could see. Then everybody on stage danced to Coldplay – which was nice. That was it really. Then we all went back to our friends for a nice cup of tea and pizza. I don’t like pizza so I had a box of chocolates. That was my favourite bit.

Also went to see “Tinker Tailor” at the cinema. Absolutely outstanding. really. I held off seeing it because I loved the TV series so much and I had read the book and didn’t quite know what else could be done with it. It was excellent though. Gary Oldman is a real screen presence. It’s a bit more brutal than the TV series and a bit gayer. Otherwise, I felt that all the original intrigue was in place. Excellent. Am going back with Fruit of Womb Two next week. I know she only wants to see Benedict Cumberbatch as a bottle blond again which is fine by me but I would just like to have another look at the stuff I missed. Am I the only saddo who does this?

Also out at Church Communications Team meeting. (You are lucky I found time to fit you in) All I’ll say is that even after thirty years of Christianity, the way Christians seem to enjoy jumping on people’s heads when they are only doing their best still makes me catch my breath. You know the kind of thing. Someone designs something (Not me I hasten to add – NOT a strong point) Someone doesn’t like it. Perfectly fine – everyone is entitled to their opinion. Then though, they carry on moaning and whinging like someone has removed John’s Gospel! Important things are happening you know. Really, you can move on from this. Before we all die of boredom. Rant over. Thank you. (I can now hear God saying in my head “And of course-you are a model of patience when YOU don’t like something” – but I’m ignoring him. I know he loves me really)

 Have also found time in the last couple of weeks to master Skype. Well I say “master” – I had to be talked through it like a child by a tech savvy friend. Still I am now confident that I can stalk eldest Fruit Of Womb when he goes away.

So that’s it for this week. Have to go. We have things to plan. Do you think he will need a sieve? What about a grater? If you enjoyed any of this drivel, please comment and let me know. On a serious note. Remember that no crisis is so bad that you don’t have time for a rousing chorus of Flag Hippo!!!!!! Take it away Tim!

So it was year yesterday since my brother died. I’ve been a bit more wobbly about it than I expected to be really. I don’t normally do anniversaries very well – good or bad. Firstly, I just don’t remember things well. To be honest, I’m never that keen on putting aside a special day to remember anyone. I sort of think that if you are resonably sensitive and in touch with the person then everyday things will bring them to mind and then you respond accordingly. For instance, I came across this on t’Internet

This was from a programme called “An Audience with Victoria Wood” All those years ago, it was the first chance we had to see a Victoria Wood stand-up and Dave and I were big fans. Trouble was, we were due to go out that night. So, we set the video. Our new video. Checked it twice, gave it a start time of ten minutes early and a finish of ten minutes late, like you used to do in those days – just to make sure and off we went.
When we got back, we got a brew, sat down to watch the programme and were devastated when after about 15 minutes it stopped. It didn’t seem to have recorded. Dave started fiddling with the wires and the connection and I shouted Mum in case she had noticed any problems.
When she came in she greeted us with the news that she thought that there was something wrong with the recorder. Well we knew that but why was she so sure?
“Well, ” she explained ” When I came in it was making a sort of whirring noise and I didn’t like the sound of that so I unplugged it.”
“Mum! It’s making a noise because its recording! The little wheels go round on the tape see??!”
Unrepentant and unimpressed she said. “Well no-one told me. It’s your own fault.”
We never let her forget it and for years after that whenever we had set anything to record we would shout
“Mum, I’ve set the video. It will make a noise. Do not switch off, evacuate the house or call the emergency services ok?”
I guess you had to be there but it’s the little memories like these that are the fabric of our relationships. It’s often the little joys and the sorrows that we miss when people are gone. Like most people who have lost someone, I am grateful for the shared times and then I’m angry that, this side of heaven there won’t be any more. We grew up together. We had plenty of differences, all of which we sorted because we loved each other and we had such a deep rooted life history. Not that we came to agree on everything because we didn’t. It didn’t seem to matter somehow. Not when the will was there to make it work. Not when you could remember laughing together at your Mum and her aversion to technology together – after you had got over the urge to kill her.
So now I move on. Not to forget but because life is too precious not to.

Apologies for the lack of a blog last week. Complicated and boring reasons. Life continues here at Hargreaves Towers as usual in case you were wondering. I have spent a very thoughtful week though what with one thing and another. I know that’s not like me but there you are. We went to a wedding yesterday. It was very nice although I barely knew a soul there (significant other half’s work mate) People took pity on me and chatted and the like. The bride look lovely although the main picture I will take away from the day is the way she and the bridal party went speeding down the aisle like Usain Bolt. People were pressing their camera phones like billy-o trying desperately to get a bit of a photo as she whizzed past.
When you go to church every week, you forget how intimidating it can be. Childhood memories of miserable crows singing equally miserable songs may be strong in people’s minds as well as what may be termed as “brushes” with Christians. Some people may have tried to attend church and not found a warm welcome or found the essential message delivered in a way that was so difficult that they gave up. All of these things have happened to people I know.
I can see things from the other side as well. People with problems become Christians. We find a home and a secure place with God in a church. This may be something that we have never known. We become settled with our friends and the people that love us. When new people come in, we don’t always find the time or the inclination to talk to them because we are still dealing with our own things or just enjoying our friends’ company. The trouble is that we are in the lifeboat and many of these people are not.
I am one of the few people in the world who has not seen Titanic. I know this puts me in a minority of about ten. Still, I know people who have never seen Star Wars and I, to my shame, can quote paragraphs of dialogue from it. (Original version. No CGI and Solo shot first by the way.) The only Titanic film I have ever seen was “A Night to Remember.” It’s not that different I imagine – it doesn’t end well. My lasting memory of it is people trying to get onto lifeboats and people who were on pushing them away because they were frightened it would capsize. It was portrayed as cowardly and mean (in a very British, black and white kind of way) which of course it was. I don’t think it’s very different to what we do when we don’t welcome people into our communities properly.
It should be easy for people to come in to be with us. We should be evolving strategies and creatively thinking of light and open ways for people to come and ask the questions that they need to ask. There should be places for people to go and people for them to see. We shouldn’t wait for them to make the first move.
When I had known my significant other half for a little while – he rang up to ask me out. When I wasn’t there, he left a message with my Mum along the lines of “If she fancies a night out – tell her to give me a call.” I did call because I was mad for him but it didn’t make it right and I have made him pay for it on and off for the last twenty years! We are supposed to do the inviting. We are suppsed to show it as irresistible which it is. It’s our job to be holding out the oar for people to get hold of – not smacking them on the head with it until they go away.
So at the end of a very thoughtful week for me. I leave you with a thoughtful video. If you are one of the two people on the planet not to have seen this. I warn you. Prepare to have your brain mashed by a song that won’t go away!

Unless you have been living down a hole on the planet Zog, you will be aware that the exam results season has just drawn to a close. Male Fruit of Womb sorted his own results out this year – something about his entire future depending on it being done properly. To be quite honest, I could be quite insulted by this. No gratitude today’s young people. OK so when I picked his GCSEs up – I did get a bit lost in the school – I’ll give you that. And, embarrassingly, when I asked the way to the room where the results were I was actually standing in the doorway of the room in question. BUT, it was really badly signposted. And, I did get the results back safe and sound – eventually. Anyway, as I said he got his own results this year. (Hope you are keeping up – you will need to concentrate)  However, Fruit of Womb Two also had some results to collect this year. I will digress here actually if that’s OK with you (There’s not  lot you can do about it to be honest) I do need to say that in my day, there were CSEs, GCSEs and A levels. You took the first two then, two years later, if you so desired, you took A levels. Now people seem to be taking exams every twenty minutes or so. It’s very difficult for your average parent to keep up.
So, with our offspring away, it fell to me to collect the Girl’s exam results. The difference this time was that she would rather that I didn’t. Because she had already taken a sort of double dog dare mock exam thingy in science as part of the multi layered exam life that teenagers live in. What you have to know about our Girl is that science doesn’t exactly float her boat. She loves English and Media and Literature. She looks forward to the day when all her study life revolves around these subjects. You probably also need to know that in her Chemistry mock she was the not very proud possessor of a “U”.
It was a shock – the U. She wasn’t used to it. At this point she had a choice. She knew that she was never going to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry but did she want to be looking at the U letter when she opened the real exam results? So, she decided to do something about it. She gave up lunch hours to go to extra lessons. She went online to find out the answer to questions she didn’t understand and she revised for England. At this point – I would love to tell you that she developed a deep passionate love for Chemistry and is, at this very moment, working with top people to develop a self tan product that doesn’t need all the streaky bits rubbing off with a loofah. But that would be a lie. She went into the exam as well prepared as she could be and came out of it feeling a bit better than she did the last time but questions about how well she thought she had done were answered with an non committal “Haven’t the foggiest”
As results day approached there were lots of conversations like this
Moi   If you are away, please leave a letter for me to pick up your results.
Her   No need. I don’t need to know.
Moi   Yes you do. It’s your future. It’s important
Her   Not if Daniel Radcliffe comes and whisks me away.
Moi   Unlikely. Do the letter.
Her   (Warming to her subject) Or I get a place at RADA
Moi   Even more unlikely, you haven’t applied. I’ve done the letter. Sign it if you want to live.

The day went without a hitch. (Well I did arrive two hours early and I did get lost in the school – a bit) And I opened the letter and sitting there was a luscious A* in Chemistry.
You probably know this but maybe you need to hear it. It really isn’t the failure. It’s what you do with it. Do you resolve never to have another go in case you faff it up or do you grab your underpants with both hands, pull them up and give sorting it everything you have? Christians serve the God of the Second Chance. There is always a way back. Sometimes you have to work your way through stuff to get it right. But, the feeling you get when you open the envelope with the right result after it had all gone wrong is the best feeling in the world.

It’s the last Bank Holiday of the year before Christmas. Head of House is ministering to the needy in hospital. (They are paying him double time for it) Offspring are still recovering from sleeping in tents for a week so are both in bed. Big treat to get up early and spend decadent hour perusing favourite sites on T’Internet before the day gets going. Have just spent happy hour on moneysaving expert My favourite bits are the old style saving forums. They are running something at the moment called “Preparing for Winter” There are people out there stocking up on candles, pyjamas and slippers, Lemsip etc. They are sewing insulating blinds for the bottom of the stairs and the windows, they are making jams and chutneys and generally being proper home makers. I am hanging my head in shame. It is a good idea. The last couple of winters in Devon have been shockers. When we first moved here two snowflakes within twenty minutes would mean a Spotlight special with Justin Lee in a bobby hat and scarf on a motorway bridge keeping an eye out for the coming apocalypse. Now, we are aware that it could actually get quite cold out there. Still, it is quite difficult to believe when you have had your first cup of coffee happily sitting on the garden tool box in the sunshine, reflecting on how much your “cut and come” lettuce actually “cut and came” this year. Still I will try. Will make a list. Will check it twice and will get all squirrely. Soon. Very soon.
Love it when kids come back from youth weeks away. Friendships have been strengthened, laughing has been done until snot has come down people’s noses, relationships with God have been refreshed, squirty cream has been sprayed, fancy dress monkey costumes have been trashed. Like a sort of psychedelic heaven. This is only really what we old people used to call Fellowship. (with knobs on I know) The basic principle is the same. Getting together. Sharing. Strengthening. Praying. Learning. Eating Fish Eyes. (Alright, so the last one isn’t particularly Biblical) You cannot overstate its importance.
Friends are telling me that when son leaves for uni, he will need his own kettle, toaster, microwave etc. Doesn’t that just mean eight sets of each appliance in the kitchen? Why, when the website has reams of information on Viking raids into the city of York, how to join the Comedy Club and the opening times of the Nurse’s station – is there nothing actually helpful? I have been assured that this will be setting the tone for the next three years. Ah well, his problem, not mine.
Lastly, you know I love a tip – Don’t sleep in a wet vest – that kind of thing. I also love a bit of thrift. I do think you can take it too far. From a Marks and Spencer book – “1000 handy household hints”
Toddlers Pants. Discarded nappies can be turned into useful towelling pants for toddlers. Use two nappies per toddler.”
I’m not sure that this isn’t a false economy. You might save £1.99 on a pair of toddler shorts but how much would you need to pay out on the therapy for the poor child in later years?
Anyway. Off to get some housework done before French and Saunders come on the radio. Then I have to fit in “I was a Male war Bride”. (Cary Grant – in drag. Talk about your inappropriate crushes.) Still, like to make it look as if I have been busy when Head of House gets in from work.