Sunday, 29 November 2015

Rocking, Rolling, Riding

That's what the EFG's train is doing today - she's caught in the north of England somewhere, travelling at much reduced speeds due to #StormClodagh and is patiently hoping to make her connections!

Are these storm names amusing you as much as they are us? Whilst not making light of the damage and distress that storms can cause, it does seem that someone somewhere is making them out to be more important than they used to be.  Names used to be for hurricanes and the like, not for a brisk wind coming in off the sea [and yes, that is me underplaying it - I know that they are some pretty fierce winds out there today!].  The weather seems to be changing year on year and we are getting a lot more of this wet and windy weather than I ever remember from years ago....but then, perhaps I don't remember it that accurately - I am far more likely to remember pleasant summer days than drab November ones.

The Fens are clothed in a coat of brown at the moment - the roads are slathered in mud, which rapidly transfers itself to the cars and vans, which are now all brown.  The verges are similarly muddy, and since the fields are ploughed over in the most part - they are deep and rich hues of brown as well.......there's a lot of it about!  Thank goodness for the days when we see gloriously blue skies to contrast with all the dullness occasionally.  Is it any wonder that we long for the bright lights of the festive period?  But we must be patient.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

You'd have noticed

Imagine the scene: a sedate WI choir, all dressed in black with chic red scarves, a small gathering of more senior citizens, a few helpers like me, and a generally hushed environment as we wait for the musical director/organist to appear [he'd been caught in traffic].  This was the church in one of the towns I serve last night, as we were having a carol sing-a-long with coffee and mince pies.

Then in walks someone who has obviously taken the festive theme to heart - red shoes, sparkly silver tights, a swirly satin skirt with gold tinsel all around it, a red shirt. An antler headband adorned her head, and a flashing Rudolph nose was attached with elastic.

Heads turned, as you can imagine. Then she started dishing out elf hats that she had brought along to share.  

This is my boss, the new superintendent!!  

Just shy of her 60th birthday, she is huge fun, as last night proved, and game for a laugh all the time.  When the compere chappy asked if anyone wanted to have a go at the solo for Once in Royal David's City, up she went and belted it out - she has a lovely voice.  We had a great night in her company, and the evening certainly got livened up when she arrived!  I'm loving working with her, I have to say!

I've also been to a Christmas Tree Festival this afternoon, and that was really inspiring too, if a little less exciting!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

One down

Well, last night is over and the last part of Faith and Worship is done - the presentation got a good response from those listening, and comments were made that it was thought-provoking, so I was pleased about that.  Perhaps relevant for today as Thanksgiving for our American friends that my presentation was on "Everyday Gratitude".

Now the next challenge is Sunday's evening service on Advent Sunday....the challenge of this one is that there is also a service at the same chapel in the morning each week and there is a slight risk of overlap so I do try to make the evening services that I take there quite different from anything that they may have had in the morning - but I have got to wrack my brain this week.  I'm making mince pies tonight so I shall mull it over whilst I bake.

I've got poorly girls in two countries this morning - taken the YFG to the doctor with some rashes which itch this morning, and then there's a message from the frozen north about a banging headache that is afflicting the student....paracetamol recommended.

Off to a "Sisterhood" group this afternoon - there aren't many of these devotional women's groups left in this area, but we have one in the circuit. A speaker is coming to talk about the local food bank, so I am keen to go along and find out what he has to say.

See you soon xx

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Called up

It seems that it was very timely for me to have a bit of a rest last week because it is all happening now!  Tomorrow night I have to make a presentation to the Local Preachers' Meeting as the final part of the course, and I have been preparing for that in the production of a 2000 word essay to deliver to them - on "Everyday Gratitude".  

I went off this afternoon to an Advent service, and came home to an email from the Superintendent summoning me at the customary one week's notice to a 3 month appraisal next Wednesday - oh my! and oh bother!

I've now got a list of question to consider and respond [with evidence] to for a meeting with the two ministers, and then a meeting with a lay board, and then a feedback meeting when all that is done......

Shall we just do one day at a time?

Monday, 23 November 2015

On the mend

Feeling more human again - less snuffly, and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine yesterday.

Ang's chrysanthemum plant is looking a little rough around the edges and in need of a tidy-up but hey, it is still alive and that is an achievement when I am taking care of a plant!  A bright spot on a north facing windowsill.

The beans are rattling in their pods on the wigwam in the garden but just look at the gorgeous blueness of the skies we had here yesterday - cold and crisp, yes, but glorious!

A reminder of the cycle of life - a few feathers on the mat evidenced the cat having had a spot of something earlier - something quite small by the size of the feathers....we do feed her really!

Leaves on the grass - pretty colours but also the testament to the development of the estate over the last ten years, as there were no trees or shrubs here when we arrived since it was all so new.  Now that we are more established, people's trees are sharing their leaves over the fences, and my bottom lawn is covered in next-door-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden's willow leaves.

And the raspberry canes are thinning out and shedding their leaves too after a quite prolific summer and autumn if anyone can tell me how to keep them in the allotted bed, I'd be chuffed as they are growing everywhere, including in the pathways!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Confined to barracks

With a stinking cold, it seems unreasonable to be out and about at the churches, sneezing near vulnerable older folks, so I have just nipped in to a school yesterday to do an assembly, and then mostly been at home today.....apart from a haircut and a visit to the opticians.  All is well with the eyes, and the hair has been chopped quite dramatically - the floor looked as if a small brown sheep had been sheared!  Hoping to be feeling better tomorrow xx

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Another birthday passing

"The FH would have been 78 today" but I am not one for making too big a deal out of it now. That's why that remark is in quotation marks, because I haven't been going round, saying it to all and sundry.  I have remarked on my FB page that yes, it is the anniversary of his birthday, and I have sort-of indicated that this is the last time I will mark it on there, as I have further commented that I am sure he would be pleased with how we are getting on with our lives, as he wanted us to do.  We cannot live with one foot in the past, and we must look to the future.  He would not have wanted us to spend our lives in his shadow. 

Image result for birthday cake
(image from
He did love Maltesers!

He has been gone for nearly 18 months now, and we are getting used to the new life that we have. The girls are both doing well in their studies, if not entirely with their friends [EFG hassles over flatmates, etc] and they have good heads on their shoulders.  They are reliable, sensible, focused, level-headed most of the time, and quite mature for their ages - although I still can't get to grips with the EFG being 20 next did that happen?!  The YFG and I have talked again lately about a dog becoming part of our lives. That is about us moving on.

The FH's sister has emailed me to say that she will be ringing me today. She deals with grief and loss in a very different way, and always wanted to speak to him on their mother's birthday, for example. I do get it - it is about connecting with someone else who remembers the person who has died, and having shared space for memories.  I'll gladly speak with her, even though I would be happy to chat with her any day of the year - she need not wait for his birthday.  

There are thousands of ways to express grief, and I have been touched lately by some unhelpful posts on FB, which were absolutely well-intentioned, but just not right for me. They were largely of the "it's OK to be in pieces because grieving deeply means that you loved deeply". Right. So not being in pieces all the time means I didn't love him enough?  The people posting those thoughts, and the ones sharing them, perhaps haven't grieved an awful lot in their lives, or perhaps they have, but only in one way.  Their way is not my way, which is not your way, widows and widowers of the world.

Every single one of us does this our own unique way, and every way is right. Every way is true and deeply felt. 

I went to a meeting last week for people who had lost their partners through bereavement.  It was part of my work in the circuit, but it worked as I fitted in as a widow.  Let me tell you, there was a spirit of joy and warmth in that room as about 45 people came together in fellowship and shared community. I am going to work on setting up other groups like that in other areas of the circuit because we are sure that there is a need.

I know other widows read my ramblings here, and I just want to let you know that you just need to do whatever you need to do to get through it.  There is no right way. No wrong way. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for doing this your way. I'm doing it my way.  God bless us all x

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Now what have we done?

I should know about gratitude....I've been consciously practicing it for more than three years, in a serious way. If someone does something for you, it is the right thing to do, whether they have bought you a present, unblocked a drain or dropped something at the dry cleaner on their way past.  Well brought up folks say thanks.

Image result for bottle of  wine for a gift
(image from

Appreciation is another side of the same coin.  It is ever so slightly different. These days, I am sick to death of people gushing on the tv and saying, "Thank you SO much!" all the time. It feels as if they think that just saying "Thanks" is meaningless and so they have to quantify it in some way.

So the chap next door risked life and limb to go up on the roof, and we took him and his son their wee gift tonight.  Awkward does not even begin to describe the scene. "Well, that was a stupid thing to do!" was the opening comment from the son when I said we had just popped round to say "Thank you!" and then the dad went on about, "We didn't do it for that" and they dug themselves deeper and deeper into it, until I just gave the son the bottle of wine, expressed our gratitude once more, and left them to their splutterings.

What a contrast between them and the computer chappie, who just said, "Oooh! I like that, thanks," and popped it in the fridge.

There's all kinds of reasons for their awkwardness - perhaps!  Perhaps they don't get thanked very often, perhaps they don't do things for other folk that much to get thanked, I don't know.  It may even be a man-thing - like man-flu?

There's another little point here but it is a serious one - we widows do not want pity.  We are strong women, we have been through all sorts, and so we can cope with disasters of all kinds, because we have already been through the major disaster, and we are still here.  We don't want people to be on our team because they feel sorry for us, and we do expect to be able to thank our team when we are supported.

Lesson for today - be gracious when someone thanks you, because it makes the person saying it feel pretty rubbish if you are not......but we'll keep putting their bins out for them when necessary :)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paying my debts

Wonder what you thought to that title? I don't have any real debts [thank goodness] but I have owed friends and neighbours for helping me out this last week or so, and I have both times been unable to pay them for their time and effort - as in, they would not take payment - so I have "paid" them both with bottles of red wine!

One chap, who has been a good mate for quite a while now, and if I had had a brother, I would have liked him to be just like this bloke, sorted out one of our laptops. It was on Windows 8 which the YFG and I both detest, and was running quite slowly, so he took it back to Windows 7, and it now goes like the wind around the internet, and loads programmes up much more speedily.  This man's wife is also a friend of mine through the church, and is possibly about to undergo a major operation, so she is often in my prayers.

Another chap, my neighbour, has been up on my utility room roof this morning to replace a tile which had slipped out of place and was threatening to come down. He has built his own house elsewhere in the past, and I knew that he would be able to recommend local tradespeople who would be reliable, so I approached him to let me know who to ask about the roof.  With my set of ladders, he was easily able to do the job himself with his son, who passed things up and fetched things, and I was very relieved that they were able to sort it out in about 20 minutes.

Ever with an eye to the pennies, two bottles of Sainsbury's best for a tenner found their way into the shopping trolley this afternoon. One delivered and one to be dropped in tomorrow, with chocolates for the son because we didn't know what he liked to drink [he is over 18!].

Our last minister very wisely told my friend, T, when her husband left her, not to lean too heavily on one person when she needed help, and I am doing my best to follow that advice as well. People are generally glad to help out if they can, but it wouldn't be right to ask the same person time and time again to give advice or assistance.

I have established a sort of mini-team around the place for help: the computer chap, the neighbour who gives house maintenance advice and assistance, the chap at the garage who maintains the car, my sister who helps with lifts for the YFG and taking her places she needs to go that I can't manage for one reason or another, my good friend T for general chats, UJ for gardening, and my dad for encouragement.  Cousins J & A are a tremendous source of support and their son M took the EFG's baggage back to Aberdeen in September and has already made plans to take her stuff up there next year.  We are incredibly blessed to be surrounded by people who love us and support us: in addition to these people, I know of at least half a dozen more who would help me if I asked them!

I'd rather be blessed with people like this than win the Lottery, I have to say.....

Friday, 13 November 2015

Butternut squash soup

Tonight, I was wondering what to do with the bottom part of a butternut squash. The top section had become a curry, alongside a sweet potato and some spinach, and so I had the other bit left. The violinist suggested soup, and indicated that she would like that for dinner tonight, so that is what I made.

It was easy, really, when I found a recipe which I could adapt to the ingredients which I had available. The squash was chopped up and roasted in my little oven for about half an hour in a wee puddle of oil in a roasting dish.  I fried off an onion in a smidge of butter and oil, and then added two garlic cloves [there's a bug going round in a Fenland school at the moment - not ours, yet - so I am going heavy on the alliums] and when the squash was finished roasting, it was added to the onions with 800ml of vegetable stock.  I added a teaspoon of curry powder for a bit more depth of flavour, and then I used the stick blender to whizz it all up.  I served it with a dollop of creme fraiche in each bowl.

It made two bowls of soup, which was perfect for the two EF girls as the YFG hates butternut squash so she opened a tin of chicken soup. They had hot cheese toasties and a microwave syrup sponge pudding with custard for dessert - a lovely, warming storecupboard/use it up kind of supper!  No photos as they ate it too quickly...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

A bishop from Uganda and a birthday

It's been quite a day!  I have managed to meet about 45 people at a bereavement support group, then I moved on to a credit union representative, and I ended up at a presentation from a Bishop from Uganda at what I thought was going to be a simple Knit and Natter group - but it was very interesting.  There was also birthday cake with the Bishop as the minister at that chapel was celebrating his birthday and brought cake to share.

(image from
The recently completed new school block above

Uganda. Wow. Children who get up at 5 am and walk for an hour or more to be in school by 7.30 am. Children who are orphaned, and cared for by the school ministry team.  Lack of water so desperate that they are getting money from Lakeland [used to be Lakeland Plastics, but I think it is now just Lakeland] for water tanks, and they have also drilled a well - 230 feet down to the water table. Lakeland has already funded the building of a clinic at the school for the local community - I'm impressed: I may make the odd purchase there again if they are doing good things with some of the profits!  Children in the area need to pay to attend the school, as it is a private school - government funding doesn't run to many schools, unfortunately. There are more than 600 children in this particular school, and the Bishop is in charge of 500 pastors who cover the surrounding area - a big area!  He's my age, and he came to Glasgow to the International Bible College there, but then decided that he would go back to Uganda to help his people there - he could have stayed and had a much easier life, I think, but decided to go back and give back.  He and his wife have a gorgeous baby, but she was one of triplets: only Priscilla survived.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that however little we have, we still have so much more than countless others.  Makes me grateful all over again.........