Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Little Town

Little? Yes.. too small tonight
Walls and doorways straining to hold the dross and dregs
of a thousand homecomings.
But still, no; the chattering of families and friends
the deals made and the promises forgotten
fill the night air. No dreamless sleep tonight, then
but a night for tossing and turning
exhaustion overridden by the concerns of body and mind.

And in the midst of it all, did anyone notice
the quiet arrival
slipping unannounced into obscurity
as the stars and the angels strained to scream out his name?
Did they see the realisation of all that had been hoped for, longed for
during the dark and lonely years?
Bethlehem...
Did you recognise the moment, the shining second,
when all creation turned towards your shambling streets
and found itself focussed on a crumpled bawling face?

And as that gaze prolonged
did hearts find their fears were met
as well as their hopes?
Was there a collective intake of breath, a moment
When the future seemed to hang in the air,
as terrifying as it was wondrous?


Have you, like me, ever sung a carol for the umpteen millionth time and suddenly been struck how odd a line is - a line that you've been singing happily since childhood? That happened to me today, with the line 'the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight'. The hopes, yes; but the fears? Perhaps the writer just tought it sounded good, but I thought it was a bit interesting. Anyway...

...Happy Christmas, all.






Friday, December 15, 2006

Fast God

This was written in response to a comment from a friend of mine, about how previous cultures have changed so slowly that they respond well to the concept of a God who is unchanging throughout the ages; but that our culture is so fast-moving, we almost need a fast God to relate to.

I need a fast God.
A new, shiny, press-the-red-button-now, God.
Not for me the Rock of Ages
I want an Alpha that reaches Omega in 0 - 60 seconds.
I don't need Eternal or Unchanging
I need automatic updatees
regular texts to my mobile.
I don't want a narrow path; I want a broadband
God, interactive and digital.
I need perfect reception at all times and in all places
and the option to select the shuffle mode
whenever I'm uncertain about what it is I really want.
A fast God won't keep me waiting
The dark night of the soul is but a flutter of the eyelids.
Fast God promises same day delivery within a two-hour window.
Fast God understands
He knows about deadlines and commitments
Fast God sets the pace
target-setting and goal -orientated.
Fast God is a front-runner
an early adopter
a flexible friend.
Fast God is my God
He deals in seconds, not millenia.
Kapow! Kapow! What's next?...
Blink and you'll miss Fast God
He's already over the hills and far away
Look carefully, and you'll see his comet trail
moving beyond the speed of light.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Frozen

We had the privilege of being part of a fab planning team for the latest Foundation BigService, with the theme 'Frozen'. As always arranging a big alt worship service was time consuming, hard work that left us feeling a bit frayed around the edges; however, the experience of being amongst such a warm (how ironic!) group of people on the night who were so engaged and positive about what we had prepared made it all worthwhile. Highlights for me were: building an enormous pile of ice cubes, lit from below; listening to six separate voices coming from speakers around the space, all talking about their own experiences of being 'frozen' with respect to God, to other people and to the problems of the world; watching peoples' faces as they listened to a story, wonderfully told by Richard Trouncer, and originally written by Hans Christian Anderson - there are some things you never grow out of; reading a meditation that I'd written with very careful timing to a song by Damien Rice, 'Cold Water', and realising that, yes, I was going to get the timing right!; singing along to a Nina Simone track, rearranged (with a hint of Hi-Energy disco!) by Jez Nash, and with new words - boy we had fun!; and being part of the party atmosphere at the end, as we read and swapped pledges to do something, change something, become something more like Christ.

But most of all I enjoyed this service because it was the first one that my eldest daughter, Jordan, came to. Actually that's not true: she was a regular attender of alt worship, back in the days when we had energy and used to do this sort of thing once a month. As a baby she would be dragged along every time, and even the thanksgiving after her birth was as part of an alt worship service. Then we decided that we needed to institute a regular bedtime, so that was that...

But now she's 12 so along she came, with a friend, having recorded one of the 6 voices at the start so that she instantly felt part of things. She loved it: playing with ice, playing with fire, sitting on the floor, watching DVDs (not so keen on the footage of Anthony Gormley's Crosby Beach installation, but she loved Ice Age at the end!) and - the best bit of all - ice lollies produced 'as if by magic' from underneath the whopping great pile of ice cubes at the end of the service! What's not to love?

I really appreciated the chance to show Jordan what it is we are doing, all those times we've closeted ourselves away for planning meetings, to write, to record and to photograph. To explain why she gets dragged to odd shops to buy even odder things. And to give her chance to see that there is more than one way of doing 'church', and that it takes all kinds of people to make up God's Kingdom.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mission Unslimable

I can't sleep at the moment.

Reasons for this are many and varied, but they can all be neatly summarised by the sentence: too much going on in my head.

Work is a pig; we are furiously planning the next Foundation service (which we love doing, but do get a wee bit carried away in terms of time and energy involved); Mother-in-law is in hospital; it's Annie's birthday in 2 weeks; we're having some decorating / tidying jobs done on our house, getting ready to go on the market in the New Year; I'm involved in planning for the St Matts Carol Service, and Richard for Advent services; and Christmas approacheth rapidly. Meanwhile I'm trying to come off one of the immunosuppressant tablets for Lupus, so am likely to feel a bit achy and tired for the next few weeks. Bah.

At this time of year everything in the body clock screams, 'Hibernate!', yet somehow we all start pedalling faster. Barking. I feel a bit better since last night, when I sat down and made a Grand List of everything that needed doing, at least on the home front. I may not have actually done any of it, but there will be much rejoicing as things start getting ticked off. We Control Freaks know how to have a good time.

Anyway...I can't sleep. I spend a not inconsiderable time getting to sleep in the first place, then I typically wake up, WIDE awake, at around 5am. Sometimes I lie there, reminding myself to close my eyes occasionally. Sometimes I get up and do something useful. When I go downstairs at that hour there is ALWAYS at least one slug at the far end of our kitchen, often with a tell-tale slime trail across the cat food. The size of these slugs can be quite surprising, considering their method of infiltration...

(Cue 'Mission Impossible' theme music...)

Up the outside wall, squeeze through an air brick, across the dusty wasteland underneath a stair, squeeze through a tiny crack in the floorboards and...Voila!

Now I come to think of it, the one I flung back into the garden this morning had a look of Tom Cruise about him. Stocky. Petulant. Given to odd religious beliefs. Unnaturally striaght teeth.

I think I need more sleep.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Very Expensive Photo


We've been back a week after our latest trip Oop North (Cumbria, Liverpool and friends in Flintshire) but things have been as hectic as ever chez Wheeler so this the first chance to blog. We stayed in Ambleside for our first trip to the Lakes, and very nice it was too, apart from the almost perpetual gloom (weather-wise, not mood-wise). After almost despairing of seeing any blue sky the sun briefly made an appearance over Windermere so Richard pulled into a little jetty so I could take some photos.

Unfortunately Richard failed to notice the extremely expensive-looking and low-to-the-ground Porsche that pulled up behind us, which he subsequently 'nudged' whilst reversing out, enough to make a minor alteration to the Porche's paintwork.

The Porsche owner was as relaxed about this as Porsche owners typically are. There will soon be an insurance claim that will necessitate paying £100 excess.

I took two photos. That's £50 per photo. They're not even my best photos. As luck would have it, it turns out that Cumbria is particularly photogenic in the gloom. Nevertheless, they are my most expensive photos ever, so that's what you're going to get.

Please enjoy it an appropriate amount.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Holey Ground

Friday nights are a bit frantic for us, involving multiple trips as taxi service to our offspring. This Friday also included 2 trips to the vet, firstly to get an extra catbox and then to take both cats for their annual check, jabs etc. Apparently one of our cats is well on his way to being toothless. This should lower the dead frog quota significantly.

Anyway, Richard was on his way back from the 6th trip of the evening, driving at about 15 mph (fortunately) when he drove onto a metal plate that had been covering a large hole, 2 foot deep. The council have been digging up the road leading into ours to lay a fibre-optic cable (why? I have no idea) all the way from Council House to Outer Mongolia. Allegedly. All the safety barriers had been 'entertainingly' pushed to the opposite side of the road, presumably by mischevious little pixies (and nothing at all to do with the gang of 15-year-olds that regularly congregate in this area). Some passers-by helped push the car back out of the hole, and eventually Richard and a rather shaken-up child arrived back home, safe and sound. Being a good citizen Richard put all the barriers back, then phoned the police to alert them to the strong possibility that the barriers may mysteriously walk the following evening. I bet Bristol police can think of nothing better to do on a Saturday night that guarding 4 plastic barriers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not so sweet home


So we went to see the house on Saturday but it was no good. Actually, it was perfect upstairs, but a tad on the poky side downstairs with too many of the walls actually required to hold things up. Annie was very good about it, seeing as she had the carrot of a wonderful big bedroom dangled in front of her only to be cruelly snatched away. It reminded me of the photo I took of her gazing wistfully at this bit of art, above. Actually that's about the actual size of her current bedroom.

What we really want now is to swap the top of our house with the top of the one we saw on Saturday. When I was shopping for a wedding dress (i.e. when about to get married: this isn't some weird fetish story) me and me mum went to a local dressmaker who brought out album after album of designs, and kept repeating her catch phrase like a little mantra: "Of course, you can have the top of any of 'em with the bottom of another". I wonder if she does architecture, too?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Having decided that we need to move to a house, somewhere in the same area but with a bigger bedroom for the child we keep in a cupboard and a second bathroom for the child who's traumatised by using the same bathroom as her father in the mornings (yes, I know: social services) we've been keeping our eyes open for possibilities even though we were aiming to put our place on the market after Christmas. However, a strong contender has just come up so last week I went to see it on my own and tomorrow we're all going, with a builder in tow to see which walls can be demolished without the whole thing collapsing.
This has led me to think about what my real aspirations are for a new house. Yes, of course I want Annie to have room for all her Sylvanian animals, and Jordan (and Richard) to have a bit of privacy; but for me personally, the list is something like this:
  • I want 4 toilets. That's one each, and everyone has to clean their own. No more arguments. Brilliant!
  • I'd like one of the toilets to be a big downstairs loo with a big bookshelf where I can keep all those interesting / quirky books that say to visitors, 'look how interesting and quirky I am'.
  • I'd like unlimited storage space for shoes. Every woman's dream.
  • I'd like an underfloor heating / cooling system, that senses how hot or cold my feet are and automatically adjusts to my (no-one else's, obviously) particular needs.
  • The children's bedrooms should be soundproofed, but there should be an intercom from the kitchen to their rooms so I can call them for food etc.
  • I want a balcony out from my bedroom with a vista of Capability Brown landscaped parkland. Seems unlikely, in inner-city Bristol.
  • I want a serene room, preferably all white with a digital projector and a great sound system. Lots of squashy beanbag chairs. An icon. And nothing else.
  • I want a big kitchen with a great big table that will accomodate lots of friends and family.
But really, more than anything, I want a home where people feel able to kick off their shoes, curl up in a favourite old chair and be themselves.

At the 'Blah' event on emerging church that ran in the summer, one of the points raised that stuck with me was the need to 'teach' hospitality. It's a bit sad that any teaching is required. But it made me think, what have I got to learn in this area? I've always thought of myself as very hospitable, but really, I reckon it's very much on my terms. I want people to come, but only when I'm ready for them (cushions plumped, mess tidied, lipstick on). I want people to eat, but only when the food's up to standard. I want people to feel welcomed into our family, but only if I manage to give the impression that I never shout at the kids, we never row over who last cleaned the toilet, and we only ever read / watch edifying books / TV programmes.

It made me think about homes I've visited where I feel instantly 'at home', and what makes me feel that way. The sort of homes where you can literally turn up unannounced but not feel a burden. Where friends don't feel they have to entertain you, but can just as easily sit and watch a rubbish TV programme together as listen to your latest news. Where you're not treated like royalty, but instead are invited to help with the washing up.

I think the basic lesson for me is: control freakery does not good hospitality make.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Balloon Debate

Last Sunday our new vicar Mat did a nice little introduction to the theme of the Holy Spirit using a balloon. The analogy ran: we are the balloon. Without the Spirit we are flat and lifeless. We must allow the Spirit not only to fill us, but also to shape and fashion us (cue balloon modelling) into what we are called to become. In addition, just as a balloon leaks air so we 'leak' the Spirit, and so need continually re-filling.

Now, I'm no stranger to analogies in a church context, and particularly not to analogies re: the Holy Spirit (or HS, as I'm suddenly going to abbreviate). Anyone who has grown up in a charismatic context will have come across something similar at some point, and I can't say it's ever bothered me before. What set me thinking was that Mat prefaced the balloon demo by saying that ALL Christians have the HS - and quite right too say I - and that churches need to beware of somehow communicating that there are better classes of Christians (i.e. 'Spirit-filled' ones), or of forcing people into a painfully forced waiting game, whereby they are desperately seeking 'proof' that they are Spirit-filled. Again, Amen say I.

BUT...if we leak...can we leak terminally? Can we become so deflated that we no longer 'have' the Spirit...in which case, are we still Christians? This is the question that started to rumble around my theologically inept brain.

Now obviously this is a total failure to take the analogy for what it is - an analogy. My concern wasn't really that my HS supply might run down to terminal level. It was that we have become so familiar with certain analogies that we actually start to believe them, at face value. We discussed this as a family, asking the girls what images they could think of for the HS in the Bible. They came up with wind, water, flame, prescence and dove. But there are more, which may fit better with the culture into which they were speaking. I think we've taken a couple on board so strongly that we're in danger of imagining that the Spirit actually exists in gaseous or liquid form.

And that idea of being filled, or even 'having' the Spirit...it could suggest that the HS is not free to come and go as he/she chooses. There, I've got the Spirit - the lid's on - trapped, like a wasp in a jar. And you can't have it.

There's nothing wrong with any of these analogies. But one analogy will not sum up the essence of God. Nor will each analogy - even if straight from the pages of the Bible - be helpful for everyone (everyone knows someone, if not themselves, who would run kicking and screaming from any consideration of God as Father, for example!)

Maybe it's time we came up with some new stories, with some new language, to reflect the little glimpses each of us have received of God in the world we live in. Here's my stab:

We are each computer hard drives, and God is the Voice that calls to us. The computer cannot understand the Voice, however long and patiently the Voice calls to the computer. But with the installation of voice recognition software the computer can begin to make sense of the sounds and to form them into words on a screen, words that could communicate what the Voice is saying to others. When the software is first installed the words sometimes come out wrong. The Voice might say, 'Be at peace', but the computer might hear, 'Eat some peas'. This is not the fault of the Voice, nor of the computer, nor of the voice recognition software. It is a problem that is only solved gradually, over time, as the three work together repeating and listening and correcting; so the patterns and nuances of the Voice become more and more familiar, and the computer is able to more faithfully transmit the message that the Voice is wanting to share.

OK so it's not poetry. But getting away from worrying about balloons and their capacity to leak was probably a healthy move for me.

Deep Thoughts: more in the same vein

Hurrah! Thanks to the Scientologists' persistent mailings to our address I have now got an explanation of one of Shakespeare's more taxing soliliquays, all in plain English, courtesy of Mr L. Ron Hubbard. I quote directly from his article entitled 'Duplication - Cause and Effect':

'How long do you think you would actually survive in the state you're in right now if you couldn't be freely an effect? If you couldn't be an effect, for instance, of food, of shade, of water, you certainly wouldn't survive very long. Survival itself, when we get into the field of survival, is utterly dependant upon an individual being able to be an effect. But as he becomes less and less able to be an effect, so he more and more has to struggle to survive. And the struggles to survival is the struggle to be an effect but not to be an effect.
And that was what Shakespeare meant...when he wrote "to be or not to be".'

I swear I'm not making this stuff up.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Shawnie

I've just finished reading Shawnie by Ed Trewavas. Wow. One of the least enjoyable books I've ever read, but utterly compelling. Written by a Bristol social worker and in first person Bristolian dialect it unravels the mess that is one family from Knowle West's life. I say family, but it's nothing like family as I've experienced it. Drink, drugs, violence, abuse, neglect all viewed as some kind of norm.

In the dermatology department where I work we see a wide social mix, none more so than in Day Care. Here we largely treat people with serious psoriasis, often exacerbated by a certain amount of self-neglect or at least non-concordance with treatment. Those referred for day care have to attend Monday to Friday, so have to have understanding bosses or not be in work. Generally there is are a fair few on our books with alcohol issues, since alcohol is a trigger for psoriasis AND rules out the option of treating their condition with certain medication. So you can get a picture of our clientele. And there are times, talking to some people who repeatedly turn up at random times of day because they lost track of time down the pub or whatever, that you feel that all the health promotion in the world isn't going to help. It's not as if their skin problem, severe though it may be, IS the problem - it's merely the symptom.

More than anything, reading Shawnie underlined to me how useless I am in such situations. I may as well be talking another language. In fact, that's exactly what I'm doing.

I don't know whether to recommend Shawnie, as I'm still feeling the after-effects of reading it. But I'm glad I did. I don't think it told me anything I didn't already know. But it managed to speak with authentic voices, rather than a white middle-class health worker's report.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Darfur

heat and dust
bigbellied growling
homeless
homeless
jangaweed take it
raped my mother
raped my sister
took my hope
took my pride
desert dweller
big belly growling
taste of sand
taste of fear
dessicated
no hope no hope
white bones scattered
white dust blowing
all forgotten
all forgotten
raped my mother
killed my father
sound of gunfire
sound of crying
sound of no one
come to rescue...
no home no home
desert dweller
dry and empty
white dust blowing
took my mother
took my father
took my land
took my faith
sound of crying
sound of weeping
nohopenohope
no
tomorrow


2 million displaced
450 000 dead
Countless crimes against humanity

Make it stop

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Arnos Vale


Half-remembered by those a generation removed
you lie still.
A footprint in the dust of our imagination.
Do you remember us?
Beloved...
Do you still love?
Or is your mind overgrown
by the creeping greening of the years
as even your stone sinks back
into oblivion.

Blue Glass

We went to Bristol Blue Glass factory on Saturday, as part of the excellent 'Bristol Doors Open' annual event. Having seen lots of Bristol blue glass for sale I had always imagined that there was a small army of glass blowers puffing away in the wilds of Brislington. Not so. The man who did the talky bit of the demonstration said that there were four of them who produced most of the BBG, 2 assistants and 2 craftsmen (yes, they were all men) working in 2 teams. Apparently it takes around 7 years to train up a craftsman. I reckon that's longer than it takes for a doctor to train to be a surgeon (thinking of another job that requires painstaking skill with the hands!) It takes 4 years just to be able to assist properly - to execute the seamless dance that involves moving the irons around the kilns, blowing at the right moment, adding the right size blob of glass to make a handle, a stopper or whatever, whilst the craftman shapes and coaxes the molten glass into a recognisable and perfect form.

Apparently recruitment is a problem. They don't seem to have many up-and-coming apprentices to fill the slots, should any of those 4 decide to chuck it all in. It's not a nice job in the summer, when the heat from the sun makes the kiln heat unbearable. And whilst it must be wonderful to be able to create beauty from such an unpromising start, in order to be able to do so one must undertake the creation in an exacting and repetitive fashion, so that all the joy must get sucked out of it.

We came away feeling strangely anxious about the whole thing.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It's all about cake

So this is what my life has come to. I spent a ridiculous amount of time last Saturday making a birthday cake for Jordan's 12th b'day party. She and her friends are oddly obsessed with penguins, hence the fondant icing beasties we made for the cake. Believe me, you haven't known stress until you've tried to assemble the body, head, tummy, feet, eyes, beak and wings of a miniature icing penguin - x3 - then attach an icing scarf, a cocktail stick fishing rod and a little jelly fish - all whilst simultaneously cooking a family meal. I can also say that it's quite difficult trying to get black food colouring off your hands afterwards. No wonder Jane Asher always looks a bit spaced out. She's probably maxed out on Prozac, just to get herself through the horror of personally assembling all those cakes.

It was somewhat ironic therefore that, in my new capacity as Acting Senior Sister, the task that involved the most initiative, decision-making, power and money this week was - ordering a cake for someone who's leaving. And no, I didn't offer to make it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Acting Up

Bit of a weird week this. I went into work fresh from the Bank Holiday, blissfully unaware that my boss was about to drop a bombshell on the department. She's just been offered a secondment for 3 months but possibly up to a year, and has 'asked' me to cover her post whilst away. I don't really have a choice - for one thing, I don't want a stranger put in post above me, and for another, I'd be a fool to say no. So, as of next Tuesday I'm the Acting Senior Sister. Or ASS, as my father kindly pointed out.

This is all well and good, but somehow I still have to fit in all the clinical stuff I'm already doing. AND not get sick - I've had a flare-up of lupus each October for the past 3 years, and was looking at how I could make September easier as I'm sure my flare-ups are associated with the extra busy-ness that September brings to the Wheeler household, courtesy of being married to an assistant head at the start of the autumn term (I'm married to him at other times too, but you know what I mean. Don't be difficult).

SO...what can I do to make life easier? Thoughts so far...
  • DON'T get involved in organising an alternative worship service in September. Even if they ask you to write the theme toon.
  • Don't start watching any high-commitment US drama a la 24, The West Wing, The Sopranos etc. It means late nights and endless energy-sapping speculation about what will happen next.
  • Teach the cats to forage for their own food. This should also work for the children.
  • Rather than washing the clothes, spray on Febreze. Rather than washing the children, spray on furniture polish.
  • Don't bother to read the book for book club this month. Instead, turn up and nod sagely, using occasional well-placed sentences such as 'I thought it had rather a Dickensian whimsy', or 'Could you pass me the olives, please? Oh yes, and the red wine...'
  • Put all the Christmas decoration up now, and insist that I can't possibly clean the house while the decs are up. Should be good till January.

An Annual Pilgrimage

Well it's a few days after Greenbelt and it's about time I said something about the weekend. We do a bit of a hit-and-run on Greenbelt, due to the fact that younger offspring needs delivering to Brownie camp on the Friday and then picking up on the Monday. So we arrive at Cheltenham racecourse at 9am, get 2 day tickets, and stay until Sunday evening, with older offspring in tow. Having a 12-year-old with us partially dictates our choices of events, even if she is a) remarkably patient, b) far cooler than her parents and c) perfectly content to sit for long periods in the organic beer tent, so long as she has a good book. So : the highlights...
  • The Psalm Drummers - even if we were reduced to drumming on our thighs, each other etc due to an underestimation of numbers wanting to attend a drumming workshop
  • Jon McGregor's session on writing his second novel. It was a revelation to discover that real published Booker-longlisted authors struggle with pretty much the same obstacles as the rest of us who mess about with words
  • I'm sorry I haven't a poo - no, it wasn't big OR clever but it was funny
  • the clay city (above) - despite the fact that Jordan and I made a wonderful roundhouse with a thatched roof and a candle on top, that promptly collapsed beneath the weight of its own pretensions as soon as we tried to move it. We were reduced to building a Barratt home instead. Kevin McCloud never has these problems.
  • The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. Ukeleles! In unison! Playing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'! What's not to love?!
  • A delightful seminar on Rublev's icon of the Trinity and the emerging church. Which I understood, thanks for asking.
  • And of course, it goes without saying: Bruce Stanley's session on 'Naked Wishing', Bea's sculpture and Foundation's shed were all wonderful. And I'm not just saying that.
Unfortunately we had to leave way before the major Foundation undertaking of the 'Breath' service, though Richard and I had fun at Jez Nash's last week doing the vocals for the song what we had wrote. Richard feels that his role in Foundation is akin to that of the Little Britain take on Dennis Waterman...'So, you want me to write the theme toon, an' sing the theme toon...?' Rich and Jez are a third of the way towards their first album. Which makes me a groupie.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lindisfarne

Break from the old routine

Hurrah! Have survived first week back at work following 2 weeks holidays. Usually that first week is exceptionally hellish, but it turned out OK, possibly because our holiday was a wee bit cold, wet and hard work so anything else felt like a rest!
We made it Oop North, tent at the ready, just in time for the severe weather warning for the area where we had been hoping to camp. The Angel of the North was all but blotted out by the driving rain as we trawled past. Still, he stood there with his rusted arms outstretched, though whether it was a gesture of welcome or a plea for someone to relocate him to the south-east, it was difficult to tell. Consequently we kept heading North in the hope that we would run out of weather, which we eventually did, happily before we ran out of land. In Edinburgh, to be precise, which was a very buzzy place to be a week before the start of the Festival.
In all we visited Staffordshire (relatives), the Yorkshire Dales, Durham (old friends), Edinburgh, Lindisfarne (see photo), Alnwick, Northumbria including Hadrian's Wall / Vindolanda, and then spent a week in a cottage near Whitby before trundling back via friends in York and a visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There were days with sunshine (as evidenced by photo), though not the day we booked to horse ride, unfortunately! Above all we loved the freedom of not knowing where we would go or even where we would sleep that first week. Both sets of friends were visited more by luck than judgement, too, and it was a fab opportunity to rehearse some old jokes and to realise why we had become friends in the first place,
Despite the freedom I was still glad to get home to find my own bed, some clean clothes, and a message from the lady who feeds our cats to say that they had brought home 1 frog and a baby squirrel in our absence. Not bad for inner city cats.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Easy like Sunday Morning


I'm involved with planning the all-age worship at St Matts & Nats. During the summer school holidays we do a series in morning services, some of which are all-age events and some offer a choice of listening to a sermon or attending a workshop - this offers an activity based on the theme for anyone who would prefer a bit of cutting and sticking (or whatever) to normal church fodder. Come worship at the church of Saint (Blue) Peter, if you will. Yesterday kicked off the series on our mission links. Apart from the planning, I did the intercessions, and dragged my eldest daughter in for reading them. Unfortunately she is nasally challenged, thanks to the continuing high pollen count; so all her worbs cabe out a bit wrog. Also unfortunately (and no doubt due to the heat, along with the sleep deprivation we're all struggling with) the service leader got a bit muddled, and I had to invent a second part to the prayers on the spot. I usually love being creative under pressure, but was further hampered by the absence of a pen, and the presence of a daughter who hadn't got a clue what was going on. All good fun...is it just me, or does anyone else feel that the concept of a 'day of rest' is slipping away from them?

Relaxation was further hampered by the return of my dear husband, back from a folk festival and throwing up. Marvellous. Both girls had arranged seperate trips with friends to seperate cinemas, the youngest to see a 12A movie at an 8-year-old's BD party (Pirates of the Carribbean: so that's them sorted for nightmares for the week. Bill Nighy as a squid is enough to terrify anyone) and the eldest to see a PG (Stormbreaker, this time with Bill Nighy as Norman Tebbit, from what I could tell. Enough to give me nightmares). Eventually got back from all the ferrying around to find husband less green but more grey. Which went with the bathroom tiles better.

Roll on the holidays. Unfortunately we're not going to Kefalonia (Myrtos Bay, above), we went there in June; we're off for a cheapskate camp Up North instead. Still, chance to get out of the city heat is always good.

Monday, July 10, 2006

You can come out from behind the sofa...

Bit of a couch potato weekend, owing to me feeling rather under the weather (gasping for breath, more like!). The TV obliged by providing some serious entertainment - tennis, football and the main event, the last episode of Doctor Who. We have all thoroughly enjoyed this series, even though the kids watch it from the time-honoured positions of behind the sofa or under a blanket (or if feeling brave, through their fingers). Annie (who is 8) was almost inconsolable when the Doctor and Rose were separated in their own parallel worlds. It was a great storyline, even if a rip-off of the end of the Philip Pullman 'His Dark Materials' trilogy (good ideas deserve more than one airing!)
I have a habit of coming up with silly ditties whilst returning home from the school run. This one made it to paper. It was a response to the concerns of parents that Dr Who is too scary; and also the new moves by the health & safety council to lighten up a bit wrt playground safety, in order to let kids experience a little danger in a controlled environment. Which makes it sound more profound than it is. Really this sort of writing is just a way of putting off something more important.

You can come out from behind the sofa, children
We’ve made it safe for you to come and play
The bumps within the night have all been silenced
The devils, beasts and ghouls have gone away.

You can come out from behind the sofa, children
We’ve cleared the monsters underneath the beds
The bogeyman is working down in Woolworths
The Big Bad Wolf has gone and lost his head.

The Daleks have been flat-packed into storage
The Cybermen recycled into cans
The White Witch has been cryogenically frozen
Baloo has got the better of Shere Khan

You can come out from behind the sofa, children
The Hearty Queen’s been dealt a fatal blow
Voldermort’s been permanently spellbound
Cruella’s wearing fake fur, just for show

Jaws is all wired up and eating plankton
Darth Vadar has been forced to breathe his last
The Joker’s told his last joke to the Penguin
The Wicked Witch has melted down the pan.

You can come out from behind the sofa, children
The ghost of Christmas past’s faded to grey
Even Noddy’s got the better of those goblins
And Toytown’s now a nicer place to play.

Captain Hook is wearing woolly mittens
Smaug the dragon’s fires have been put out
The Demon Head is stuck doing detention
A hundred lines: ‘I will not scream and shout!’

You can come out from behind the sofa, children
We’ve made the world a better place for you:
We’ve neutralised it, sanitised it, shake-n-vac and sterilised it –

For monsters only ever spoil the view.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's my birthday, and I'll xxxx if I want to...

So today's the day I hit the grand old age of 39 (and holding...). Mostly birthdays consist of fairly predictable and well-worn traditions and conventions, such as present-opening, binge drinking and cake eating - enjoyable, true, but hardly unconventional or even individual. It strikes me that on one's birthday certain things should be not only permissable but actively encouraged.
1. The birthday girl or boy should walk around in their birthday suit all day. Everyone else should comment on their beauty, feeling that not having a similar shape body is in some way a personal fault.
2. Johnny Depp (insert name of choice here, obviously) should be your alarm clock for the day, breaking it to you gently that despite it being your birthday, you still have to go to work.
3. All restaurants, attractions, air travel etc should be free - with or without a Blue Peter badge.
4. On pressing the red button now the birthday individual should find a tailor-made evening of entertainment should they find themselves at a loose end. For me this would mean: the Six 0'clock News (read by Johnny Depp); Trinny and Susannah (makeover with Johnny Depp in a 360 degree mirror); House; The West Wing; Don Juan de Marco (starring Johnny Depp); and one of those channel five 'my body seems to have done something peculiar that will gross you out' programmes (preferably involving an unfortunate individual with a highly specialised medical problem that in all other respects looks rather suspiciously like a Mr J Depp).
5. The weather will be perfect, and not at all so stinking hot that it makes everyone smelly and bad-tempered.

...come the revolution, eh? Failing that I had an enjoyable day despite working and despite the weather, probably due in part to my determination to binge-cake eat all day.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006



London Eye, Feb, 2006: I don't generally do photos of me. Too many lovely things to look at in this world, and I'm normally the one behind the lens in our house. Richard took this one - I just told him where to point the camera!
Life in the Wheelybin

Our computer seems to have Alzheimer's. It had trouble with a fan not cutting in, and whilst overheating it lost some of its faculties. Some days it's fine, some days it can't remember where it last put its spectacles. It certainly can't remember the time, so it looks like I do all my blogging / emailing at 4am. Next it will forget the name of the Prime Minister.
This is yet another glitch in the long line of electrical failures in our household. In the 16 years we have been married Richard and I have been through a staggering number of fridges, freezers, washing machines, irons, kettles and alarm clocks. We seem to carry an electrical Bermuda Triangle with us wherever we go.
The new Bristol rubbish collection scheme is taxing me, as well. Whilst I applaud the council for sorting out kerbside recycling collections, there are too many rules and regs for my liking. Food goes in the brown bin, but not garden waste. You have to pay extra for that. Cardboard will be collected, but only if it's loose - no tidying it into bags or boxes or they won't collect it. If it blows all over the road, however, they will pick it up. Wheelybins will be emptied fortnightly, and no sneaking extra bags on top of them. And plastic will be recycled, but only if you drive to a recycling centre with it.
So - our house is the one with the cloud of flies over the brown bin; the pile of garden waste awaiting transfer to the tip cos' we haven't room for a green wheelybin; and the mountain of cardboard, complete with eggboxes blowing down the street. And our car's the one with a bootful of plastic bottles.
The Joy of Scabs

It's conference season in the wonderful world of dermatology nursing. The big conference is in Manchester this year, only I'm avoiding it this time. Reasons not to go:
1. I'd have to present, either as a poster or a 15-minute powerpoint job, which would mean I'd have to do an audit, research or some new initiative. Last time I did this (oral pres on iontophoresis audit, 2003) I nearly wet myself. TMI?
2. It's in Manchester.
3. Organising the family (meals, PE kits, homework, cat feeding etc) is too much like hard work.
4. The welcome drinks event is in fancy dress. Our gang (Bristol secondary and primary care specialist nurses) are dressing in pink with yellow curly wigs, as 'a pride of pustules'. They HAVE no pride...
5. Last time I went my younger daughter refused to speak to me on my return. And then sobbed uncontrollably. It was nice to be missed, though.
6. Did I mention, it's in Manchester?

Instead I have to present a case study on Friday at a 'Skin Club' Bristol is hosting for specialist derm nurses. Not that I'm obsessed, but I'm speaking about iontophoresis again. I seem to be one of the few nurses in the country genuinely interested in electrocuting people who sweat too much. I can't understand why.
Deep Thoughts: an occasional series...

Ever since we moved into our house 11 years ago we have been receiving mail for someone who lived here quite a while before us, who was a Scientologist (or on the wrong mailing list!). Despite our best attempts (ringing the UK office, emailing the US office, taking out a contract on their lives...) we still get an average of one mailshot a week. Mostly it's straight into recycling; sometimes I read it, just to break the monotony. Today's epistle from L. Ron Hubbard reads:
'The first principle on which we operate is that Flag auditing must be absolutely flawless, completely flubless and there are no failed sessions and there are no flubs. And this is not done by strain; this is done by excellent auditing presence and the auditor runs the session and the pc has nothing to do with it except answer the auditing questions and get well. ..There are no different pcs. There aren't any pcs who are good and pcs who are bad and pcs this and pcs that from the auditor's viewpoint.'
Clear?
It made me wonder how the language we use in 'regular' church, such as the Anglican one I am part of, or the 'emerging' church such as Foundation, sounds to someone outside looking in. Surely we don't use that much jargon...do we?
But maybe the impenetrable nature of the language used here is part of the attraction, further confirmation that you're part of the 'in' crowd.
Certainly I can't wait for the opportunity to use the phrase 'completely flubless' in a sentence.
Douglas takes another bath...

As someone who fancies herself as a writer...well, occasionally, but not whilst drinking alcohol and never on a full stomach...I am much cheered by Douglas Adams accounts of dealing with writer's block. Actually most of his strategies seemed to avoid any attempts to write at all, so 'dealing with' is probably too strong a description...most of these strategies took him well away from his keyboard, and often involved bath-taking of epic proportions.
Despite being a pretty well-organised and deadline-focussed person I find that my abilities to avoid actually getting on with writing are becoming ever more creative. All of them are, however, without exception, totally useless and unproductive things to do. If only I could waste time by, say, weeding or ironing or cleaning or any of the other unpromising but necessary tasks...instead I find myself reading blogs, planning holidays that I will probably never take, or researching the best party games for a 9-year-old's birthday party.
At least Douglas was clean, if a long way from published.