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 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 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.