Thursday, March 29, 2007


We have been awaiting the arrival of a couple of new sofas - remember from an earlier post, this necessitated a hasty facelift to the back lounge. Well the phone call came through to tell us on Tuesday afternoon that they would be delivered today. We had exhausted all but one possibility for taking delivery of them. Yes, it fell to me to take a day off work. Fortunately I had some scope; technically my holidays fall in the school holidays, having a term time only contract. However, I am not required to work all INSET days. We do have an INSET coming up the day after the Easter break so I said I would work that and take today as a day in lieu. We were unable to pin them down as to a time, even so far as morning or afternoon. Eventually they arrived at 4.30 - half an hour after my normal finish time! The delivery men enlightened me as to the fact that this was the last drop of the day. Funny how they didn't know this yesterday or even this morning. I think I would have preferred to be the first drop of tomorrow's round! Ah well, at least they're here, as you can see.
And how is the kitchen getting on? Well, as you can see, it is looking a bit better, having been plastered and painted. But we have considerably less in the way of furniture. The cooker is kind of, stand alone, which makes cooking a challenge. No handy bits of worktop to rest a spoon or a plate on. It's worse than camping. All the food, including the fridge/freezer is in the dining room next to the kitchen. The cutlery and crockery is all out there too. The pans are in the garage. The other night I was meticulously measuring boiling water into a pan. Only after I'd almost finished did I discover a dead silverfish. Well, I expect he was alive until I immersed him in boiling water!
We have had all the wiring done now so having de-constructed, we will hopefully soon be re-constructing.

See ya!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring has sprung.

Funny how nature seems to be in on the secret about the clocks going forward. Yesterday I took this photo on my way to work. OK, granted, the sun was not greatly in evidence, but there was something lovely about the morning mist and the bed of naturalised daffodils on the grass verge by the bus stop. I love daffodils, and the way that they grow in this particular location make it one of my favourite spots. There are prettier places in the world, sure, but it is the fact that this spectacle is totally gratis, a pure act of grace, in this mundane spot, make it very special to me. In the same place this morning, I spent a good two or three minutes watching a humble earthworm make the arduous journey from the rough tarmac pavement onto the soft grass. What a superb start to the day!

On the way home I was walking down the road when I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and spied a little mouse. Oblivious to me, he trotted along in an unhurried manner, stopped to investigate some potential food source, then scampered up a little sandstone wall into a garden. I got such a good view of his world. He was a very healthy looking little mouse and for a moment I wanted to pick him up and take him home! Of course I wouldn't but I did take with me the blessing of having briefly made his acquaintance. As I travelled onwards toward home the birds competed against each other with their joyous song to a benevolent creator.

Spring has sprung.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Longing to belong...

There is nothing that I want more than to feel that I belong. But I am not part of the crowd. Forever on the outside looking in. All the time wanting to be at the centre and yet desperate to run away once I get there. Nowhere is this more evident than in a church setting. It is hard to 'belong' in the Catholic church as, like the Anglican churches, we have such large congregations in comparison to many of the free churches. If you've a congregation of thirty, it is easy to get to know everyone. In a Catholic church you are extremely lucky if you know thirty people. I want a nice ready-made community - I don't want to have to work for it. And yet here I am, drawn to irrevocably into trying to build community when it is patently obvious that most don't actually want community - they just want to fulfil the weekly obligation and go home. I don't even have the skills or personality to build community but I feel I have to give it a go. I talk the talk a lot. I try to walk the walk but only manage to stagger about aimlessly. I've been making a concerted effort to do this for 7 years now and it's depressing me. I really try to love people, you know, the old agape business, but I get bugger all back. I know it isn't about what you get out of it but the truth is, I need the encouragement. I know some wonderful people who really care, but I still don't really feel I belong.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yoga and Haworth

I experienced yoga for the first time on Wednesday. I have always fancied having a go, but in recent years I have been slightly put off by the attitude of some of my Christian friends towards it. Frankly, as far as I am concerned, you get out of it what you want to. I am interested in the physical benefits of deep exercise and perhaps even the meditational focus. I believe that if you want to meditate, you can do this with yoga and with a focus on the one true God. To my eyes, approached in this way it is not a million miles away from contemplative prayer in the Christian sense. I am a wee bit bemused by the tendency of some Christians to totally demonise it (and I mean that they do actually believe it is demonic!). But on the other hand, I don't want my friends to think that I might be 'possessèd of a demon'

I felt more comfortable that it was an after work thing at the school and that it was my dear friend K's dad, Mr D, who was taking the class. K is a delight and may I stress, not in the slightest bit demonic! I was honest with her and we discussed it together. She found it really strange. I was encouraged by the fact that C was also going and she is a practising Methodist/URC hybrid. She thought the whole thing was hogwash and made the jolly good point that all goodness has its source in God anyway. So I went and I enjoyed it - except maybe when the Year 9 footy team traipsed in to the hall to get their bags. We were in the process of doing this pushing your abdomen in and out thing while your lungs are emptied of air. Mr D showed his belly to demonstrate this. There was a visible movement for him. My own experience, and I believe, that of many of my classmates, was a mild sensation of quivering belly blubber! Thankfully no bare flesh was on show from us but we made a curious sight to the lads!
Today I went on a trip with the Head of English and some 6th Form English Literature students to Bronte country. This was to enrich their study of the novel Wuthering Heights. A trip to the parsonage, a short talk on the novel and a walk on the moor has hopefully given them a sense of the brooding and often bleak environment in which Emily concocted her famous novel. The story of the Brontes is fascinating. For 3 sisters (ie WOMEN) to all be published novelists, of such a high standard, given their sheltered upbringing and lack of formal education in those times is an astounding achievement. How such creativity could flourish in Haworth, which was as impoverished and unhealthy as some of the poorer districts of London of that time, is nothing short of miraculous.

The quote of the day goes to one likely lad who was looking at posters advertising the showing of the film, Jane Eyre, and commented, "Jane Eyre - did she live round here as well?" I managed to stifle my guffaws which is more than can be said for some of his pals!

It's the way they tell 'em!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting plastered...

Well, we are finally getting our kitchen sorted out. We got an extension to Chéz H about four years ago and our kitchen, with its authentic 1980's chic was in serious need of a facelift. It wasn't until our kitchen fitter's wife, a long term employee of M&S commented that the wallpaper looked like such and such a range that Marksie's used to stock, that the awful realisation dawned on me. It was, indeed, the same design that was on a pair of tea trays that I bought when we first married - some 25 years ago! Later that evening I began to tear bits of the paper off the wall to ensure that there was no going back.

The job is not wildly straightforward. The kitchen was once two small rooms, a kitchen and a breakfast room, on two levels. The floor had been levelled off but the ceilings were still different heights and there was a dip in the corner for the stairwell. Added to this, when the extension was built, we moved the boiler into the garage. This meant that we had horrendous piping (à la ship's boiler room) over the dining room door which had to be boxed in, leading to a somewhat pig's ear appearance. All of these different levels on the ceilings and walls tended to cast a lot of shadows and darken the appearance of the room. This has all been levelled off properly now and so even now it looks brighter.

We also, rather impulsively, decided to renew our sofas in the back lounge. But if you are going to do that, you might as well freshen the room up a bit. So we are going to give it a lick of paint. Hopefully we can manage this before the sofas arrive! To dull the effort and monotony of such chores His Lordship likes to treat himself to the occasional little gift. This time it was a disposable boiler suit. On Saturday he merrily donned himself in his new acquisition. I naturally thought he had intentions to do some work in the lounge but there was not a great deal of evidence of this. This morning I asked him, "So, when you got changed into your paper boiler suit, what did you do, exactly?" "You mean workwise?" I nodded and he mumbled something about the loft and lots of dust. "So, you were just poncing about in it?" His embarrassed laugh said it all. Well, if you can't dress up in a paper suit and pretend to be a forensic investigator in the comfort of you own home...

Of course, what usually happens when you are up to your eyes in muck and bullets? The boiler packs in. We spent a week with no boiler, the front door open all day, holes in the ceiling of the (uninsulated) kitchen ceiling and arctic winds. And £200 for the pleasure of it!

Busy and expensive times.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Take that, you brutes!

I cannot believe the hyperbole surrounding Take That. I mean, they threw in the towel years back to "pursue solo projects" so it was hardly a marriage made in Heaven, was it? They all had a go at something - Gary Barlow had a crack at a solo career, as did Mark Owen, Jason Orange had a bash at acting and I don't know about the ugly one. I guess the royalties must have been running a bit low and Gary needed the cash for a bit of roofing at his impressive home in Delamere. When I heard they were getting back together I thought it might be a one-off novelty concert for Comic Relief or something rather than full blown tours and recording. But no, there were thousands of women of a certain age, who should know better, clamouring for tickets. I was amazed that Beverley Knight was supporting them on tour - surely it should have been the other way around. Anyway, they are a far cry from the fresh-faced boy band they once were (they started that whole awful awful boy band thing - they have a lot to answer for!) They are four, slightly worse for wear looking blokes now. I have to take my hat off to them though, what a clever comment for the postmodern age! They are their own dodgy tribute band! Fake That.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In a confused mood...

The past few days I've been in a confused mood. When I am feeling disgruntled with events in the local church, I go seeking reassurance elsewhere. I don't mean I try a bit of hinduism or wicca or even other churches; I seek to find solace in the greater Catholic church. That is possibly the worst thing you can do in these situations. In 2007 it should be easier than ever to sample the great expanse of Catholic wisdom with the plethora of bloggers out there. So, I'm like, looking for a Catholic blogger who might speak words of comfort to me. Believe me, I have trawled through tons of them in the past few days and it has, at best, been boring and, at worst, an alarming experience. I am sure these people cannot be reflective of the whole church. Where are all the reasonable Catholics? Catholicism may have more rules and regulations than all the other churches put together but we also have conscience. The trouble is that the reasonable Catholics have problems exercising that conscience for fear of the the fascists out there. We have a crisis in vocations at the moment so it is good to see, via the blog medium, that there are a number of young men who are willing to take up the baton and if they are not already in seminary, they are actively engaged in the discernment process. What is scary is the extremist nature in which they choose to express their faith through their blogs. Actually a lot of the more mature priest bloggers are no better. I shudder to think of the damage, actual and potential, which is being done to congregations in the western world. Is this the latest ploy to adjust the priest/lay person ratio? We are having no luck in the vocations department so let's decimate the church-going public. I feel very little of God's extravagent grace once it has been filtered through the medium of these men in black and the church's answer to the Hitler youth.

If you want to avoid fascist Catholic blogs (or find them, if you are a fascist Catholic!) a fairly good rule of thumb is to avoid anything with a Latin name. Other warning signs are ones which have cheesy representations of the Virgin Mary - you know the type. What is it about Roman Catholics? We have always championed art and creativity as a suitable way to glorify God and have a tremendous wealth of Christian art but we still prefer mass produced kitsch. The latest to take up residence in the Catholic psyche is the appalling 'Divine Mercy" image shown above. There are a few variations on this theme doing the rounds but this seems to be the VHS to the others' Betamax and Philips 2000, to use a technological analogy. It follows a basic specification revealed by God to St Faustina. Personally I can't stand the thing. There is something in the almond shaped eyes that reminds me of those grotesque Japanese animé characters.
I blame Mel Gibson for popularising a nostalgic image of the pre-Vatican 2 church. He should stick to acting.
The good thing is that I come out feeling the better the "devil" you know than the "devil" you don't. I'm quite lucky really - at least I don't encounter many fascists in my congregation.