Tuesday, 30 November 2010

An Advent Gift

Sixty one years ago today,
 (I know this makes me ancient!) 
me and my dad hurried through the snow to a local newsagent where
 an important phone call
was to be made.

Back in those dark and distant days there weren't even public phone  boxes where we lived.
  Can you imagine!

It had been snowing then, as it has been now,
 and it wasn't often I went anywhere with Dad,
so that in itself was exciting enough.

More exciting still was the news we got
 from the phone call that was made for us.
The shop owner,Miss Perkins, took the piece of paper
 with the number to be dialled,
 and made the call to the maternity home in the depths of the country,
 and made the enquiry for us. 

Dad didn't even get to hold the receiver,
 so we both got to hear the news together when
Miss Perkins leaned over the counter and said to me,

"You've got a baby brother!"

My Advent gift!

 Life was never the same again so  
Happy Birthday Broas you roam around the Motor Cycle Show
 just down the road from me in Brum.
(He'll won't see this, but never miss an oportunity to bless somebody with good wishes).

If you would like an Advent gift and are of a Christian persuasion,
or merely curious, there is a lovely one to be found on

when you become a subscriber
you can receive a free download
of the equivalent to an Advent calendar
for your countdown to Christmas.

Keep warm and safe, and
Be Blessed

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Mature Beyond His Years?

The day which started with a glorious walk
in the frosty park yesterday,
(see "Glory in the Morning")
went on to a lovely evening with most of the family.

Our youngest granddaughter Rachel, is at Uni in Sheffield
so was with us just prior to the meal, courtesy of Skype.
(And to think I used to be a Luddite
descrying the encroaching influence of the computer!)

Our gathering was to celebrate
our eldest granddaughter Rebecca's 22nd birthday,
and, from the moment we arrived, her son Zachary kept exhorting us to
"Come on folks, celebrate!"

As we sat at table he leaned forward and said,
"Well, first I'd like to welcome all my guests"

Here he is with his mum preparing to help blow the candles out.

I think he's practicing for the 7th December when he will be 3 years old!

Be Blessed

Friday, 26 November 2010

Glory in the Morning.

While so much of the country is struggling with the early falls of snow,
and treacherous black ice,
we here at the heart of England woke to heavy frost.

Some of us with the luxury of waking l
ater than many,
woke to dazzling blue skies and that brilliant winter sun
that clarifies every detail so it seems freshly minted for you.

The park was especially beautiful.
( I know I think that every day,
but even gloomy days hold some unexpected loveliness).

Of course I hadn't taken my camera,
and hubby had left the house before me to go bow
so I had not been given the usual warning,
- "You'll be sorry if you don't take it."
(O.k. I do usually call it nagging, but you can see I need it).

I'm not sure my lens could have captured the full beauty of it all anyway.

Each leaf newly caught in the sun
had been rhine-stoned over with the finest diama
and crisply finished to perfection.

And there were so many.

Each shape melded with the next
to make a solid garment for the earth;
at least while the frost seams hold to make them chain mail strong.

The bench in the lee of a tree could have been
a wide throne for the the Ice Queen.
Who else could sit upon such an ephemeral veil
of shimmering crystals without obliterating it?
Who else would have blood cold enough to try?

Enough for mere mortals to see it and
move on,
benefiting from the sight of the ordinary made new.

So I walked on,
grateful, and glorying in the beauty of each new detail
assembled under the high blue sky,
with the low sun scrawling long shadows from the trees.
A hidden message, ever moving and changing, written on the earth.

No wonder the impressionists loaded their brushes
with the most vivid colours to capture this
secret, age-old, text.

Then with an inner jolt
I remembered those for whom this glory that I was reveling in
would simply mean more hardship.
Those sleeping in the doorways of the city,
or in some hidey-hole where they might feel a shred more safety or warmth.

I felt the familiar twinges of shame and guilt
that I can do nothing other than open my heart wide in prayer,
and at times my
purse in a gesture of care.

Then I remembered that guilt is not productive,
but the offering of oneself is...
In each moment.
As fully as I can.

So joy, and pain, and the bringing together of the two
march on in the park with me, as in so many, many places.

The frost was already melting as the sun
searched out the corners.

The damp leaves
looking a little sad beside their white coated brothers.
Some still wearing on top of their autumn brown,
a fine ribbing along their veins;
a tracery of the glory that was fast fading.

Be Blessed

P.S. The day after I posted this I got the Christmas appeal from the Salvation Army, who of course always offer help and shelter to the homeless. If you would like to make a gesture of care of your own contact can be made here http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/www_sa.nsf

Monday, 22 November 2010

Creative Processes

Started a new painting.

It was such a luxury
to climb the stairs to my studio under the roof tiles,
and get down to playing.

The luxury came from the fact that
for the first time I can remember
I let hubby trundle off on foot
to do some shopping on his own.

I usually get behind the wheel and act as chauffeur
for all our errands

other than the ones really near home.
- And here I was not even feeling guilty!

I didn't know what I was going to do.
(Nothing new there then).

Always torn between the figurative and abstraction
I let my choice of materials be my start.

Watercolour and inks to begin;
on top of a an initial sketch made with a pen held loosely
with the tips of the fingers
to allow the greatest fluidity of movement.

That was a joy
for the pure love of seeing the form emerge

through the marriage of colour and line.

Next the joy
comes by letting loose with some gestural marks in acrylic.

Then came the texture,
(laying in paint with the palette knife
-impasto - luscious!)

and the beginning of breaking down the figurative form.

How far will I let this go?
And what is the mysterious process
that will come into action to
inform me
when enough is enough?

The deliberate choice to use both abstract and figurative forms
came at the junction of letting the composition grow freely, like Topsy.

Now the decisions will become more crucial.
I already know that there are some tonal issues I need to sort out.

As everybody knows beginning a piece is easy.
It's the final resolution that's the skillful bit.

So the question when next I climb to my eyrie
will be the same exciting one I always carry with me
when I approach a work in progress.

"What now? What now?"

Be Blessed

Winter's Arch

The bells on the winter
clematis hang from
the arch that stands
over the path leading
from our house
through the

Despite the gales,
the heavy rain,
and the first of
winter's frosts,
the delicate fairy bells
remain suspended
on their fine curlicued stems.
Each morning I look out
to see them,
survivors all,
still strung beneath
the lessening leaves
of the rose
which also twines
around the archway.

The duller the day, the more their fragile beauty seems to shine.

Trembling in the cold,
they could almost be
chiming some

Thanks to these pure
little bells our every
trip to the garage,
to the clothes line,
and even to take
our rubbish
to the bins,
is transformed to a trip underneath a bridal arch.

It's the un-looked for little things which transform our lives
isn't it?

Be Blessed

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Hobbit's Garden

I gathered these bits of greenery from my beloved park.

One of the trees had a bough broken off in the storms.

The spikes are what is left when the cones on an evergreen tree disintegrate.

(I can,t say what kind of evergreen tree this is. Though I love trees I am largely ignorant about their particular species, but I think I'm safe in saying this is off a pine)!

Anyway as they were broken off already I couldn't resist bringing a few bits home and I think it was a friend who first called it a hobbit's garden.

If you look closely you will see that some of the cone remnants are still quite brown and fresh.

Others have obviously been hanging
on to the living tree for some time.

May be a winter or two?

They have become quite greened over and pale by comparison to the younger ones.

Still they have hung on.

Tenacious til the final coup de gras.

Still quite attractive too don't you think?

I leave you with that thought!

Green or Brown, Be Blessed !

Monday, 8 November 2010

Never Go Back?

photo courtesy of .walesinstyle.com

I don,t know if any of you read Elizabeth Goudge's novels,
but they are books which,
whatever their setting,
carry with them the fragrance
of some distant sweetness and grace.

A little old-fashioned by today's standards perhaps,
they give voice to our inner longing
for another world,
taking us in,
and for a while helping us
to be inhabitants of that better place.

In all of Goudge's books place is very important,
and almost always the houses in which the action
of the novels occur become
central characters,
every bit as important as
the l
iving protagonists.

I have fallen in love with a good many of the houses
at the heart of Goudge's books,
but for many years I nursed the dream of a house
that seemed as magical as any of her creations,
but which I only half believed I truly remembered
as a real p
though if it
was, I knew where to look for it.
- or so I thought.

Indeed I
did go and look where memory
told me it should be,
- but-
my dream house was not there.

my house after all have originated
in the pages of a book, and become
interwoven with real memories,
making it as insubstantial as a dream?

I remembered, quite rightly,
the details surrounding the dream house,
but like so much of childho
when viewed through the increasing distance
of the kaleidoscope of time,
things had become hazy.

My memories of the holidays on a
n uncle's farm,
and our visits to the village where
I supposed the house to be,
were real enough.

Surely there
had been a house called
"The Gentle Jane " as well?

In memory I could read the name of the house,
and feel the mellowed presence
which seemed to beckon me
to try and peep in the windows,
and dawdle round the doorw
where fishing rods and baskets
were usually in evidence.

Was it invention to have seen it shut up and
deserted too,
and to have felt
disappointment and indignation
that anybody could treat this lovely house
in such a way?

I knew I would never have left it had it been

The chance to retrace my childhood steps never came,
and then during my father's final illness,
as I was driving down on one of my visits,
on a sudden impulse
I knew I just had to bre
ak my journey.
I needed just a few minutes buffer in my headlong dash
between the two worlds of adult home,
and childhood home.

Without thinking I turn
ed the car
off the main route to Wales,
and followed the once familiar road from Ross,
then over the bridge with the rushing river,
church, and castle,
in the green valley
of Skenfrith.

From there I made the steep climb through
the folded beauty of the hills to
ancient Grosmont.

My first surprise
as I came upon the beginnings of the village
was to see that here the castle and church
were on the opposite side of the
from where I expected them to be.

How could I have got that so wrong, I wondered?
It was unlikely that
both buildings got up
and tiptoed across the road just to confuse me.

I parked the car near t
he Angel
and crossed the road to where "my" house
should have been.
I prowled up and down the hill but nowhere
could I find even a house name similar to
"The Gentle Jane",
let alone the magical presence
of the house its

Defeated, and aware of the precious time
I had already taken out of my schedule
I drove out of the village towards
Cross Ash, Abergave
and my old home.

Obviously I had muddled memories of even
the most basic layout of Grosmont.

How could I hope to winkle out details
of some idealized vision that wafted into my mind
from time to time?
Hardly one of life's prioritie
s at the best of times.
- So,
I let "The Gentle Jane" go.

That is, until last week, when, for some reason
the gentle presence drifted into my mind again.
I reached down for my trusty laptop
to have just one more go
at my search.

And this is what I found!
photo: walesinstyle.com
"Named after the daughter of one of its previous
owners in the 1920's, Gentle Jane is a grade II listed building in the ancient Monmouthshire village of Grosmont on the border with England. It has a history of use as a milliner's, grocer's, butcher's and a baker's premises before being used as a fishing lodge and a private dwelling. In 2004 it was a film set for 'The Baker' staring Damian Lewis and featuring Michael Gambon before opening at a Tearoom and B&B".

If I'd had my thinking head on the day
I'd done my detour to Grosmont

the clue would have been in the fact that in memory
I'd reversed the castle and the church.

When I got out of the car
and crossed the road to look for
"Gentle Jane",

(no "the"),
the house had actually been behind me,
- and I never thought to look!

Now I am looking forward to stepping inside
my enchanted house at last,
although the voice of caution tells me
"the magic will be gone,
never go back".

What do you think?

Whenever it happens that I visit
Gentle Jane
I'll let you know how I get on.

Who knows perhaps you will get there before me!

As my dad used to say,

"If I get there before you do I'll leave a chalk mark.
If you get there before me - rub it out"!

Be Blessed Where Ever You Go

Click on this link to see more of what the Gentle Jane looks like now:-


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dreams or Memories?

Have you some recurring memory that swirls, like an insubstantial mist in your mind from time to time?

The problem is that though the feeling which accompanies the mind-pictures are real, I am never sure whether some of these evocative memories
are really memories at all;

or merely dreams
that have touched me in some way that causes them to linger.

This little water colour
done on gessoed paper,

is an attempt to capture something of one of my recurring
"dream memories".

My feeling is that I was quite small, perhaps a toddler,
and evening was drawing in.
I was cuddled on my father's shoulder against the cold,
and the sense I get is that there was an urgency about him
as we walked up the path
towards the house.

There was the hint of snow in the air,
along with the a strong wind tossing in the bare trees:
the house sitting in the lee of a steep hill.

As we approach the house the door opens,
light streams out
and I feel some of the anxiety of the moment drain away.
And there the fragment ends.

In some way that I can't explain there seems to be a connection
to my grandmother's death
attached to these impressions.

I have no way to check the veracity of this dream memory,
though I do know the house,
and that
it at least is real.

When I came to paint my impressions,
as usual ,the subject dictated it's treatment,
and everything was pared down to essentials.

There was so little to hold on to ...
yet it keeps returning.

Perhaps it is important to me
because my father was away at war while I was young
and my memories of him then are so few.

I don't want to give you the idea I sit around
steeped in nostalgia all day
but there is another dream memory which I had already
decided must be totally devoid of any basis in truth,
but has turned out to be real after all.

And really very nice.

Tell you about it in my next post.

Be Blessed .

Saturday, 6 November 2010

November Colours

After such a wordy post yesterday it seems good just to have a feast of colour, so here is a taste of the colour left in the garden this sunny November morning.

Last night was Bonfire night so naturally with fires and fireworks there had to be pelting rain and strong winds!

Nevertheless there seemed to be lots of folk having fun - and the garden survived it all well into the bargain.

There really shouldn't be this variety still in the garden, but the strange weather patterns are causing all sorts of surprises. As it is I can't upload any more photos as my blog publisher is going mad today.

The over-sized print isn't my idea either,but due to the same problem with the automatic publishing. Some of this type spacing is pretty strange too, but hey! like the unseasonal garden, just another

May your weekend be full of colour, joy,
and the sweet refreshing dew of rest.

Be Blessed

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Back to the Blog

Today I had a timely nudge to get back to the blog.
It came by way of one of the cards I receive now and then,
- and always previously with a challenge.
( See posts "Space Hoppers and Guinea Pigs - Wild!"
and "A Pig of a Challenge").

This time at first sight there was no challenge.

What could possibly be challenging about a black and white photo
of a knitted teddy bear who,
with broadly beaming smile and widely spread,
ready-to-embrace-me arms,
comes bearing the message,
(no pun intended),


Everything about this message,
from the stripy vest stretched over Teddy's round tummy,
to the dimply thumbs of his open arms, exuded


So too did the hand written message inside the card.

Why then did I smile
and place it all too swiftly on the mantle shelf and turn to other things?

Why do I find it so difficult to accept that I am loved,
and to let that feeling seep into the very bones of me,
luxuriating in the self-acceptance of receiving
love that I do not in the least feel I have earned
or deserve?

When I said that the the card was timely
I was not merely referring to my nudge to get back to blogging
but also to the fact that yesterday
I was preaching at the mid-week communion,
and my text was from Ephesians 1. -
that great distillation of Paul's doctrine of what is ours in Christ.

I know most of those to whom I was preaching.
Some, I know ,are going through times of intense pain
and struggling with real difficulties of many kinds,
both in their own lives
and the lives of those close to them.

What could be more wonderful then
than that I had the opportunity
to bring the strengthening Word of Life, which tells us that God

"chose us in him before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In love
he predestined us"

(Eph 1;4,5)

How can it be that God saw the whole of his creation
before ever it came into being and decided
that without you,
or me,
it would not be complete!

Yet these verses are clear, as is Psalm 139

You are no accident,
no afterthought,

no fluke.
You and I are here by the deliberate choice of God.

Now at this point I can hear the quibbles beginning,
the many and varied reasons why this just cannot be so,
because it opens up so much that we can see no sense to.

I can hear the voices of some who will be protesting
that the verses quoted from Ephesians are only for believers.
Only for those whom God already predestined to know and believe in Him.
To them my only reply here is that
I neither know who God already has numbered amongst His own,
or who He yet will,
and I am unwilling to make that distinction for Him or them.

Therefore I hold this truth out to you wherever you are,
and offer it to you whether you are a God-believer or no,
and tell you again,


His love is so great,
so different from ours,
that He does not even insist that you choose Him in return.
He simply waits,
forever if need be,
offering love.

Arms open always,
never turning us away.


So I preached the glorious truths of Ephesians 1,
of which this is,
(foundational as it is),
only a very small part.

Yet today through the words
of an avuncular knitted bear I heard the words of love re-echoed,
and was challenged again to believe,
to linger and receive,
and not turn too quickly away.

Today and every day
may we turn away from the world's message that we are not
the right size or shape, gender, or colour, or race,...
That we are not clever enough,
stylish enough, popular or good enough,...
and turn back to the quietly insistent voice that tells us that


Be Blessed

*Footnote:- Psalm 139;13 tells us that it is God who "created my inmost being; (and) knit me together in my mother's womb." -
v.16 "....All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

P.S. It is great to get your feedback. Do leave a comment if only by ticking a reactions box. Thank you.

(Thank you Kate for sending Teddy to give me a nudge)