Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Today I broke with tradition,
(my tradition anyway),
and gave in to
hubby's desperate urge
to hit the shops
for some late
Christmas Eve action.

I must admit my mind
was full of queues for the car parks, and checkouts,
and all the things I hate about shopping.

Still the sun was glistening
on the snow,
so I hung my fit of the
"Bah! Humbugs!"

on the back of the door
on the way out,
and decided to make the most of it.

We did queue our way into Leamington,
but rather than make for the car parks
we slid down the back streets between the Georgian houses,
and parked amid the mounds of snow
across the partially frozen river from the main town.

This enabled us to make our way between the
snow filigreed trees,
and over the foot bridge past the bandstand,
enjoying to the full the winter wonderland
that is so foreign to us.

Right off we were stopped in our tracks
by the sound of the trumpet and handbell
announcing Leamington Spa's town crier in full voice.
He was wishing us the compliments of the season,
along with announcing what bargains could be found in the town.

This festive note carried us straight to the shop where
we found the special present our daughter
had failed to find anywhere else.

Mission accomplished,
the rest of the time we were free to wander to our own
favourite spots for the bits and pieces
that put the finishing touches to our Christmas preparations.
Needless to say we stopped long enough for a tooth-full
of sustenance as well.

As we re-traced our wintry steps back to the car,
we heard the church bells peeling out a
back drop of reality to the day.
Singing out across the icy water,
they called folks to the children's
Christmas Eve service.

Driving back home through the snow-laden lanes,
the setting sun m
elted the fretted black shapes
of the treetops to flickering rose and gold.

The white Christmas we have waited so long for, is truly at it's best today.

I have to admit to hubby that today
may well have broken my embargo on Christmas Eve
shopping for good.

Back home we rustle up a meal,
and do the few things left to do before setting out
for the moment that Christmas truly begins.

The whole
day is preparation for this.

At midnight we will be with our church family,
celebrating the holy moment
when God laid aside his glory
to come into our broken world.

Hidden in his vulnerable new born frailty
the full power of Godly love
touches each moment of our need,
offering us,
where we will receive it,
his healing peace.

May your Christmas
be filled with the
Worship of the Angels,
the Joy of the Shepherds
and the Peace of the of the Christ Child.
Photo BBC "The Nativity"

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Re-creating Christmas

Last night we were singing again.

A smaller group of us, (hubby included),
were singing carols at a home for the elderly.

As we stood in the over-heated lounge facing the residents,
as always in these places there was the mix
of those alert enough to take song booklets
and sing with us,
and those who merely sat.

Some of the folks whose home we were invading
eyed us curiously, uncertain why we were there;
while others remained seemingly oblivious that we were there at all,
or after a cursory glance seemed to dismiss us altogether.

Then as we sang the change began to happen.

Gradually here and there wrinkled lips curved in smiles.
Then those same lips shaped themselves around
the old familiar words,
and even if no sound ensued,
the magic of memory was at work.

Only they know how far back those old words and melodies carried them.

You will think me fanciful if I say
that in those moments it was possible to glimpse again
the hidden child,
who once learned these words at a time when however hard their lives,
some token of finer things visited them fleetingly.
The sweet knowledge of the Christ child,
and the mystery of His birth,
and the few unfamiliar goodies that were rarer then than now.

I do know that the child in us never dies,
and that even though the details of time and place may elude us,
music can touch and open some deep well
of remembered feeling within us.

Before we filed out, leaving them once again in their lounge,
where every seat faced the television,
eyes opened,
and we were humbled by the smiles,
and whispered assurances us that,
"That was lovely!"

Touching each frail hand in goodbye as we went,
our singing this time left us with a quieter, more thoughtful,
and mixed joy.

Be Blessed

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Simple Pleasures

Imagine a gathering of folks between the ages
(quite literally)
of 1 to 91 years of age,
and all stations in between.

Teens, singles, marrieds.

Add a pianist, a guitarist,
and a set of drums being used now and then to good effect.

Incidental noises off, background "music",
and general accompaniment,
to be supplied by sundry toddlers
and their older siblings,
who are furnished with
percussion and wind instruments,
from a big lucky dip box.

Think of something you can bash or blow
that will make a satisfactory noise and can fit little fingers,
and you've got the idea.

Make sure everybody has the complete lyrics
to some 32 Christmas songs and carols.

Old traditional ones, schmaltzy ones,loved ones, neglected ones...
a cross section to gladden the heart of the most ardent Scrooge.
If you think that's impossible
I have to report that the greatest fun
was had when we sang the ones which drew forth the deepest groans.

Yes, that's all we'd gathered for.

A good old-fashioned sing-a-long.
And how we sang!

The order of the night was to shout out
the number of the song you wanted next, and off we went.

We attempted rounds, and harmonies,
and hey!
given that hubby and me were the only 2 Welsh peeps there
the sound was pretty good!

I know this blog is usually free from racism but well,
we all know that the Welsh are amongst
the best natural choir -ists
in the world.
(I think I've invented a word there).

I say we gathered simply to sing,
but there was also the little matter of some
mulled wine, or fruit punch,
turkey and stuffing batches,
and mince pies,
served half an hour into the evening.

The littlies had a table in the centre of us older ones,
and I wish I had a photo
of them tucking into their sausage batches and juice.
All in the light of the huge Christmas tree in the corner.

We ended the evening by gathering round the tree and singing ,
"I Wish You a Merry Christmas."

The cooks, waiters and waitresses,
along with the musicians gave their services free,
and by each paying something to came along and join the fun
£300 was raised to be split
between 2 charities connected to our church.
The Gilead Health Develpoment, in Luwero, Uganda,
and the Theophilus Foundation,
operating in the Kiwunya slum area of Uganda.

It was an evening of laughter
as we caught up with each others news over the eats,
and vied with each other in the singing of the rounds.

It was an evening of having our endorphins released
through the sheer joy of singing.

An added bonus was the
Christmassy tingle and glow brought to the parts
which had so far remained resolutely

Old fashioned, simple, un-worldly,
but oh, so good.

Deep, but Simple Blessings to You All.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Protests and hope

This has been a week of extremes.
Extreme weather for this part of the world,
which has brought both wonderful and unfamiliar beauty

 to our humdrum lives;
- and not a little difficulty and anxiety for many.

Then difficulty and anxiety of another sort

 brought ugliness to our streets.

I watched the television coverage of the clashes

 between students and police with tears in my eyes.

I know the genuine anguish behind the protests,
and the frustration that the peaceful protests 

should be hi-jacked by activists
intent on causing damage, and injury.

(For those who do not know, student fees in England
are due to increase exponentially,
despite pre-election promises that there would be no increase,
and although the loan system for student repayment of loans
has been changed, it is again

 lower income groups who will be barred from higher education.
I should add that working your way through Uni
in this country is not the option it is in the States.
 We have never been a country where part time work is easy to come by,
and certainly not at the moment.)

I know the desperation of the police,
to be seen safeguarding public order;
however I abhor the increasing evidence
that we are moving towards a society where
every attempt at legitimate protest is met with shows of excessive force.
 There are routine removal of basic human rights,
when access to lavatories, and medical aid

 are routinely barred to protesters.

Now an police investigation will take place,
and, (especially as royalty became embroiled), security overhauled.

Worst of all perhaps,
for whatever reasons seem good to them,
our representatives in Parliament have, yet again,
been seen to be un-trustworthy.
As one woman on a programme dealing with current affairs put it,
" How can we ever believe politicians again?"

So the dark days of winter gather around us.
Not a very cheerful post for a weekend you may say.

Well, in the midst of the gloom I found
this light sabre
in my garden.

The sunlight of the cold
morning struck this blade of cordyline
and made it shine out
in a way the camera
could not possibly capture.

At the head of the post
you see my fragile white bells continue
to shine gracefully under their
blanket of ice crystals.

The world goes on.
There is a strength and resilience,
and a hunger after honesty
and fair dealing that is,
I believe, shining deeply at our core.

Do not discount our ability to rise from our difficulties again,
re-newed from the gloom.
We have done it before.

My motto is always,
"Resurrection now!"

Have a weekend.of renewal and hope

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Aliens have Landed! or Birthday Here at Last !

After so much time in the last week or so blowing out other peoples candles,
our great grandson Zachary's own birthday cake has landed at last.

For a little boy who likes to introduce space monsters or aliens into almost every game he plays,
what better design for your cake than this one
his mum has made.

When we come to the inevitable point in any game where he turns to me,
eyes wide with horror, and cries,
" The Aliens! The Aliens!"
I have always responded with something like,
"Go away Aliens! You can't hurt us!",
because it seemed a better option than any more violent one,
such as, say,
shooting them down.

Come to think of it,
these Aliens don't just appear in games,
but have been spotted on a pretty regular basis in everyday places like
Mc Donalds, Tesco,...

Only last week for instance,
we were cruising through the jungle in a canoe
which was somewhat incongruously upholstered very much like our settee,
and, it being a weekday like any other,
we took the lions and tigers in the undergrowth very much in our stride.

We did just casually point them out to the "babies",
(i.e rag doll, panda, and teddy),
who we had snuggled in a blanket between us for safety.

We didn't even flinch when Zach had to beat off an apparently
"hoooge" crocodile I hadn't spotted.

Then suddenly up went the cry,
"The Aliens! The Aliens!"
and immediately realising our peril I did my imperious,
arm outstretched,
never known to fail,
command of
"Go away Aliens! You can't hurt us!"
in my best "Nana ain't fooling!" voice.

I don't know what affect it had on the Aliens, but Zachary gently patted my hand,
and leaning in close, said kindly,
"It's alright Nana. It's only men in costumes".

At that moment I understood that a fellow of
almost three years old
isn't going to be taken in by silly make believe.

It was a bit of a relief therefore when that flipping crocodile
had to be beaten off again a second later.

I would have felt such a fool to have been floating through that jungle all on my own.

Be Blessed

Sunday, 5 December 2010


To church on a sunlit morning
with colour re-born in our corner of the world;
and the snow, if not the ice,
receding a little more.

During the service we said goodbye to a little family
who are returning to re-settle in their home
in the Seychelles after 10 years here in the U.K.

There were tears even before the "Goodbyes" had begun.

A family of three children and their mother, are also flying off for
Christmas in the Cameroons.

They have been parted from the husband and father of the family
for over 4 years, and will have three short weeks together
before returning to their home here with us.

Permission for the family to be together
is a long time coming.

I know the politics and logistics of
asylum seekers and refugees is fraught with controversy,
but to hear particular, individual family stories,
and see the pain and affects of separation,
make it difficult for me to sweep these things
under the carpet of my concerns over resources,
or my tendency to hard heartedness
when I fear my own interests may be threatened.

The tidy, sterile box of ignorance I could once keep shut
has been irreversibly opened, as the anguish of once remote countries
boils over into our own.

These words come from Rabindranath Tagore's beautiful
(Song Offerings)

"Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.
Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of a stranger.

I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter;
I forget that there abides the old in the new,
and that also there thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others,
wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same,
the one companion of my endless life
who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.

When one knows thee, then alien there is none,
then no door is shut.
Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the touch of the
one in the play of the many".

Life isn't as cute or as streamlined
as the graphic at the start of this post
but springing from the same earth as we do,
wouldn't it be wonderful if
"alien there is none"
could become reality.

I confess I've a long way to go before it can be true in my own heart.

Wherever you are today,
Be Blessed

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Another Birthday

Here is our great grandson Zachary
helping to blow out yet another set of birthday candles
before his own comes around next week.

This time it is his Grandad who has sneaked in with his 50th.

It all helped to brighten this dreak Saturday
when fog and rain painted back the greys and bone bare colours
of our normal winter days.

The white world we've become familiar with in the last week
is running at the edges,
seeping lingering damp into the air,
and clinging to us like a persistent whisper we have tried to forget.

The more strident tones of the news tells us many are
still stranded in wintry strongholds.

I look at the broken patches of remaining snow
and remember my mother's old saying and wondered if these
sullied remnants were really "waiting around for more".

Forecasters are hedging their bets at present I think.

Meanwhile, snug in our family celebrations
I give thanks for our many blessings.

Wherever you are
Be Blessed

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A New Angle on Things

Hubby likes to have lots of projects to keep him busy.
Ever happy to oblige I have been known to suggest a few things
to keep his programe ticking over.

With the extemely cold weather he's moved the area of operations
from our cold garage, where he is re-building our patio table,
into the house.

This doesn't mean he's brought the bare bones of the table,
timber, clamps, saw, sawdust, etc. indoors.
I,m not completely nuts (yet)!

No, it's not his carpentry skills he's imported inside,
but his decorating ones.

Yesterday it was the kitchen and bathroom ceilings
that became that wonderful
brilliant white
beloved of emulsion manufacturers.

Today he was preparing to put two coats of emulsion
on the bathroom walls, so everything was moved out.

The ink on paper picture I did years ago
that you see above,
usually lives on the bathroom wall, thus.

The three birds,
and little bucket of roses
my mother bought me when we were
on holiday together years ago live
on a shelf opposite,
like this.

Plonking them on the bed
while clearing out the bathroom,
they suddenly became a whole new composition for me.

It's given me a raft of ideas for future painting, after I finish the
Autumn Abstractions
I'm working on at present.

Isn't it remarkable how
looking at things a new way can inspire us.

We know that Kandinsky was transported by coming across one of his works unexpectedly upside down.

Suddenly he saw how a painting could be read in an entirely new way.

Similarly a modern painter whose name I can't remember
tells how seeing his living room from outside,
when only able to see the tops of furniture,
and the wonderful shapes, colours, and spaces,
opened up new horizons for his work.

Many of us, like me,
regularly turn work upside down to check colour,
compositional, and tonal values.

It makes perfect sense to me that if our pictorial senses
can be revitalised by simply
exploring a different viewpoint
from the one we usually employ,
then we can only benefit from trying
to see as others see
once in a while.

Lord, You know I can get awfully fixed in my own rut,
only seeing things from my point of view.
Always wanting things to go the way I think is right and good;
wanting them my way in fact.

Take away my fear of letting go of this narrow,
(not to say fixed),
way of seeing.

I give you permission to unsettle me
by turning things on their head once in a while
if I can't be budged out of my comfort zone
any other way.

Surely to understand more, is to forgive more.
Even to love more.
Ah! Is that what I've been afraid of all this time!