Tuesday, 19 May 2015


This is  not so much a coherent post as an update. Every year, at some point, the shit seems to hit the fan at work and it seems there just aren't enough hours in the day. I can't say too much because I don't blog about work but it is the main reason for my absence.
Things should start to get easier (she says cautiously) from next week onwards and I will hopefully find a little more time to do the things I love. I want to do some gardening (my veg patch is making some progress despite the recent rain and gloom), maybe some baking, go for long walks with Mr M, get to the gym a bit more and resume a few activities which are possibly too infrequent to be accorded the term hobbies. Today I've agreed to do a speech at a Speaking Club dinner next month, so that is a start in doing something non work related.
 On Sunday I made it to the Quaker meeting, we have gone back to the beautiful 17th century chapel which I love, and last week I managed to get to Church so I am doing a little better on that front than for some time.
Of course the world has gone on as usual. We have another five years of the nasty party and all is doom and gloom economically and in many ways but life goes on and everyone has to just do their best. I do feel for young people in the current climate- and I worry for my own - but worry never achieved anything.
If anyone is reading this post, I hope all is well for you and yours and you are managing to do the things  you think are fun and spend time with the people that make you feel happy and whole.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Remembering Bess

A very sad day yesterday as we had to take our lovely little West Highland Terrier to be put to sleep. She has for some time been suffering with Westie Lung Disease or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a horrible condition in which the lungs become progressively scarred and breathing is more and more difficult. Bessie was diagnosed last year and the prognosis was that we would lose her around November/ December. The fact that she made it until April allowed her to have a few weeks enjoying some of the nice weather we have had recently; she thoroughly enjoyed sitting in her garden on sunny days and we even managed some walks down the canal although we had to go very slowly for her.

I feel incredibly sad today;  the house seems so quiet and empty without her. She was such an affectionate and sociable little dog and she was always by our side and  came to greet us, ears down and tail wagging when one of us came home. I do know however that we made the right decision yesterday as just over this last day or so she had deteriorated dramatically and was clearly struggling to breathe . I have already realised that there will be lots of reminders of Bessie but my main memory will be of her in her garden sniffing the breeze or walking down the canal, a place we all loved.
Sniffing slowly down the towpath

At the dog friendly cafe. We would have tea, the waiter would bring Bess doggie treats!

Water supplied

Waterside Cafe. Owners also welcome

Daffodils on our walk

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Sunday in the garden

I've had, or rather am having a full day off work today. After church we took the dog for a walk, then the gym and the afternoon has been spent in the garden and enjoying the sunshine. I've planted out my little kitchen garden, which is comprised of several pots and containers on the patio with radishes, salad veg and potatoes. Kev has been started preparing the ground for a vegetable patch in the place of some trees he felled last year. It will be a bit of a project and I am unlikely to be able to plant veg in it until next spring I think.

 It has really done me good to have a whole day off. I really do have to work tomorrow if I am going to get through my coursework marking and preparation for this holiday, I've calculated I need to work eight  to nine days over the fifteen days holiday, either in whole days or half days. A full day with no marking or preparation has become a rare event recently as I am currently marking coursework for every single group I teach on top of other work related responsibilities such as organising awards evenings.
We were asked in church today what we need to change in our lives. I really need to change something about work, either to find different work or to find ways of coping with it more effectively. I saw this on facebook yesterday and it helped a little.

The weather should be nice this week so I am determined to work half days. If I can get up early and do a couple of hours sustained marking then I should be able to manage some afternoons out in the garden and walking the dog down the canal (hopefully planned for tomorrow.) After the boost a day off has given me today, I think it is essential.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Good Friday Hymns

I have always loved the above hymn "My Song is Love Unknown". It is in itself a beautiful meditation upon Good Friday. My only hesitation in posting it is that it jars with me somewhat that the hymn identifies Christ's oppressors as the other, not ourselves but  them.

They rise and needs will have 
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save.
The Prince of life they slay.

Leaving aside the possible anti-Semitic interpretations which are perhaps the greatest danger of this hymn, the identification as Christ, the victim as ours and the perpetrators as them deprives us of an understanding of ourselves as oppressors, perpetrators - as fully sinful.It is not until we can confront ourselves as just as sinful as others that we can be fully forgiven. Rowan Williams writes in Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel, that the paradox of Easter is that "our victim is our hope" and that  none can access that hope without, "the prior recognition that I victimise".I wish we could  change the pronouns of this otherwise wonderful hymn  to "we" to allow it to make more sense theologically. 

We rise and needs will have 
Our dear Lord made away;
A murderer we save.
The Prince of life we slay.

Another hymn by John Newton "I saw One hanging on a tree", identifies the speaker as both cause and  beneficiary of the cross. In this Christ, the victim, is also our judge whose look "seemed to charge me with His death", and at the same time our hope, "I freely all forgive." I managed to find it on Youtube and, although accompanied by slightly schmaltzy pictures, it is worth reflecting upon, as indeed both these hymns are.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Holy Week

At almost the start of Holy Week, a meditation from a dog who says it much better than I can.

Thought for the day: If only human beings could be a bit more like dogs.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Ask not for whom the bell tolls

I am still struggling with what seems like never-ending coursework (the stuff is like a boomerang and keeps coming back) and it is now combined with timed essays I have been setting due to exams looming on the horizon. So weekends are being pretty much wiped out but yesterday I did get down the gym and while working out on the cross trainer I watched the procession of remains of Richard III through the streets of Leicester and their reception at the Cathedral.

I have mixed feelings about the whole matter and spent some time pondering the motives behind all the fuss. The cynical part of me was very aware of the commercial potential offered by ensuring a real show with all the media coverage, no doubt Richard's bones will draw tourists to Leicester. Then again there is the undoubted fascination of a historical figure, no doubt maligned for political ends. There is perhaps the sense of guilt from the historians and scientists who dug him up- and while there has been much fuss about him getting a "proper" burial, it is also true to say it matters little to him now and he was actually buried, albeit hastily, in the Greyfriars Priory after his body was recovered from Bosworth field. To read the media you might think he had been originally buried in a car park...

Yet despite all these doubts, when the procession reached Leicester Cathedral and the remains were officially handed over and the coffin entered the door, I suddenly felt a rush of emotion and the sense that, at some level, we mark death and life in this way, not for others whether they be Kings or commoners, but for ourselves - to say something about the importance and dignity of this life. As the coffin moved from the streets into the cathedral, from secular to sacred, I couldn't help but reflect on the power of religious ritual to mark that sense of human dignity and of the worth and beauty of life more profoundly than anything else. You may say this is ironic because religion can treat the living in ways that diminishes or even abuses human dignity, yet I think it is because of the belief in a God who values each of us that, despite its many flaws, religion and religious ritual breathes its power and through its power can breathe hope and meaning into death and failure.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lent- a place to ask for help

One thing about the wilderness is that it is a place where you can ask for God's help.We often don't like to ask for help because we see this as a weakness but when we find ourselves in a bleak inhospitable place there is sometimes no other alternative but to overcome our pride. I've said before that I can feel uncomfortable with the idea of suffering and privation, not to mention the pseudo suffering and false humility, that can accompany Lent. Wildernesses, real or imagined, are not always the places of spiritual health and renewal that they are cracked up to be.

 I have been thinking that one of the messages of Lent is, rather ironically, that we are not alone. Before Jesus went into the wilderness he was assured of God's love and delight in him, after his temptations the angels came and ministered to him. Rather like the hope that remains at the bottom of Pandora's box, so the bleakness of Lent is shot through with grace. Its message is that help is not so very far away and that we need not be ashamed to need it and to ask for it.