Monday, 13 July 2015

Feeling the pain

It was interesting to read this article by the Independent online which highlights the discrepancy between what voters think are the statistics on welfare and benefits and the reality. The piece brought to mind two conversations I overheard this week on the subject of the budget. One was at a family funeral when I heard a member of my family talking about how the Government have to crack down on benefit scroungers. I did have some sympathy; the said family member is a farmer who will be up by 5am facing a long working day and all the frustrations of decreasing prices and cut throat supermarkets  making every day life a struggle for survival. Meanwhile the media spawns articles and documentaries featuring families,usually obese and gobby, with at least thirteen kids none of which express any intention of ever getting a job, living in a luxury house, claiming £80, 000 in benefits, surrounded by flat screen TVs and play stations! I guess at some point the commentator will intone, "this is life in benefits Britain"; it really is calculated to incite outrage at a time when money is short and people are suffering. The other conversation was between Mr M and a shop manager (I was trying on a swimsuit) which was quite amusing as they started discussing the budget and Mr M is as left as they come while this woman was decrying everything from the new living wage, which she felt would force her out of business, to benefits claimants, immigrants and "foreign doctors" who speak with an accent.

So given the outcome of the General Election, perhaps it was unsurprising to hear Harriet Harman first jumping on the welfare bandwagon and saying Labour would back tax credit cuts. Maybe it was equally predictable that she would retract this after an outcry from party members. I feel Harman is entirely motivated by expediency rather than conviction, I have no sympathy whatsoever and no wonder Labour are in the shit! I just don't know whether to be depressed or just to react with bemusement as I did when overhearing the two conversations above.

In general things don't really look great, but at least the summer holidays have started for me- we go back mid August before anyone starts to rant about lazy teachers-  and also our younger son has just found out he has done very well in his first year exams. That will do for my feel good factor for now.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The need for Grace

I suppose most people have heard or seen Obama's singing and oratory at the funeral of Clemanta Pinckney. I have to say I was impressed at how multi-talented Obama is- I could suddenly see him fitting really well into the role of a South Carolina pastor as an alternative career. Joking apart, the address really was quite moving, as has been the way that this church has responded with forgiveness and resolution in the face of pure hatred and ugliness. I suppose I wasn't the only one who watched this clip and thought of Martin Luther King and of the history of civil rights and of how the struggle against the irrational hatred still goes on.
We have seen an awful lot of hatred and ugliness in the news recently with yesterday bringing accounts of three atrocities. As always, the one given most attention in the media was the one that we could all imagine happening to us (funny that...), namely the attack on holidaymakers in Tunisia. Yet in a way, as Shakespeare wrote, even the freshest bad news, "is old enough... it is every day’s news." There will always be hatred, corruption, evil, atrocity. It really is every day's news. Yet grace, that quality of mercy that is unstrained and freely given and which enables human beings to access hope, healing and redemption even in the most painful and horrible of situations, although it does not reach the headlines so often, is also everyday's news- or it should be.
I published the clip above to remind myself of that fact.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Summer time...

I've become slightly obsessed by the weather recently simply because I am so sick and tired of the chilly, rainy days we've been having here.Today has been glorious (why does it only happen when I am at work?), the weekend was frankly a wash out although we managed a walk on Saturday afternoon in what was maybe the only dry spell. My garden, and especially my modest little collection of veg pots, seem to be suffering for the lack of sun. The radishes, which are usually the easiest things to grow, have failed to thrive, producing tall thin yellowing leaves and spindly little radishes as though craving some light and warmth - I feel their pain. The potato plants, all three of them, thrived better. I planted them in March and we have eaten two lots already. One pot was dug up early yielding a dinner of delicious little new potatoes which we had with quiche and partly homegrown salad- the early radishes did better. The second pot which I only dug up a month or so later contained some fairly large spuds and we still have some out in the garage. The final pot is the deepest so I am going to leave it as long as possible, maybe until the foliage dies, although I will keep an eye out for blight. I am growing lettuces in buckets and they seem quite happy with the gloom and drizzle, both the Butterhead and the Lollo Rosso are doing well. One lot ended up in a salad last week and I have another coming on. I have, without much optimism, planted some more radishes this evening which is sure to jinx the sun for a while...
Work is winding down a little as we come on towards the summer holiday. It should be winding down a little more, for instance I didn't get home until nine one day last week (an Awards evening) and I will be out until ten this week (an Open evening) plus we have had evening training one evening a week for the last three weeks. I am also organising several end of term talks (Higher Education stuff) and we are trying to write new schemes of work for the syllabus changes- A Levels are being reformed next year. This will unfortunately be an ongoing task through the summer as well. However, the huge bonus of this time of year is less marking as we do not set weekly essays as we do in the run up to the exams and no coursework marking. This has freed up more time at the weekend although it has not, I know, resulted in an increase in blog posts mainly because I have just lost the impetus. Anyhow, today has been lovely, and at least I got home early enough to potter, blog and plant radishes. Then it will be the holidays and I can enjoy more of my very simple life as well as a nice holiday to Turkey where we will at least be guaranteed to see some of the yellow stuff!

Lettuce- as yet untouched by the slugs

Monday, 15 June 2015


Yesterday we were given some homework in church which was to read one of the gospels afresh and think of how far our minds intersect with the mind of Christ. I will definitely read one of the gospels again, John has always been my favourite because of its reflective and metaphorical approach. I am not quite so sure about comparing my mind to that of Christ/ God. I was pondering this in church. At the moment I am grappling with quite an intense desire to get hold of a particular individual in my life and kick them into a bloody pulp. It is not a member of my family, and I can't say too much about it, but I am not sure it accords very closely with the idea of loving your enemies. Mr M on the other hand has a more generous interpretation and, pointing to Jesus among the money changers, suggested that the odd fantasy of kicking to bloodied pulp (as long as not acted on) is entirely Christ like. Any theological, or other thoughts on this would be welcome as I already seem at an impasse in my homework.
On Saturday (which was rather overcast and drizzly) Mr M decided to  try to cheer me up with a little window shopping. I'd told him I  wouldn't buy anything as I don't need anything at the moment and so it would be a waste; we would just look. Let me say now that this is a really stupid idea. There seems to be an unwritten rule that whenever you desperately need something there is absolutely nothing and whenever you resolve not to buy a thing, you suddenly find lots of things you love or they really suit you ... and so on.
On reflection however, if the only troubles facing me are the ones above, relatively speaking I am quite fortunate compared to over half of the world which lives in poverty and so many people in war torn regimes.
 I will let you know how I get on with my homework :)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Tony Campolo

Statement from Tony Campolo, no need to add anything ...

As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Everyday God

I had forgotten today is Trinity Sunday until I got to church. My favourite idea about the Trinity is that it is to do with relationship and that we too are called to relationship. If you understand the rest of it, you are doing better than me. I am posting this hymn again with all its beautiful reflections on the Trinity.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Biddulph Grange

Spent a lovely afternoon at Biddulph Grange. This beautiful Cheshire garden built in the Victorian era is full of little themed gardens to explore. It has a pond full of the most beautiful koi carp; the boys used to love feeding them in days gone by (when they actually were boys...) There are Chinese and Eyptian gardens, a woodland walk and lots of quirky paths, bridges, tunnels and statues. There were loads of families and children around and very pleasant atmosphere as the sun actually put in an appearance after this rather dull, cool and rainy week. Kev and I have National Trust membership and try to make the most of it, especially at this time of year. We then came home for tea and cake in our own  garden, not quite as grand but cheaper with unlimited top ups!

We didn't buy fish food !

View of the house

The Chinese Garden

Cute frog statue