Sunday, 17 April 2016

Simple things

 It is a year and one day since we had to have our lovely little dog put down and I still really feel her loss. Mr M and I went for a walk down the canal this afternoon and, of course, there were dogs everywhere. We stopped to talk for a while to one of the real characters we have spoken to before down there. He lives on a pretty decrepit looking boat and once told me that he has no means to shower or bath but visits his daughter from time to time partly for this purpose. However he does have the most gorgeous, friendly little dog and was sitting out today on a fold out chair next to his boat, in the sunshine, with his dog by his side. We stopped and talked to him for a while then we left him sitting in the sun, looking like a happy man with his dog by his side.
Memories from last year
I have managed to have quite a nice holiday and feel quite heartened that things are starting to grow in the garden. The sweet peas have now been planted out and the potatoes, which I planted ages ago and had started to conclude must have died off, have suddenly put forth furls of dense green leaves. On Thursday I bought some trays of reduced price pansies from B and Q; once they were duly planted, dead headed and watered, they began flourishing as I thought they would, although I did have to swaddle everything against the frost these last few nights as temperatures plummeted. Still, the hint of sunny days is now here and that lifts my spirits. Fresh air, some sunshine, growing things, home life with my family and, hopefully one day another dog, seems to me a recipe for happiness.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Easter and change

A very cold and rainy day; we usually try to go for a walk of some sort on Easter Sunday but it was so showery that we decided to head out to Macclesfield's Treacle Market instead. Within ten minutes we got caught in a truly impressive hail storm, and after that most of the stall holders started to pack up their stalls- if they hadn't already been blown away- and set off home. We were quick to follow suit. Still back home and a cup of tea and hot cross bun tasted pretty good. It is lovely that we are all home this weekend and now looking forward to a roast dinner followed by home  made rhubarb crumble and custard.

I spent this morning thinking and praying about the weeks and months ahead as frankly I haven't always found things easy this past year or so. Struggling on can be discouraging and yet spending time with my family does bring home to me how rich my life is and how glad I am to have them. When there is love and faith there is always the potential for hope and joy in the midst of difficulty. Easter, which represents the power of love, faith, hope, offers to transform our grief, our fears, our doubts, our lives, ourselves if we only let it.
Wishing you all a blessed Easter.

Friday, 25 March 2016

I am

The "Je suis..." trend that began with the Charlie Hebdo attack can now be seen in Brussels on posters, scraps of paper next to flowers and candles, on T shirts and no doubt on facebook pages. It seems that in the face of atrocity, people feel that fierce need to associate strongly with those affected, to say that because it so easily could have been any of us, thus it touches all of us personally. To say you are  another is in some ways an audacious claim, and through its audacity expresses the strength of solidarity.
It made me think of all the I am statements Jesus is reported as making in John's gospel; on Good Friday the statement "I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep" particularly comes to mind. The concept God crucified, of God incarnate, is an audacious and shocking act of solidarity.  God is allied with the powerless, in effect saying...

I am the suffering
I am the terrorised
I am the victim

At the same time, we need to be careful to avoid a glib sentimentalising of powerlessness or victimhood, the assumption that the victimised group is good by nature of being victimised. It is wrong to murder others because they are human, not because they are somehow better or more moral. Perhaps this is why it seems to me particularly telling that Christ died, not just as the passive, suffering victim but also as the shamed, the criminalised, the deviant, the reactionary, the face not just of the good but the condemned.
If the crucified Christ blurs categories and definitions, the risen one defies them. As Rowan Williams writes, he is no longer a "fellow sufferer", he is victorious but the triumph of Easter Sunday, although golden and glorious is lent for a moment, not fully of this world. Today is Good Friday; we live in the moment of suffering, or in an indeterminate Saturday, coming to terms with the afermath when  nothing is easy to make sense of and suffering simply seems a source of pointlessness, anguish and pain.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bringing it home

We've just spent a weekend in Oxford watching the 109th Varsity boxing match. Frankly, I was a bit of a nervous wreck, I am not that great at watching people hit each other in any case and this time I knew just how much was at stake for our younger son who is captain this year and wanted more than anything to see Oxford bring home the Truelove Bowl. Anyhow, they did it and the delight and relief was, and is, enormous. Congratulations to them as I know just how much hard work, blood, sweat and tears (literally) it has cost and how very deserved the win was:)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Tea and toast has my vote!

A news item caught  my attention on the radio a few days ago, namely that the British are drinking less tea and eating less toast as well as less fish and chips and fewer green vegetables. What we have seen an increase in is processed food, ready meals, low calorie soft drinks (and possibly not so low calorie ones) as well as ready packs of stir fry veg. The trend leading to this sort of modern rubbish all started in the 70s apparently, though doubtless the rot really began in the 60s (darkly.) Well, all I can say  is that in the M household we are a lot more traditional. We might have foregone bread and dripping and frying in lard but green veg, tea and toast, and even the odd fish and chip blow out is definitely still in vogue.

I was thinking of this news item yesterday while planting out the seed potatoes and replenishing the compost heap.The act of planting veg always makes me come over a bit retro 1940s dig for victory and all that. I recalled the advice of the food writer M F K Fisher who in 1942 advised war weary Brits to fill up on toast. "You can be lavish", he wrote, "because the meal is frugal" which means that, in this age of austerity, we should by rights be embracing this type of fare. The result of these musings was a sudden and compelling urge for tea and toast.  Ten minutes later and I had a steaming mug and a heap of buttered (it isn't bad for you anymore, don't you know) toast and love-it-or-hate it marmite , which is virtually contraband in Denmark.

There are certainly more important issues in the news at home and abroad than our eating habits. The race for the White House is hotting up in the US, while David Cameron has just set the date for a referendum on the 23rd of June. Yet it occurs to me that there is a link. If we can't even make the right choices when it comes to little things like green vegetables and tea and toast, how can we be trusted when it comes to the bigger things?

Monday, 8 February 2016

When the rain is blowing in your face

I am well and truly sick and tired of the rain at the moment. I suppose I should be thankful I am not down South where apparently they have had it worse than us this time. I suppose I should also be glad I wasn't personally affected by the New Year floods - and yet,  I just want to see a tiny bit of sunshine.  I can't quite get used to them naming our storms, it makes me feel like I live in a hurricane zone. It also makes it easier to take the whole thing personally,we've got storm Imogen to thank for the current downpour, a name which always brought to mind a decidedly middle class girl but now says bad tempered hag. Roll on spring!
This evening a trip down the gym seemed the likeliest way to dispel the rainy day blues, and sure enough that old endorphin hit seemed to do the trick I headed back feeling warm despite being buffeted by the wind and rain. Now I am definitely hungry and looking forward to my evening meal which is pizza, something we rarely eat and not the healthiest but we are going to supplement it with salad, beans and hummus.
I am still taking time to appreciate my Christmas gifts and reflecting on the quality of the hand cream that ended up in my stocking, courtesy of FC, of course. In case any hand cream aficionados are reading this blog (improbable), I can recommend Aveeno and Kamill. Anyhow, here is a teensy present for everyone- to cheer you up when the rain is blowing in your face.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Weekend syndrome

February is here already and I barely noticed the ending of January having been preoccupied by marking the mocks (bleurgh...) I've also had two weekends in a row when I haven't been particularly well having been laid down with what I am coming to call "weekend syndrome". Weekend syndrome often seems to come after a particularly hectic week (or two or three) and it follows much the same pattern which is that I wake up on a Saturday morning with a headache , usually dull but sometimes acute or with migraine aura, feelings of nausea and acute lethargy. By about 10.30 I usually admit defeat and return to bed. I then sleep all day, usually waking up in the early  evening feeling slightly washed out but much brighter. I first started noticing weekend syndrome about four years ago. It is particularly annoying when I have a lot of work to do that particular weekend because it means I have to get up early on the Sunday and work right through the day.
However, slightly spookily, weekend syndrome does not usually afflict me on a "busy" weekend but tends to lie in wait biding its time until I've got most of my work out of the way and am thinking " I can relax a bit this weekend." That is when my body tends to take the chance to "relax" seriously and why I think  it is most likely stress related and haven't yet bothered to visit the doctor.For example it has never yet happened during the working week, in fact I haven't had a day off sick from work for the last two years, and it has never started on any day other than a Saturday. More worryingly though, the frequency of my "weekend syndrome" attacks has increased and last weekend I had an episode which extended over the whole weekend, both Saturday and most of Sunday. I had to get up on the Sunday to do a couple of hours work, but I felt pretty wretched. By Monday I was pretty much back to normal. Thanks a bunch, weekend syndrome!
Weekend syndrome, although it seems like an enemy is, I suspect, both a coping device and a message if I care to listen to it. It reinforces my conviction that I have simply got to rethink and restructure my life somehow and achieve more work-life balance, or perhaps just achieve more life. Until I've got the fricking time to do this I am just trying to take things a bit easier, to live a simpler life and take care of myself physically and emotionally. On the way into work this morning, feeling pretty good as ironically I often do after a weekend-syndrome weekend, I noticed a lot of daffodils in gardens and hedgerows, brought on no doubt by the mild weather this winter and early spring. When I got home this evening, I went to the shed and dug out the remaining seeds from last year: sweet peas, marigolds, green beans, courgettes and made some plans for what I need to buy- I want some purple sprouting broccoli and, of course, seed potatoes. You can't feel stressed when you are planting, growing, gardening.
Which made me think- it will soon be Lent.