Monday, 31 August 2015


I've been teasing Mr.M all day about how this morning I woke up next to an OAP (yes, today is his 65th birthday.) He doesn't seem to mind as he is more fixated on how George Osborne is going to have to give him some money at the end of the month. On a more serious note, having a husband who is older than me has made me think about the future and my hope at the moment is that I may be able to give up work, or at least swap my current job for something less full on, in a few years time. I know that I really do have to stay in work for the time being (or try to) as we happen to be paying a son through university, but three years up the road it is possible that I might be in a position to at least change my working circumstances in order to enjoy a "retirement" or semi retirement with my husband.
As with any dream like this, you do need to think through the logistics, for example the effect on the work based pension I will receive in later life, before taking any decisions. You have to be realistic, yet at the same time there is more to life than money and sometimes you just have to follow your dreams.So think of me while I think and plan things out. Also spare a thought for the younger generation who at the moment seem to look like having a raw deal in terms of pensions, retirement age, students loans and less generous welfare support when they need it.I know I feel for and worry for my own children as they face a more onerous future than the one that I faced when I was their age.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


I received an email this week from a student I taught a while back. She wanted me to know that she had been given an award for outstanding work from the college she is at and that the work she had produced had been inspired by a topic she had studied in my class while she was doing her A levels. She attached some samples of her work and I really did feel very proud of her- it is a funny thing but when a student achieves something you do feel a pride that is almost akin to seeing offspring succeed- perhaps because, though the achievement is wholly and rightly theirs, you feel you may have contributed to it even if only to some small extent. I was also very touched that this student had taken the time  to thank me and let me know how she was doing. It came at just the right time as, despite a really excellent set of results both from our whole college and our individual department, it is still easy to feel a bit weary at this time of year at the thought of a lot of intense work ahead.

We often forget the power of praise or  overlook the fact that there are people in our lives who might benefit enormously from encouragement.The bible says we build each other up through encouragement and it is true that praise can have the power to inspire us to go on and to continue to do as well or better than before. Positive feedback can help us to be the best we can be as well as to simply make us happy. Unfortunately sometimes those we could have the most positive impact upon through our kind words are often those whom we are most prepared to criticise or simply take for granted- such as our parents or our spouse. I am convinced we all have guilty moments on this score ( I know I do) and if we could just be more considerate we would all be happier! It is not always true either that Christians are any better at building each other up. I've heard plenty of criticism and carping in church, for example cliques or constant sniping at the vicar.
 This week I was encouraged and it made me resolve to try to say something kind and positive to someone every day. Maybe we should all give it a try.

Monday, 17 August 2015

A little friend

Over the last week or so we seem to have been adopted by this little white and tabby cat. She has no collar, seems thin but her coat is in good condition, so it is hard to know if she is a stray. She lets us stroke her but is too wary to allow us to put on the paper contact collar suggested on the RSPCA website. She is a sweet little thing but really we want a dog (in the fullness of time) and we don't think we can offer her a suitable home. I think I am going to try contacting the Cats Protection League as she has pretty  much taken up permanent residence in our garden.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Building up and breaking down

I've been reading recently about the case of Jeremy Timms, a lay reader who has been told by John Sentamu that his permission to officiate will be removed if he converts his civil partnership to  marriage, as he intends to do. Now in some ways this is no concern of mine as I am not a member of the Church of England, on the other hand it is as I know Jeremy and have stayed in his house in previous years when attending York synod. I am also a little surprised that Sentamu has reacted this way as, although the Church has always said it would withdraw PTO from clergy who converted civil partnerships to marriages, its official guidelines in 2014 made a distinction between clergy and lay discipline stating that, "Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community."It did make me wonder how you can welcome a couple and yet (presumably) make it clear to them they cannot be involved in lay ministry. I also wonder how welcomed anyone would feel seeing others treated in this way.

This story brought to mind for me the vote for gay marriage in Ireland where 62% of people voted "yes", an amazing result which led Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to say the church needed a "reality check" if it was to retain worshippers. I have no idea if the  Irish Catholic Church has formulated a more realistic view on subjects such as sexuality and contraception since then- personally I very much doubt it but I can't see that the Church of England is doing any better at the moment. It does all confirm what I felt in November 2012 after the failure of the women bishops vote. Even though this vote was later carried, this was largely due to the awareness of the disastrous consequences if it did not carry, not least that Parliament might take the step of removing the Church's exemption from equality legislation. It was also outrageous that it simply took so long for the Church's structures to be opened equally to both men and women; it really did all come too late.

Anyhow, as I say, I don't really know why I am concerning myself with this at all because it is none of my business and in any case I believe that God inhabits the secular world and the whole of life much more than a church or institution. We are told that, "the Lord God does not dwell in houses built by human hands". You cannot build a church with bricks but only through investing in people and values. I think the question the Church of England needs to ponder very closely at a time of rapid change might be what kind of a house they should build.

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