Thursday, 24 December 2015

Although I am not particularly musical, if you do have a few minutes in your busy Christmas Eve to listen, I recommend this.
  






The above is also worth watching.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Godly wisdom

One of the lovely things I have discovered as my sons have grown up is that they have reached the stage where we can have a conversation and it always delights me when they discuss things in a way that shows their intelligence, thoughtfulness and conviction. My younger son likes to hover around when I am washing, cleaning, ironing (occasionally offering to help..) and talk through the things on his mind. These are usually related to Maths. It was during the summer holidays after his AS exams that he first started to try to explain to me some of the things he was interested in. I remember him holding forth about the Golden Ratio one day when I was trying to clean the kitchen. He even brought  me in some graphs and diagrams. "Aren't they amazing?", he asked. It was the first time that I really understood that people who study subjects like Maths can become as absorbed and delighted by them as much, if not more so, than I can by the themes of a novel or a moving and beautifully written poem. Of course, I had known this before, I guess, but I had never fully appreciated it - and that is a different thing.
Anyhow, my son is currently interested in the role of maths in  Artificial Intelligence. Fortunately he does not now even attempt to explain the maths to me but he does talk about some of the possible benefits, and very real problems, that Artificial Intelligence poses in that it could offer huge benefits but also enormous risks as effectively it is the ultimate Frankenstein's Monster, creating something that we do not fully understand or have control over. The example that my son gave was that we might ask a superior intelligence to come up with a solution to global warming and the answer might be:"kill all human beings", a solution which admittedly would cut carbon emissions! If then the superior intelligence could make decisions, chose to act on this and found means to do so, then we would be in real trouble (although I venture to suggest we already are, and perhaps a short swift end might be better than the more protracted agony which is facing us?)
I am not convinced that what we need to solve global warming is more intelligence. I think we know exactly what we need to do, we just don't want to do it. What we lack is not intelligence but other qualities such as the will to act, the ability to put long term interests before our short term desires, the ability to co-operate and work in harmony with each other, the willingness to relinquish our greed and our self interest. What we need is not intelligence, but a different kind of intelligence. What we need is wisdom.
Underlying the Christmas message, and the whole message of the Gospel, is the most profound wisdom. It tells us that God, who is all powerful, chose a path not of greed and loveless power but  of renunciation, humility, poverty. He walked with us in solidarity, as the hymn says put aside his majesty, and embraced sacrifice. One of the reasons I am a Christian is that I truly believe this message offers us the wisdom we need to bring about peace on Earth and goodwill (among) men.
 This Christmas I will pray for wisdom for our leaders in their attempts to find solutions to the many problems facing us at the moment. Although my hopes are not high, I will particularly pray that we will be able to act to do something about the problem of Global Warming. More than anything this Christmas, I want us to have a world to pass on to our children.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Into the darkest hour




It was a time like this
War and tumult of war,

a horror in the air.

Hungry yawned the abyss-

and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.



It was time like this

of fear and lust for power,

license and;greed and blight-

and yet the Prince of bliss

came into the darkest hour
in quiet and silent light.



And in a time like this

how to celebrate his birth

when all things fall apart?

Ah! Wonderful it is

with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

Madeleine Engle

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Friday, 27 November 2015

That Friday feeling?

It is Friday night which usually means a trip to the gym. Tonight I am just too tired following two weeks in a row with parents' evenings and appointments that kept me at work until past nine o'clock. It is also just too wet and horrible out there, so I am going to settle down and do some reading or see if there is anything worth watching (unlikely!) I hardly ever do any marking on a Friday night, it is the one time in the week I reserve for "me". One other thing I would not contemplate doing today, given it is apparently "Black Friday", is venture anywhere near a shop. I was quite pleased therefore to see that Black Friday has been more like slack Friday this year- maybe people have some sense after all?
                                BLACK FRIDAY
         Their black is your red

Monday, 23 November 2015

Lady in the van



This weekend Mr M and I headed out to do some Christmas shopping before the crowds get too horrendous. We have instituted the £20 pound rule again this year (hooray!) and so fortunately it didn't take too long and we found we had time to go to the cinema. It was a choice between Suffragettes or The Lady in the Van; Mr M is all for equal rights but still said he would opt for a batty incontinent old bag over a couple of hours in the company of a mob of seriously pissed off women (I guess he is joking here, right?) so we opted for the former.  Mr M found it funny, I thought it was mildly amusing. We were both agreed that it was very moving as well as that part of the fascination is a glimpse into the life of Bennett himself. Catholicism took a good bashing, but what's new there really? I do recommend it.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Guidelines

Here’s what you need to do, since time began:
 find something — diamond-rare or carbon-cheap,
 it’s all the same — and love it all you can.

It should be something close —
 a field, a man, a line of verse, a mouth, a child asleep —
 that feels like the world’s heart since time began.

Don’t measure much or lay things out or scan;
 don’t save yourself for later, you won’t keep;
 spend yourself now on loving all you can.

It’s going to hurt.
That was the risk you ran with your first breath;
 you knew the price was steep,
 that loss is what there is, since time began
subtracting from your balance. That’s the plan,
 too late to quibble now, you’re in too deep.

 Just love what you still have, while you still can.
 Don’t count on schemes, it’s far too short a span
 from the first sowing till they come to reap.
One way alone to count, since time began:
 love something, love it hard, now, while you can.

Rhina Espaillat

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Paris

Like pretty much everybody else, I heard the news about Paris last night on the ten o'clock news. It sounded like there was going to be a high death toll and, although nothing had been said about the motives, everyone knew there was a fair chance that some form of Islamic extremism would lie behind it. The retreat that I used to go to every year attracted a fair number of Europeans, several of whom were French, and I was struck today by the range of reactions posted by Christian friends on Facebook  from expressions of absolute hatred and anger against Muslims/ immigrants to pleas for hope and peace to overcome hatred and conflict. How differently people who ostensibly share the same faith can react to the same situation.
It is very natural for us to react strongly when we feel or can imagine ourselves or those like us threatened and very easy for us to react with equanimity or indifference to atrocity or injustice affecting others. Paris is not the only place recently subject to violence and atrocity but it is maybe the closest to us, we tut when we hear of ISIS murdering innocents in Syria but we are shocked and angry when in happens closer to home- not to "them" but to "us".  Our ability to divide people into them and us and feel a lack of compassion towards the ones we have designated as "them" runs deep. Ironically it lies behind the actions of extremists such as ISIS and behind so many acts of cruelty.
  So what do we make of Jesus's advice to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you? It is something I would find very difficult to do if personally affected by a situation but I thought of it only this week when I heard James Foley's parents say that they found "no solace" in the death of "Jihadi John" and read that they have set up an organisation which, as part of its action, works to provide underprivileged youths with access to education. I don't mean to say that we should not take punitive action against terrorism,yet terrorism aims to bring social conflict and instability, and to instill a fear and hatred that then breeds more fear and hatred. Sometimes we have limited power over what others do to us, and no power to change what has already happened. The only thing within our gift is how we react and respond.


Friday, 30 October 2015

Amsterdam

Just sometimes the work stops and Mr M and I go away and enjoy ourselves! We've just come back from two nights in Amsterdam. We arrived at 1.40 on Tuesday and our flight back wasn't until yesterday evening, so we got a good two and half days. We opted for a pretty basic hotel as we were going to be largely out there hitting the night spots... (hahahaha) Seriously though, we just needed somewhere to sleep and a base. My feet do now ache as we did lot of walking; we also managed a fair bit of sitting, drinking and eating in cafes and restaurants by the canal. The weather was lovely, really warm, especially on Tuesday and Thursday. We visited a few sights, some free places such as gardens, others cultural, the Royal Palace in particular and we also queued for ages to go round Anne Frank's house. I last visited Amsterdam when I was about twelve and remember wanting to go to then but not getting the opportunity, so having waited for... quite a few years...waiting a bit longer seemed fair enough:) Mr M spent a fair bit of time sampling cheese in one of the many shops devoted to that product and deliberating between the choice of mustard, cumin or pepper. In the end he bought a large round of cheese to bring home, despite my reminders that it is not good for him :) He says the cheese is all his...
 One luxury of going away is the chance to eat food that you don't have to prepare, cook or clear up from. Our first evening we had lamb shank, seared sprouts and carrot and parsnip puree followed by buttermilk pancakes, poached pear and ice-cream. It was delicious but the meal was on the pricey side for us. The second evening we headed off to the Red Light District for Thai food at The Bird,  reasonable prices and huge portions which were absolutely delicious, I recommend it. We finished off yesterday with a breakfast of  tea, coffee,pastries and cookies in Vondel park and a midday meal of tomato soup, weiss bier and bitterballen in the sunshine at the Dutch Table restaurant. I am glad I do not know how many calories we managed to fit into two and a half days. Let's just say that, apart from a largish cheese which needs eating, it is back something a bit more abstemious now!
Choices...

Vondel Park right next to the hotel so it was our breakfast spot


In the Royal Palace

You see outdoor chess sets so often on the Continent. We didn't have time to play,

Rijksmuseum gardens

Monday, 31 August 2015

Retirement

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.

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, 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

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

Friday, 20 February 2015

Half term

I think I mentioned at Christmas that the next few months would be wiped out with marking mocks and coursework? Well the coursework marathon started this half term with work from every single group. I marked from Saturday until Wednesday which wasn't great. I did go to sleep at night (!) managed to fit in a few trips the gym, ate some pancakes Tuesday lunchtime and the wonderful Mr M took me out for a curry on Tuesday evening , otherwise it was pretty non stop. I prepared lessons yesterday, which is more fun than marking. I have now FINISHED completely and the rest of half term is pretty much my own.
So far the only Lenten discipline has been the amount of work I had- quite enough as far as I am concerned. Today was very definitely down time and I met a friend in Knutsford for lunch. I had a delicious seafood pasta dish followed by the tempting trio of puds featured above. We then wandered around Knutsford and went walking in the park. It was lovely to catch up with someone I haven't seen for a while and so good to just have some free time. I now have a whole work free weekend ahead, a luxury I intend to enjoy!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Red sky at night, lemon delight


Red sky at night, shepherd's delight,
Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning.

That's how the old saying goes but I rather feel it has been disproved today as the picture above is of the sky last night taken from our study window and yet today has been cold, grey and foggy in our neck of the woods- although apparently bright and sunny elsewhere in the UK.


Grim weather notwithstanding, I've had quite a pleasant day. Having experienced a couple of broken nights recently (I am prone to insomnia), last night I crashed out and slept over ten hours at a stretch. I do feel much better for it. This afternoon I baked a lemon drizzle loaf, partly to use up some leftover lemons and a jar of lemon curd but also because baking while listening to "Poetry please" on Radio 4 seemed just the ticket given the dreary weather and general chill. The recipe below has to be one of the easiest cakes to make, you just bung it all in a food processor and it comes out perfect. The addition of the lemon curd seems to make it quite moist and- well- lemony actually. Who'd have thought?

               Ingredients 
·                           140g (5 oz) self raising flour
·                           110g (4 oz) caster sugar
·                             110g (4 oz) butter or margarine, softened
·                              2 eggs, beaten
·                            2 heaped tablespoons lemon curd
·                           Ingredients for topping
·                            2 tablespoons granulated sugar
·                             zest of 1 lemon
·                               2 tablespoons lemon juice

              Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas 3, 150 C for fan ovens
2.      Put flour, caster sugar, margarine, eggs and lemon curd into a mixing bowl or food processor, and mix well together. Put into a greased or lined 900g (2 lb) loaf tin (or makes approximately 16-18 cupcakes).
3.      Place in centre of oven and bake for 1hour - 1hr 30mins (or 40-45 minutes for cupcakes).
4.      While in the oven make the topping: blend together the granulated sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind.
5.      Once cake is cooked, leave to cool still in the tin for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then while still hot to warm, pour over the topping so that it soaks into the cake. Leave to cool for about 1/2 hour then turn out of tin. Keeps well for a few days if wrapped in greaseproof paper and tin foil.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Stephen Fry and theodicy



" I don't know if God exists but it would be better for his reputation if he didn't. (Jules Renard)

 Stephen Fry's rant about how God "dare" to create such a brutal world is doing the rounds on YouTube and social media at the moment. I personally am not offended by Fry's view; the notion that theodicy, any attempt to account for a loving God in the face of a cruel world, is futile or even obscene is not a new one. The view he expresses has its validity and Fry has a right to his opinion even if it does not express my own world view.
I have blogged before about suffering and the way that Jesus's suffering and humanity helps me to begin to make sense (I don't claim to have wholly made sense) of a world in which human happiness  is blighted not just by man's inhumanity but by disease and natural disaster.
What would Jesus's answer be to the question about how he dare to allow a child to have bone cancer?
Well, I think he might explain that he was that child with bone cancer. That he was the man whose sight was destroyed by the parasite. That he was and is each and everyone of us who faces poverty, exclusion, cruelty and suffering. He might ask where were we when he was hungry, helpless and naked- in fact I think he has said he will? With regard to the child with bone cancer,  I think he might ask us how much we truly cared? Did we give all of our money away, as he exhorted us to, and do everything we could to eradicate the disease? Or did we keep a fair bit back to fund our pension pots? He might ask us if we sat by complacently not bothering to look for a vaccination to Ebola until we felt personally threatened? He might ask if to consider our disregard for our planet and the huge amount of suffering we are likely to be inflicting on future generations- our own children and their world.
We would do well to reflect that the world we live in has been made a thousand times worse by our actions. What a suffering world does give us is the opportunity to reach out to others and to heal and offer hope. Jesus came to earth to model this to us - have we followed his example? He taught us that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit, humble, peacemakers, yet haven't we persisted in egotism, selfishness and greed?
 So I think Fry's rant, although I accept is it his truth, is a little limited. I am never going to be complacent about suffering, and yet it is true that much of our greatest literature is tragedy, the exploration of human pain is deeply connected to our search for meaning in life.
I believe that we are put on earth partly to ponder meaning and to think about the answers to questions which are by no means easy - and that we then go back home and tell what we have learnt.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Libby Lane and the theology of taint

It really is good news that the Reverend Libby Lane will become Britain's first female bishop tomorrow and I think that it is a really positive move for the whole church and for so many men and women, but particularly women, who have waited so long for this.I feel a bit guilty that there is a conspicuous lack of detail on my blog about the politics and events in the Church of England, it is just that I have simply lost interest. Back in November 2012 I took some time out to think about where I was going in terms of all Church related things. I decided to pull out of some of the activities I had been involved in, such as representing groups at Synod, not just because I was appalled at the impasse over women bishops but also because I could not see much hope for the inclusion of gay Christians, given the global nature of the Anglican communion and some of the tensions seen there.
I'd also become increasingly disillusioned with what institution does to religion. It is a terrible cliche to say you don't believe in institutionalised religion, I would prefer to say that I rejoice in the way that grace, the Church's best kept secret, manages to do its work despite the strangle hold of institution. From a personal point of view, the decision to bow out was absolutely the right one and , although it was precipitated by the vote of Synod, I had reached that point well before and it had been a long time coming.
Anyhow, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle (predictably) because Philip North, who holds traditional Anglo-Catholic views on the ordination of women, will be consecrated in February and Sentamu has said that he will exercise "gracious restraint" and not lay hands on the said Father North because Sentamu will have laid hands on Libby Lane and Sentamu's hands may not now be able to impart the real McCoy in terms of making North a real, genuine, no-kidding bishop in the tradition of male, apostolic succession (or some rubbish like that, I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention...)

 I suppose I should be outraged at the theology of taint or something like that but it is possibly a mark of how completely I have disengaged that I am not feeling terribly exercised over it all. It is, of course, the theology of taint, and it seems to me to be the complete opposite of what we learn from Jesus, who would touch anyone. I also think that those who believe in this sort of "pure blood bishops" stuff are a bunch of weird crazies- having said this,religions are generally full of weird crazies, it attracts them. So what did you expect? The best thing about indifference is that it lends you a wonderful objectivity and an amused shrug of the shoulders is much better for your blood pressure than getting worked up.

But indifference, rather than internal difference of opinion, is the Church's real problem at this moment in time. With increased secularisation, the British public lost touch with its faith decades ago and we now see the working out of this in falling numbers and emptying pews. The tragedy of this is that when people stop looking to and listening to the Church, they no longer hear the message of the gospel. Perhaps the Church should think harder about the fact that those it needs to reach are largely ignorant of, rather then indifferent to, the good news it has to share.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Marking the mocks

The entire weekend has been devoted to marking mock exam papers for my teaching groups. I have two weekends (plus evenings of the coming week) to get through this pile... and I allocate myself targets and try to exceed them slightly. This weekend I have marked pretty much non-stop. My target was to halve the load, so I am pleased to have whittled away at an extra ten. The slight drawback is that marking so intensively makes me feel sick. I mean this literally. I actually start to feel nauseous and can reach a point where I just have to stop and go and lie down.  Marking can be a soul destroying task. Of course there are those which are cogent, perceptive and well structured, they don't quite compensate though for the ones that make me  tear out my hair over the quality of thought and expression and wonder if I should just throw in the towel. It is also just horrible to lose the entire weekend to marking the stuff. The only down time I had was a visit to the gym yesterday evening and a walk around the park in the snow, featured below, this morning.



The snow transformed everything today. It was so cold and crisp and beautiful in the sunlight and I took some bread and fed the ducks, and also the gulls who were so hungry that they dive bombed into the water for bread and  sometimes caught the falling pieces mid air, thus depriving the ducks whose quacking seemed to my imagination to take on an increasingly indignant tone with every piece of bread which was intercepted in this way. It is sad to say that this was the highlight of my weekend.

If I can do just a few scripts every evening this week, next weekend might just be bearable.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Gym or sin?

The gym was completely packed tonight. It was full of people trying to fulfill their New Year's resolutions to get fit and/ or lose weight. I know I am being uncharitable, and I do want to see people succeed in their bid to get fitter, it is just that it can be a bit annoying when the cross trainer, the rower and the bike are all taken. "Never mind, it won't last long", the gym assistant reminded me this evening. He is right. I remember last year with the gym overflowing with hot, sweaty bodies until the end of January/ beginning of February when normal service suddenly resumed. Of course there are always one or two people who stay the course, they are like the seed that falls on good soil in the parable of the sower. The rest are not going to put down roots, or they will be pecked up by the birds, or rather the allure of a night in front of the TV with a packet of crisps.

 It occurs to me that the gym has aspects of a religion. It has it zealots who are scarily committed to the whole thing, it has the more faint hearted (that's me) in its number, then one or two people come just to socialise and make themselves feel a bit better about themselves without doing too much. The gym assistant is one of the zealots. I spent ages thinking he was called Justin (he looks like a Justin, OK?) then found he is called something completely different. Justin-who-is-not-Justin does all sorts of weight training, he badgers me to up my weights assuring me I won't put on muscle due to lack of testosterone, he exhorts me to "mix up my regime" more regularly and he is always up for a discussion of my diet, providing he can, in return, tell me about his latest regime of high protein snacks and regular meals. "I have seven meals a day", he confides, "I had scrambled egg whites this morning and some lean chicken, and a whey protein shake. You should up your protein to sculpt muscle." Justin-who-is-not-Justin is incredibly fit. He has extremely taut abs and once made me feel them to check out the muscle tone, but this aside he is a total diet and exercise bore.

 Justin-who-is-not-Justin is great if you need to get any transgressions (health related) off your chest. Tonight I told him about my various Christmas and New Year blow outs and he assumed the grieved expression I imagine would be seen on a priest hearing confession. He was keen to lead me back to a path of righteousness and suggested that my high fat, high carb overload could be purged by a detox, a sort of equivalent to a fast with penance in the form of juicing spinach with beet juice being suggested. I nodded thoughtfully while vowing to give that one a miss. In line with confession and penance, the gym definitely offers salvation by works not faith. Calories in need to equal calories out. You have to put in some effort to get results, you have to deny yourself to get to the promised land of health and fitness. You can't afford to backslide for long. There aren't any shortcuts and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
That's why the cross trainer might just be free in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Pretty much guaranteed NOT to get you back to church!

Pastor Rap - Back to Church from alegator21 on GodTube.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

In the name of God

Freedom of speech may seem more precarious, fragile and precious today than it was yesterday in the light of the terrible murders committed in France. This is not to say that we should not be aware of and respect the beliefs of others, yet the right to criticise and challenge and express dissent without fear is a touchstone of a free society. Satire, in my view, also operates within a particular and understood context that should give it a greater freedom to "offend." I was thinking about free speech today and recalling that Jesus was never afraid to speak his mind and that he too was executed for blasphemy. I was also thinking about what we mean by blasphemy, and thought of how Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of our fellow human beings, we do to him. I also thought of taking the name of God in vain, and that there is no more terrible way to misrepresent God than to carry out atrocity against human beings made in his image while claiming that we do that in his name. This, rather than expressing an individual opinion, is surely the true blasphemy?
Je suis Charlie?

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The turning of the year

I really have had a relaxing Christmas and New Year. The reason for this, in spite of family staying and having open house on New Year's Eve, was that I had less marking than usual as we have rejigged the structure of our A2 English Literature coursework and the mammoth essay marking won't take place until around February. That it will follow hot on the heels of the equally mammoth task of marking the January mock exams is something I am trying not to think about too much at the moment.
Our scaled down twenty pound Christmas worked much better- well it did for me anyhow. It was lovely to have  friends and neighbours around for New Year. We seemed to acquire more alcohol in the form of gifts of wine/ beer than we all managed to drink, as well as some beautiful flowers which are now in full bloom and which I am enjoying. Mr M likes to set out a generous table for New Year, including chilli, chicken wings, all sort of cheeses, salad and dips. A slight drawback is the need to eat up the New Year's leftovers. I hate food waste and try to throw away as little as possible and this year we have just about managed it. I am not really complaining about all the yummy food around though. Mr M baked cranberry and white chocolate biscotti on New Year's Eve and I am still enjoying "finishing it off."
Flower gifts- we rarely buy flowers ourselves
New Year biscotti

Walking the dog
You can just see the ice on the lake
 I tried to take things easy today and squeeze as much as possible out of the holiday before returning to work. Kev came to church with me this morning and then we took the dog for a walk around a local park, the lake was partly frozen and looked rather beautiful while some very hungry ducks were glad of the stale bread that we took. This afternoon I spent some time bagging up compost in the garden, our composter is full so I need to make space for more veg peelings. It will all be used as I intend to buy some seed potatoes come February and just grow them in any old sacks or containers.

On a final note, I never make New Year's resolutions. I often make resolutions (and frequently break them) but resolutions at New Year just sets you up for failure!