Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A True Lent

IS this a fast,—to keep  
    The larder lean,           
        And clean  
From fat of veals and sheep?     

Is it to quit the dish                 5
    Of flesh, yet still           
        To fill           
The platter high with fish?           

Is it to fast an hour,        
    Or ragg’d to go,                    10
        Or show     
A downcast look and sour?

No! ’t is a fast to dole
 Thy sheaf of wheat,   
        And meat,          15
Unto the hungry soul.   

It is to fast from strife,  
    From old debate         
        And hate,—              
To circumcise thy life.             20

To show a heart grief-rent;         
    To starve thy sin,         
        Not bin,— 

And that ’s to keep thy Lent.  

Robert Herrick 1591-1674

Herrick ponders here how to keep Lent and urges us strongly against the traditional ideas. Don't give up one thing such as meat (or chocolate, or wine) he says, only to compensate by piling your "platter high with fish". In fact don't fast at all, he says, unless it is from hatred and conflict, above all show your concern for others -"the hungry soul"- in Lent and starve your sin, and not your bin! 
A friend, who is actually a former monk but now an agnostic,once told me he saw Lent observances as egotistical and self indulgent. I am sorry to say he actually saw Christianity and most Christians as motivated by egotism. I didn't agree with him, but I listened to his arguments and he made a point we should consider seriously.
I don't really "do" Lent, at least not in the usual way and I won't be doing anything in particular this year. I wish I had something deep and meaningful to say to you about it at the moment but my focus is still on putting one foot in front of the other each day. I think that is going to be enough of a Lent for me but I hope you manage to keep your Lent in whatever way seems right and beneficial to you.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Oxford weekend

The Vaults garden
Just back from a weekend visiting my son in Oxford. My son had arranged accommodation in Jesus College and managed to get me a (free) formal dinner in the college hall on Friday. We also spent Friday afternoon just browsing around Oxford and had soup and the most wonderful peanut butter and banana cake in the vaults teashop gardens.
On Saturday son drove me and his girlfriend to Blenheim Palace and we even walked in the grounds despite drizzle and rain!


 In the evening, I treated them to meal at TheTrout at Wolvercote, it was always one of Kev’s favourite places to visit, so that was quite hard. This morning son had boxing training (it is the Varsity match very soon) and so I went to St Michael’s church near Jesus College- sung Matins which brought back childhood memories. In one of our churches, most of the congregation was so tone deaf that my dad used to parody the end of the Te Deum , Lord vouchsafe to keep us this day without sing, he would say to us on our way to service. The choir at St Michael’s in complete contrast were amazing, such beautiful singing. We then went somewhere Matt recommended for bagels and  ice cream; the photo above is my ice cream about half finished. By then it was starting to be a struggle but I persevered valiantly...
It was a good weekend, difficult in many ways because there were so many memories everywhere, but my son really wanted me to go down and I was glad that I did.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Feeling down

The probate grant/ letter of administration arrived this week so up town today to sort things out. Bitterly cold and the shops full of valentines cards. Horrible to have to sort this crap out, banks and building societies want copies of death certificates, marriage certificates, wills, driving licence, utility bills all the usual as well as endless  forms to fill in.
Felt totally wretched. Only good news was the bank as soon as they saw the grant of probate were happy to transfer the ISA with them immediately into my current account so I wouldn't go overdrawn or have to borrow money from my son. Relieved-  but then I should think so, we've been with them decades.Later on I got a call from the bank to say I'd left my debit card behind so had to borrow money for this week from lovely eldest son anyway!  Next on the list was to visit two building societies, first relatively straightforward, the second was a nightmare, wouldn't sort it out with me until a financial adviser was free and wanted endless documents, they were like that just to close the account back last year so I wasn't surprised.
Got home and felt totally low and alone.I hate financial stuff and I hate certificates and having to write down dates of marriages, deaths on bloody forms.The whole day left me feeling just deeply sad and low.
 I think I am going to have to be firm and resolute in the future about  looking out for myself and my family and putting us first. It might not be what it says in the gospels but sometimes you just have to - because really nobody is going to do it for me.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Weekend visit

My younger son and his girlfriend are visiting this weekend. They were here when I got home from work on Friday night. The first thing lovely son said after he'd greeted me was that they were going to take  me out for lunch today. How grown up he is getting, I thought. The second thing he said was that he had brought his washing home... two large bags of it... so maybe things don't change that much after all:)
It is good to have them both here, the house feels a lot more like home with people coming and going. I've also enjoyed talking to them, about all sorts of subjects, trivial and serious. I have my eldest son at home but he is quieter and often out at work at the weekends; today made me realise how much I miss conversation.
 I've been vaguely following the news from America, but because I feel low at the moment, it just depresses me so much to hear how awful things are and reinforces my feelings of futility so I try to switch off to an extent and let it all wash over me. My son's girlfriend is a Muslim so they both feel quite strongly about what is happening and I feel on their behalf. If you are a parent, you will know how that feels.
So, a grim and gloomy world at the moment, I was sickened that Trump brought out his ban on Syrian refugees on Holocaust Memorial Day. Do we never learn from history? In a world which can be so cruel and painful, why do we make things worse by our actions to each other? 
We went to the Wizard of Edge in Alderley Edge for our lunch. I had the soup which was pumpkin, (very Harry Potter) and a pulled pork burger with chips and salad. It left me feeling very full and I couldn't manage anything else to eat for the rest of the day, said son has been nagging me about whether I am eating enough. I am amused at him turning the tables and  giving me a lecture, he really is growing up...