Sunday, 22 January 2017

Bad boys lead the good girls astray, it was ever thus

You may think I am straying from my usual serious  subject matter by taking on this boy/girl aspect of nature but I was reminded and much amused by watching my bad boy Butty dog leading the adoring Jack Russell girls astray this afternoon.  Off we go, up the hill to the ridge which looks across two or even three counties with everything coloured by a pale blue mist as if it was a watercolour.  I am so entranced by the view that when I let the dogs off the lead, I take my attention off them and zoom, that bad boy Butty is off with the girls following. I whistle and call their names, I see them from time to time as they come round a corner, I am looking out for the fierce keeper who doesn't like dogs running over the ground at this time of year in case he sees me out of control and them streaking around the acres.  But with my philosophical self, I am reminded of how the bad boys or the good boys being bad boys tell the good girls that it is absolutely fine to come out to the pub, to the party, to the club and no, of course their mothers won't find out and even if they do, they'll get over it.  I think I am reminded because of the very slight fear that comes when the dogs go that something bad might happen to them.  Then I think how lucky it is just to be observing all this bad boy stuff and although I am the owner of the dogs, I am not the parent of the boy or girl, oh ho, not me, not anymore.  So, our new baby just out of your space ship and dressed in whatever lovely garments your loving parents are putting on you, unable to tell them you would rather be in a black babygro and that you don't want your hair brushed, one day that bad boy cousin of yours, (nothing personal Benji or Max and Sebastian or Archie) will say, come with us over the hills and far away to the pub, party or club and you will skip out of the door.  I expect your mother will ring me up and then and say should she worry.  What will I say? Probably yes!!!! but I will also say that this will pass and one day even you, tiny new child will be a grown up remembering how you tiptoed out of the door while no-one was about with your high heels in a bag. 


Friday, 20 January 2017

Desert Grandmothers and Grandfathers

St Catherine's Monastery, our home for a week

To get ready to go to the desert with Grandpa, I have been reading about the Desert Mothers and Fathers and the way they lived and what they taught.  We are only going to the Desert for a week but they lived a whole and totally dedicated life there.  The real truth of how these ancient devotees lived was that they became solitary, they weren't seeking anything other than to be at one with  God and that required their total commitment.  Not for them, just a week's retreat with the chance to call home on the mobile phone;  not for them just a Lenten give up of crisps, wine and chocolate, it was living the whole life of the total renunciate, no going back home for them, the desert was home.  

I am looking forward to a chance to try a week of living in the monastery and it being a week dedicated to being in the atmosphere created by the monks who live close to the lives of the early desert Mothers and Fathers and I hope that somehow we will imbibe by osmosis some of the devotion borne of the disciplined life lived in that place.  You might wonder why, when we could be spending a week at Sharm al Shaikh having a pleasant time round the pool, eating crisps, sleeping late, reading books and doing what most people think is restful, we have chosen to have our holiday in a monastery on the Sinai peninsula.  It is because we realise that learning to be alone and content with whatever is actually happening at this moment is not easy but we feel it is important because there will come a time when crisp eating, swimming in big blue pools, sleeping long and reading books aren't going to satisfy.  Having started the January diet and waved goodbye to visitors and given up alcohol, we can already feel ourselves looking around for something to fill the gap left by those lovely pleasures,  looking for something to distract our attention from just simply being by ourselves alone.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The comfort of the old in the face of the new

Grandpa's new toy
new hand touches old one
An old hand is gripped by a new hand and a new baby meets its two uncles who have travelled miles to visit her.  Grandpa gets a new i pad which Mike sorts out for him.   The teeny tiny child is transported in a huge travelling spacecraft- like incubator by ambulance with an entire neonatal team and gets closer to home.  Two of her uncles, one from Jakarta, one from Dubai, make journeys of several thousand miles to visit her and are able to hold her.  They are amazed that her head, just the size of a small orange is so tiny lying in the palm of their large hands and her whole hand is smaller than the tip of their large grown up fingers.  Old friends make the journey from London to join us all as we celebrate a late Christmas, New Year and probably an early Easter all in one weekend, feasting on all the favourite family dishes.  Everything good about our lives is toasted with a huge magnum of champagne sent by uncle number 3 from Singapore.  Come back soon that Uncle Bun, uncle number 3 to meet the smallest and newest member of the family.  We all take the dogs out for a walk round  the long circuit taking us as always out of the gate, turn left, keep going over 2 fields, over the bridge, right, left, down the long field, past the Church and back home with 4 or 5 dogs.  

Uncle number 4
Uncle number 3

And then, a final lunch and the weekend comes to an end.  Nothing you can do to delay the departures, no stamping your foot or weeping crocodile tears.  Back go the friends to London, off to Heathrow goes Jakarta boy in the rather small car belonging to our family giant who somehow looks as if he should be in something bigger. Back to the hospital go the new parents and this old granny finds a certain comfort in washing up the old pans left from the last meal and then mopping the floor whilst thinking philosophical thoughts about the way everything comes and goes, comes and goes, appears and disappears and even though you think you have something to do with what happens, it is clear that you don't have a great role, you just get to watch the show moving onwards.   Even the newest and tiniest baby has moved out of its spaceship life and is in a cot and is wearing clothes and there are newer and tinier babies taking her place in the spaceship station at the big Cambridge hospital.  

Sunday, 8 January 2017

both ends of the spectrum

RAF uniform
the tiny baby smiles
We hadn't seen the old RAF officer in Church for months and we missed him but thought that he was maybe unwell or had perhaps even relocated.  But today he was there, right behind us in the pew where he used to sit with his wife before Alzheimers carried her off.  They were a loving couple, devoted to one another, who came to Church regularly, both beautifully dressed. He with the special smartness that comes from having worn a uniform with pride.  His shoes were always polished and he always wore a tie and smart tweed jacket.  He hadn't been to Church, he said, because he had been a bit down and we felt rather guilty because we hadn't known.   He held tight to our hands when we shook his and I heard him during the communion sing along with the choir the hymn 'oh worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness' and he was somehow lit up by it. I am struck by how we light up with what we associate with, with  a uniform we smarten up, with singing special words or saying kind things to one another, we become special and we become kind.  And oh my goodness I am struck by the way one small baby in a spaceship incubator, just 2lbs something of her has lit up devotion in the new parents and their sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles too.  Even Grandpa who is not at ease with new babies has been lit up by the arrival of this new small relative who smiles! 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

A time for this and a time for that!

Are you going to be beaten by a potato says Tom Kerridge
Reading the Saturday newspapers at this time of year is a guaranteed recipe for disappointment although our Saturday supplement promised quite the reverse.  The first headline says Eat to Beat depression but that is disappointing because all the marvellous things which are being suggested are simply just out of reach, the ingredients are usually rather expensive or include the one ingredient that I just don't have so I turn that page.
Not Grandpa
Next up, Couch potato to super-fit in 12 weeks;  even we at our age could (they mean should)  train to do a half marathon but we should be backing up the running by resistance training to build up core strength.  There are pictures of people (who don't look our age) doing the exercises which have marvellous names, the abdominal crunch and oblique plank are just two of them and of course, they all take time as does the running.  So, that is disappointing because I am going to disappoint them by never running the marathon, half or whole.  Then on to Page 7 where we could lose weight a different way by going to a therapist.  I do agree that our relationship with food makes us fat but instead of therapy I just need to follow Tom Kerridge's wise words and realise that if I want to lose weight I need to stop eating the things (chips) that I love. I must look at a chip and realise it is just a potato and decide if I am going to be beaten by a mere potato.  It, he says takes self discipline to make us change but also recognising that I must be more powerful than a potato!
Not me
Next article which no-one who has followed the marathon advice and then the complicated recipes for healthy food could follow is that we could spice up our sex life even if we are older.  In response to someone who writes to her at, Suzi Godson advises the older couple to spend time rediscovering and enhancing their sex lives.  "Look, oh therapist",  I want to say, "we are married for over 45 years, have plenty of children and have had our share of the ups and downs of relationships, we are looking for a steady way out of life avoiding excessive activity of any kind besides for which your fellow journalists have been advising that we will need to spend so much time getting fit and eating quinoa that we won't have time to spice up our sex lives as well".  So, I am both disappointed and disappointing.
I go past the pancakes dripping with maple syrup picture and the low alcohol wine article, pause briefly on the hellebores on the gardening page and land on the 50 best holidays in France which are definitely not for those on the diet page but  might suit the older people spicing up their sex lives.   I pause at the Spa breaks; am I stressed or burnt out?  I could try a healing holiday and they all sound wonderful at several thousand pounds a destress. Yoga, jacuzzi, meditation and massage in  fairytale havens around the world all vie for my attention.  I don't mean to disappoint the travel writers but by now I am confused with so  much advice and think that I should offer to do a single page for the newspaper bringing all these advices down to earth and meaning you can stay where you are, keep the pennies in your own purse and be happy.  Meditation doesn't need you to go to Thailand or Italy or even India, exercise can be taken at a nice easy pace and digging your garden will make you fit and probably so tired that the idea of a spiced up sex life can be left firmly in between the pages of the weekend paper.  Meditation just on your own chair or out in the summer house doesn't disappoint.
Not me either but this is a meditating older person just sitting on the beach

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Twelfth night thinking time

Here are the wise men with a touch of Sadlers Wells
We clear out the Christmas decorations and all the remains of Christmas today It is twelfth night, the twelfth night after Christmas itself and we clear out the old to make way for the next thing and in the Christian calendar, it isn't the January Sales! 

We are making way for Epiphany which is both the celebration of the visit by the Wise Men and also the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.  It is no wonder that all these events in the Christian calendar are packed in on top of each other, after all, we are trying to pack in 33 years of Jesus life on earth into a single Christian year, all the events and all the importance of the events and what they might mean.  Epiphany is also described as a revelation, an emotional event which seems overwhelming with a sense of positivity that inspires you to act in such a way to either resolve an issue or it can motivate the creation of an idea.

Here on the right are our Xmas decorations photographed on my i phone to remind the family far away about our annual Christmas traditions.   They were made by our dear old friend Joan Evans who was a ballerina and artist.  You can see that she was a ballerina because all her lovely figures look as if they could take off across the stage at Covent Garden.  they are now packed away gently again in tissue paper but safe until next year although they are rather battered.  

This is the oldest angel Joan made
If Epiphany means realisation of a Truth, what might our Epiphany mean this year?  For me, the 2017 Epiphany comes in realising that even treasured things get old but not the spirit which created them.  I remember Joan and her qualities of selflessness and her delight in the smallest kindness.  It is still her spirit talking through the angels she made.  In the same way, the spirit which talks through the wise men, through the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, through that packed life of Jesus which clearly wasn't easy, breathes the goodness of the spirit which created it.  My epiphany is in remembering to be grateful to Joan for her kindness and for the enormous kindness of the spirit which comes to earth again and again and again and to resolve to put my epiphany to some good use.  Will you join me?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

converting bitter to sweet

Dear Children and Grandchildren, mine and yours,
Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle

Here is a story worthwhile sharing with you and this is the reason.  One thing we all find difficult is not being believed and worse, being thought to be guilty of something we didn't do.  So, instead of feeling forgiving to whoever thinks this bad thing about you, you become bitter.  That bitterness comes back every time the bit that is hurt gets touched.  And it isn't welcome, it isn't something anybody wants.  I am sure from my own experience that everyone wants to be free and to feel loving, no-one wants to harbour bitter thoughts or resentments. This couple, Sunny and Peter, (see them in the photograph) were both once in prison, both sentenced to death for murders they didn't commit.  Are they bitter after all the years of imprisonment and separation from family?  No not a bit of bitter left.  They have used their experience to create a centre for others to get past any bitterness.  The story caught my ear because both of them meditate and speak about it as a way to clear the past and move on.   They are looking for ways of insuring that the initiative never fades and just hearing their story may make someone step up and help.