August 12, 2011
Try saying stretchy neck.
Then try saying it with a NZ twang: stritchy nick. Now faster. Szczecinek. That’s it. Well done. You can pronounce a town in Poland. Well, according to my esteemed father this is how to say it. And what is the point of this?
My brother, his wife and children are living in Szczecinek for a month, and you can find out why here.
August 7, 2011
This is how it works.
I have no idea how it works.
With 2 tiles to go dad is 181 points ahead of me and close to beating my all time high score. On his first game. Did I mention his first ever turn on Scrabble was a bingo? Or that bingo is an anagram of boing? (BOING: rebound, making a noise, BINGO: gambling game in which numbers are called out and covered by the players on their individual cards).
I will beat him next time. Or perhaps the time after. (AFTER: at a later time).
I feel like I count again. Here are some ways in which God has enabled me to start looking up and beyond the abyss. After several days avoiding society at home I found that we were needed at a children’s birthday party. Explaining that we couldn’t go would have been pathetic and unfair to Lily, so we went. All four of us. In the end she had her face painted and I chatted with people about some useful topics.
Straight after this I went to a friend’s wedding, because I could not have forgiven myself for missing it. Roger is the most lovely, humble, funny church secretary you could ever hope to meet. He was widowed a few years ago and has grown up children, who are equally lovely, humble and funny. Roger married Gillian who is also a church secretary (at a different church) and a truly wonderful lady. The church was packed (two churchfuls plus extra family, friends, colleagues). It made for amazing singing and a joyful and loud service. I went without my husband and children but felt truly part of something special and that God was loving me through the event, as well as blessing many others. I am so excited for Roger and Gillian. The wedding was a good chance to see some folk who’d moved away or who I hadn’t seen for a while, which also lifted my spirits.
On my walk home I walked part of the way with an elderly lady who invited me to see the garden she’d been working on. Experience has taught me never to refuse these kinds of invitations; they cheer the elderly up enormously and you don’t have to say too much if they can’t hear you. She was lovely and even though I had to look her up in the church book at home (it is a large congregation), I was pleased to have met her and chatted about hollyhocks and moss on the lawn. I learnt when the street was built and that she used to be able to see right through to the ring road from her kitchen. I do hope I cheered her up.
So I had hoped to avoid people and I found my day full of people. All of whom taught me useful things about humility and my value to others.
Today I wasn’t sure if I could manage church, but I went along as we had agreed to go straight on afterwards to mum and dad’s. And what a service. God has been trying to get through to us about stepping out of the boat multiple times in recent years. Again the sermon, by a visiting speaker, was on Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water.
Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.
It is less of an abyss, more of an atoll. I still ache, but the aching is part of the healing, and tomorrow I get back to responsibility and reality. (REALITY: state of things as they are).
And in reality, I believe that I count. And am counted.
I have no idea how it works.
August 5, 2011
I started writing this on a dark and stormy night. I felt like a cliche. Then my daughter needed thunder explaining. Then the phone rang with difficult news. It was not conducive to writing. The storm abated. The moment was lost.
I am actually contemplating becoming a recluse. It would fit my INFP personality style. My writing may not be helpful for you, but it is therapy for me. And I need it now. I cannot face people. Real people. In talking situations. In going out of the house situations. In answering the phone situations. Even the children. I am doing the minimum and grateful this is my husband’s week off. Something has snapped. I do not want to be broken, but it feels like I am staring into a large, dark blue hole.
Last night I had a dream about heaven. It was closer to earth than I realised. It was a team effort. It was a wonderful mixture of good textures, purposeful creativity, joy and familiarity. I woke up amazed. There are snatches of heaven all around us. That view. That technology. That laughter. That solution. That selflessness. It is at hand. Some of us may never see it. I see it a bit like visiting a National Trust property. Enjoying the wide green spaces and ancient beautiful architecture without having to own the place. It is a moment of ownership which lifts you. Some people don’t get it and some do: ownership is arbitrary anyway.
Teach me to number my days aright.
I am playing Scrabble with my dad on the computer. When you put all your letters down it is called a Bingo and you get an extra 50 points. I fear Bingo is my dad’s secret middle name. With 35 tiles remaining he has scored three bingos and also played YELK on a triple word score and GAZE on a triple letter (the Z, which was used in both directions). Statistically I have more wins than him as I’ve been playing longer online, but I don’t like my chances on this one. I’m not going to throw the towel in. I see the big picture: sometimes you get good letters, sometimes it is a lot harder. At least over many games it averages out.
In life, often it does not. I was thinking about my children. They are really on loan to us. I have them physically until about 18. In Lily’s case, I calculate we already have had 20% of her living-at-home-with-mum-and-dad time. In Joseph’s, just over 7%. Financially however, as well as we hope to prepare them, they may not be fully independent for a little longer. And apparently they will probably live quite a long time. The BBC says people don’t imagine themselves getting older. I think about it all the time. And the Telegraph has a gadget for telling you your percentage chance of reaching the age of 100, based solely on your age and gender. The chances as you reach your late 90s actually improve.
When I feel particularly down the future seems unrelenting and frightening. Life has been unrelenting recently, despite a number of lovely elements, for which I am grateful. When I see the bigger picture I recognise that the pace I’d been going at with parenting, taking on the toddler group, adapting to new situations and a number of other responsibilities will not always remain. There will be different challenges at different ages. But when you are exhausted and need a holiday, there are some points in life where a holiday is just not an option. Pre-school children do need masses of attention. I was grateful last week that my parents-in-law took a lot of the responsibility for them. But the travelling, planning and being unwell at the same time all took their toll. Nearly a week later I am still shuffling off my cold and trying not to shuffle off my coil. I am trying to fight off panic about the future and my identity. I am struggling to breathe most of the time. A heavy cold on a hot day takes your breath away.
Life seems stormy and dark. It will not always. And if I number my days well I can pace myself better. Holidays where I can forget about everything are a distant memory. But I can still revel in snatches of heaven around me. And maybe find the courage in the coming days to get out and face people again. Or at least do a bit more writing.
June 14, 2011
Today my mum turns sixty, and as such is a member of the elusive ‘threescore’ club. If you don’t know what my mum looks like, here is a portrait drawn lovingly by my daughter, who is very much at the cephalopod stage and enjoys drawing snouts. It is not an accurate representation of my mother in that she is not a besnouted cephalopod, but forgive Lily. She lives tangentially and creatively.
Maybe when she is a famous artist this will be worth a lot of money. Or maybe not. On the off-chance, I have given the signed original to mum.
Including the B-side, which features a self-portrait of the artist, in stripes (crayon).
I don’t think she’s got her hair right. But she did include hairclips (aka hiccups) for realism. Unlike her brother she does not have a serious obsession with putting food in her hair. Or in ears. Or banging food against her head just to see what happens. I suspect that he will be the comedian when he grows up. Or a chef.
Meanwhile, I got all organised and baked an Actual Mary Berry Cake. I am so proud of it, it makes the blog:
Clever blogees will have noticed the mathematical symbolism of two sugar flowers for each threescore of mum’s life. Well done you.
I began this blog shortly after dad’s 60th. He is now in wonderful shape and great health (apart from his hearing). I said, apart from his hearing. Hear. Ing. Don’t have too much cake dad. I now realise that dad is 4 years and 9 months or so older than mum, and I have been blogging almost as long.
Many many happy returns of the day, mum. Here’s to a wonderful new decade. And, in due course, a buss pass. Turns out you may have to wait a little longer for that. But not as long as those of us who are nowhere near the threescore club.
May 24, 2011
Now, I realise that my life with two pre-schoolers and countless mini-projects is not conducive to blogging unless entirely essential, but this could not be ignored. Love it or hate it, you cannot put a price on our right to Marmite.
Or can you? Denmark, I’m talking about you.
And please Iceland, while we’re at it, no smoking in public places. Some of us are relatively affected by clouds of ash.
It is enough to make you want to get right away from it all. People, politics and, I don’t know – numbers.
February 26, 2011
Wow. Aven’t blogged for quite a bit. Appened to ave been a bit busy at ours lately, but maybe I’ll blog more about that some less busy time.
We took the kids to Ertford today, and true to the saying, did not encounter urricanes of any kind. We were there to bid farewell to my sister before she emigrates and meet with my brother and his wife and children too. It was good to have a meal together and a short walk to a park, but it was over too quickly and my sister ad to urry off and catch the 16:42 to Kings Cross. I will miss being able to talk to her in a convenient time zone and share ugs. But I am also immensely proud that she is pursuing something she’s dreamed about for ages and ages. Luverly. Now we’ll ave to save up to go and visit her in Canada. At least it’s not Spain. I ear the rain is frightful on the plains there.
One for dad. I think it might be a Great Dollop or something.
In other news, my father-in-law celebrates his 65th birthday today and we wish him many appy returns of the day. But obviously no urricanes. It interferes with the trees.
I nearly forgot to update the records about my new cousin once removed. He was rather uge I gather, leaving not much change from £10. Still, I cannot work out whether he is a small car or a fancy cocktail. Probably, as he is proper Northern, I am being too hostentatious. Anyway, good to ave you with us Haustin Jack.
January 28, 2011
Is it really 80 cat years since I left the family home and Charlie, our beautiful grey tabby moved in? Today he left us, without a voice and without a fight. He’d been on the way out and he knew it.
So did we. Thankfully we were able to prepare Lily that this day was coming, and a few weeks back we already had the ‘do animals go to Heaven?’ discussion.
When I had to tell her today that Charlie was dead, she was not moved. Even when Joseph repeated dedededed insensitively and pulled himself up where she was sitting and I tried to help her understand he wasn’t going to be at Grandma and Grandad’s again. She thought she might write a letter with Beaky the imaginary dog (who was briefly a cat this afternoon), from Grandad to tell us that Beaky was poorly. I really don’t think she’s fully taken it in. I used bathtime to talk about it again, but even her hairwash didn’t make her cry.
She’s a tough little kitten at times. Bit like old Charlie-boy. I’m sorry to see him go, but at least he is no longer in pain.
November 9, 2010
Certain dates this year did not escape my attention, but I did not blog on them – apparently dad still remembers the date of his heart attack just over four years ago and there is little now I can add when the fifth anniversary of Grandad’s death passed shortly before that. There have been other difficult anniversaries recently but also good anniversaries such as our seventh wedding anniversary. It will soon be Christmas.
But today is also an anniversary; as dad put it to me today, it is three years since I became a parent. Ironically, already the longest continuous employment I have found myself in and certainly the one I intend to be working on for the rest of my life. My little girl is suddenly three, or 36 months if you are a connoisseur of toys for pre-schoolers. For her it has been an even more eventful time. While some people spent the last three years of their lives reading such ridiculous subjects at University as Croatian, Middle Egyptian, Hebrew or Koine Greek (or even all four), Lily has devoted her time to learning English, which is far harder. She has also been learning about Sociology (don’t push), Politics (say sorry) and Geography (where did you leave it?) and her grasp of Literature (you had the comic last night) is telling. We have been working on Leitmotifs in Fantasy Genre in Children’s Media (the tooth fairy) and regularly explaining certain aspects of Anatomy (they won’t wobble until you are 6). History sometimes appears on the curriculum (what did we do yesterday?) and Geometry, while limited at present to what wheels on buses do, is turning a corner. Metaphorically, that is. On a good day we cover Food Technology (don’t touch that, it’s hot/sharp/tasty) or Art (don’t touch that, you’re wet/sticky/painty) but many days we just do Media Studies and hope that in another 24 months or less our nearest school will not be too upset at her progress to date.
At least she is now deemed sufficiently responsible that she will no longer place objects of questionable size in her earnoseandthroat. And old enough to start having to pay to go to more activities. Maybe we will have to introduce Finance and Economics into the curriculum. No wonder there’s never enough time to blog.
October 17, 2010
I don’t personally know the way to the San Jose mine or its workings, but I’m glad others did and that some ground-breaking rescuing went on this week in the Operation San Lorenzo. When I was briefly an engineer, I was told that if you looked up Boring in the Yellow Pages, you were advised to See Under Civil Engineering. Unfortunately for urban mythology, said text no longer prints this little gem. Unfortunately for boring, sometimes in life you have to prove that you are more than your name.
Boring it was not. I cried when I saw my first live miner emerge. It was on a par with watching a birth, and had shocking parallels. There was a long wait, nervous expectant families, then a body emerging head first, checks for vital health, loud screams, and all the rest. I guess babies rarely greet daylight with sunglasses on, but perhaps Oakley have missed a major marketing opportunity here: a little Acornley line for 2011 is in the offing I am sure.
Now the dust is settling, people are curious about all the things they should know better not to be curious about. How many women can one miner need? Is a proposal more serious for having taken place under duress? What is the right pronounciation of Chile? Did they leave anything important behind in the mine? What is the Queen really going to do with her piece of Copiapo?
I am curious about how I would have fared if stuck with 32 of my colleagues or friends at any given time in a similar predicament. I am certain I would not have had the survival know-how that the group leaders relied on. I would not have even known where the tin can opener was kept or what to do if there wasn’t one. I would hope that I would have been part of the solution rather than the problem, perhaps in terms of group harmony and thinking of ways of passing time. However, I know I am no saint, and would have had my rocky moments too. I would have been grateful for the variety of those around, so that there would have been others to support and be supported by.
Another parallel I cannot ignore is that of redemption. The miners, dependent on being rescued by others could do no more than make loud noises and petitions in the hope someone would realise their need. Seemingly abandoned away from life and all that is good, they had to trust and hope that rescue would come. Rescue for all, saint or sinner. It matters little whether preacher or scoundrel. All needed rescuing. The palomas that sent good things kept them inspired and sustained. Paloma is the Spanish for Dove, as I understand it. The process of rescue involved much cost and for others to descend to where the miners were, to give them the chance of freedom. The parallels go on. I wonder how many books will be written about it. For now, here is a clip which got me thinking, especially after chatting with dad about the words on the shirts of the freed miners.
September 23, 2010
That is, avoiding saturated fats and alien life-forms.