Category Archives: Dad

One generation shall praise Your works to another – Part II

So here is the second of the three-parter.

Yesterday I mentioned the first point in a sermon we heard on Sunday about what the next generation needs: Wisdom and Knowledge. As an educator I agree. Our children need to learn How to Live more than they need to learn How to Make a Living. Else what is to stop them rioting, joining gangs or believing all they have to achieve in life is a record deal?

Secondly then, we heard that the next generation needs to learn Character as a moral compass. Learning to do the right thing, especially in tough situations. The Telegraph today suggests that women have a better tuned moral compass than men, and that those in their early sixties are at the peak of their intellectual and moral powers. The old and wise officially have something to teach us. Didn’t we know that already?

Who were the wise people in your life?

I remember my grandad as an old and wise man. He wasn’t always old, but he happened to be by the time I met him. Life had taught him a lot and his character had been finely tuned. What passed down to me from him, primarily through my father, were values of hard work, faith, dry humour and attention to spelling. Even though I didn’t spend much time with him, I had huge respect for him. I am certain Grandad learnt his moral compass from growing up in the environment he did. He wrote many things down in his memoirs, and I am grateful today to be able to read his story. I personally think everyone should write memoirs. Not everyone is ready to learn others’ wisdom (or even life experiences) in the time frame they have to talk with them and there is so much good we can pass on to our families through our stories by recording it.

An important turning point in my Grandad’s life was when he became a Christian as a teenager, thanks to wisdom worked out by a young doctor, family and older lads around him who showed that the Christian life was not only normal but desirable. After this Grandad felt a lot of peace and the Bible began to make sense to him. He was attending a church called Latchett Hall, whose history one can see online now.

Grandad grew in character and learned maturity through responsibility. He fought in the war, married and had four sons, worked hard to support his family and tried live his faith by example. He was solid. He was someone I am proud of and proud to be associated with.

And now my brother, his grandson, is coming to the end of his time training in mission and is about to start employment at the same site, working with Youth For Christ in Epping Forest. One generation impacting on another. My brother coming back to the place Grandad grew in faith and invested in young people. Through much effort by others around him, primarily our parents and the youth leaders at the church we grew up in, much has been invested in my brother. He has grown in knowledge, wisdom and character. He has resisted, and would be the first to admit it, but he is solid too. I am proud of him and proud that he can re-invest in Epping Forest and in training up new generations there in the way they should go.

I will not ever never forget you Beaky

I have this little daughter Lily. She is small and very funny. Lily has an imaginary dog called Beaky that no one else can see. She drew a picture of him here:

[Owing to errors in a previous post, I now cannot remember whether Beaky features to the right of the tiger, or on the right hand side of the tiger. I suspect Beaky is the one on the left.]

One day Lily said ‘Beaky died on his birthday’ and we asked how. ‘Beaky had a party and he died and now I have a new dog called Chadderly’.

‘Chadderly?’ we asked. ‘Chadderly? As in Chudleigh?’

‘No’ explained Lily, ‘Chadderly, from the London Advent Calendar‘.

‘Chudleigh from the London Advent Calendar?’

‘Yes. Chadderly.’

This did not make enough sense to us, so we asked about Chadderly. What did he look like?

‘Chadderly is the colour when you mix your ice cream.’

‘Do you mean when you mix chocolate and vanilla?’

‘Yes’

Lily then had to tell Beaky and Chadderly off for jumping on the furniture, despite neither of them existing and one having apparently passed away, which brought that conversation to an end.

The next time we visited Grandma and Grandad’s house Lily wanted to see Chadderly on their London Advent Calendar. It is not putting it too strongly to say that Lily is obsessed with the London Advent Calendar. She can tell you what most of the dates do and every day of the month she reminds you of the equivalent last December. The London Eye is the 3rd. The Restaurant with the scary silhouettes is on the 5th and therefore will be ok to watch when she is 5. Big Ben is on the 1st. The Three Boats Come Sailing In is on the 6th. There are a number of others, as you might imagine. Lily makes up songs about it. She talks about the animals. She tells stories about them. She has decided that her teddy Archie will go to the St Paul’s Cathedral school and church (17th). She looks forward to going to Grandma and Grandad’s house mainly to play with their London Advent Calendar.

Here she was at Christmas getting a big fix, in my absence.

Except there was a problem.

You see, Chudleigh (ahem, Chadderly), looks like this:

I don’t know when you last mixed chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but I recommend it. It does not, however, come out black.

The Real dog Lily had in mind was this one:

This is Bertie. So, goodbye Chadderly and goodbye Beaky. We will not ever never forget you. And welcome to the madhouse Bertie from the London Advent Calendar.

Robski

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.

Counted

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.

Numbering

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.

And Threescore again

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.

Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark

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.

‘Urricanes

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.

Fourscore

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.

Anniversaries

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.