Monday, 6 June 2011

Can you have such a thing as rain envy?

I suspect if you live in an area prone to drought you might, though as you're used to it you may not do...

However, I live in an area of the UK that is currently suffering from a severe lack of rainfall... the total for the last couple of months can be measured in small numbers of millimetres!

I arrived in London this morning to heavy, steady rainfall. It looked fab, in a refreshing sort of way. It smelt amazing - the last lingering remains of that incredible aroma that you get when it hasn't rained for a while. It sounded great - the pitter patter of drops on the carriage windowpane and then my umbrella.

Yes! You can definitely have rain envy!!!!
Do you approach a holiday time with an increasing sense of knowing just how much you need it? A deepening knowledge that you're only just managing to keep body and soul together? I am!
Its just over 5 weeks before we escape for two weeks to the south of France for a fortnight of just doing nothing and it can't come soon enough!

When you're at home or at work or just in the daily/weekly routine/grind its virtually impossible to carve out time to just be. There is always that little task you've been threatening to do for ages that nags you into feeling guilty. Or there are friends you haven't seen for ages or family gatherings you must attend.

Sometimes - or at least just before we moved house - I'd managed to achieve a routine that allowed me time for me each weekend, time to just flop/slob and re-charge. To be alone (though since it was at a health club I was always surrounded by people). To be anti-social. To internalise conversations and sort through anything that was niggling me.

Since moving to our gorgeous new home that's become an infrequent luxury. But I'm beginning to realise its not a luxury at all - rather its an essential part of a healthy balance for me...

When I return from my two weeks of slobbing I must give that priority!

Until then though I shall endeavour to keep body and soul together and look forward to lazying by the pool/sea with a good book on my e-reader!!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The world is so small isn't it...?!

Well thanks to the facility that is Skype it is! In the last 24 hours I've spoken to Naomi and Colin in San Diego and Necia in Wellington! Its almost like they're in the room. Fabulous! And its true it does shrink the world!

There were weeks that would go by when Naomi was too busy to be able to pop in at home but now its almost like we will have the chance to speak more often. So far we've had loads of emails and last night a tour of their new apartment - courtesy of a laptop and Skype. Utterly brilliant!

As for Necia - my ex-flatmate - its been over 5 months since we last chatted so its hardly surprising that we spoke for an hour. LOTS to catch up on including two weddings (both our son's) and plans for a couple more. Wellington is truly on the other side of the world and a 27 hour trek by plane, this is such an amazing alternative.

All I need to do now is make sure Neil and Nicola get connected too and we'll have it sorted!

I caught the end of a piece on the radio yesterday about the importance of touch as a child grows up. Appropriate touch is always important in childhood and it remains so as we mature. It feels good to hug a relative or friend. That close physical contact is so precious... We'll have to accept that is rationed while we live in all these far flung places... but the visual sense helps :-)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How brilliant to be back!!!!

I have the next 5 days stretching out ahead of me - well 4.5 days, I've had half a day already - at home. FAB! In the last 10 days I have criss-crossed England by train, car and plane even. Despite the best efforts of the volcanic ash cloud to spoil it for me. But all the travelling and the huge amount of work has left me utterly exhausted!

Though if you add to that the farewell we bade to our daughter and her fiance as they emigrated to the States last weekend. So the combination of physical and emotional and intellectual draining has more or less knocked me out - and it takes a lot to do that!!

Its fascinating looking back on Naomi's farewell now. logically we all knew it was coming and what's more we were all delighted for them both. they are so happy and so suited and so excited about building their own future. Its the conclusion of being a successful parent - well sort of, I understand (from my own mother) that it never ends - which is good!

Never the less I woke on the fateful day with tears already to spring up at a moments notice. It was just so illogical - but emotions are, aren't they...? They defy us! They creep in under our defences and capture us whether or not we like it!

In so many ways I wanted to be strong for Naomi and Colin... and I know I wasn't alone in that. Distance is relative - it takes nearly as long to get to Edinburgh by some forms of transport as it does to get to San Diego - see I can be as rational as the next person!! But I am so pleased that the irrational bit of me broke through the tough surface.

The emails are now zipping to and fro across the Atlantic (and the rest of north America) and everyone is happy, excited and - well, its all almost back to normal.

Its about making new patterns and new beginnings... not just for the beautiful couple but also for all the rest of us..

Monday, 16 May 2011

Great... at last a chance to post a thought or two!!

My life feels manic at the moment. Lots and lots going on with the family. An extra short term role at work, however that brings quite a lot of extra responsibility - I didn't go looking for it, it found me! BUT the family are the focus at present. Our son returned from his honeymoon on Friday last week so we made a snap decision and went to stay with him and his in-laws Friday night... oh, and our daughter came along too, with her other half! Crazy but utterly lovely. We're so lucky that we get on with our son's wife's parent really well!

What I really want to tell you about though is fab friends! I'm so, so lucky.

My close mate Katrina and her gorgeous girls (two black Labrador's) is such a source of fun and inspiration, joy and laughter, empathy and sympathy. She's a writer and she has heaps of talent and I'm proud and privileged to act as one of her editors... I trust her with my life... On the surface, to look at us, you'd never put us as close mates...

Then there's Nick n Rob, who feature in the photo! We all met in the most 'normal' way - they had a flat to sell and I was one of the pair, me and my mate Necia, who purchased it. It might've finished there but I am delighted to say it didn't and we met up afterwards and haven't stopped since. In fact its now nearly 9 years and we're still having such fun.

Life brings you all sorts of opportunities - some more of a surprise than others - but its far too short to say "this shouldn't work"

I'm so glad to be able to look beyond the obvious and find some wonderful - life long - friends! :-)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

I saw a dog the other day... nothing unusual with that I hear you say. But it was a hot day - like so many this spring - and as I was walking through the streets I saw a car pull up nearby with a dog in the back seat.

Its head was out of the window and its ears flapped in the wind. Its nose was sniffing furiously, trying to gather all the different smells that were coming thick and fast. It seemed to have not a care in the world!

It was just such a lovely sight. So human and yet not so. I could almost feel that same rush of air over my face and, though my ears aren't big enough to flap, I could imagine my hair being ruffled by the wind.

It felt so cool - such a contrast to how I felt. Hot, bothered, tired, a tad sweaty - you know the feeling. I had this huge desire to flee the crowded streets and find a wide open space to just rest in, to simply be at one with the world...

I know I don't allow myself to do that often enough... just be that is I also know that my 'well-being' is the poorer for it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I'm really annoyed with myself! I'm too busy at the moment to even find time to think of a photo to go with this post! work is busy, busy and - well you know how crazy my family life is at the moment.

However, despite my annoyance I have found time to bask in a little moment of self-congratulation today!

I've got a new mobile phone. Its a smart phone - well I think it is. Its touch screen and can access the internet and when I have time I can even think about downloading some apps! I've mastered the basics - so i can text, make phone calls and even check emails. I've managed to turn off the ringing tones so its on silent/vibrate. But I haven't yet worked out how to increase the volume of the person I'm speaking to so that i can hear more clearly - maybe I'm going deaf!

BUT today's little triumph was that I succeeded in setting the alarm for the right time!

How exciting! Even better the tone that wakes you is rather soft to the point of being gentle but gradually builds up as you ignore it or rouse from deep slumber...

So I'm feeling a tad smug at this success - it won't last I'm sure to fail at something trivial on it soon!

I promise a photo tomorrow - maybe even two! ;-)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Last night I finally watched the fourth programme in the recent BBC mini-series "The Wonders of the Universe".

It was a popular series and well presented by Professor Brian Cox and I have to admit to really enjoying it all. It certainly stretched my grey matter a bit! In fact within minutes of the final part starting my brain started to ache... not literally but just through over-activity and trying to get my head round the HUGE numbers that were involved...

It was all about light and the birth of the universe and how the former tells us so much the latter. I was well and truly hooked. Fascinated by all I was hearing and by the way it was presented. Slightly disappointed that the speed of light is now measured in metrically - what happened to 186,000 miles per second... I can't even be sure if I've remembered that correctly because there is no way I can convert that into a metric equivalent!

But I got things before they were said when he talked about wavelength and how the further light travels the longer the wavelength so stuff far away looks red... It was fun as well as stretching!

Then I started to think about the enormity of it all and how indescribably small we are. So, so insignificant when galaxies, let alone stars, are counted in millions of millions. Yet it all started from the same place at a single point in time - the beginning of time.... virtually impossible to comprehend... When you then layer on top of that my personal belief in God and how God existed before time, at the beginning of time and throughout all time - that is when my brain gets close to exploding like one of those dying stars!

Quest for understanding and knowledge is part of our very being... we were made in that way... but it doesn't mean we have to understand it all instantly, as we mature as a race we comprehend more through the wisdom and insight of great minds.

I'm happy to just grasp the little nuggets that I can in the knowledge that I shall know it all one day but not in this life

Monday, 9 May 2011

My life is just too busy at the moment!!!!!

I have been desperately trying to carve out enough time to blog but it just hasn't happened!

I'm desperate for a 'normal' quiet weekend and that will only be possible once my beautiful daughter has emigrated to the US! So its a real double-edged sword...but then I believe that as you bring up your children your main - even key - purpose is to equip them for life and all that lies ahead. The good things and the bad things. The happy and sad times.

I've never felt the need to see my children succeed professionally - though its a joy to know that they are in their own ways. I've never felt it necessary to count and compare exam successes or material possession (that goes for me and the kids!). The things I wanted my children to have and value above all others include: happiness; strong sense of right and wrong; a desire to combat injustice; the ability to be a true and constant friend; and the love of their family.

All sounds pretty obvious, even simple....

The other gift I wished to instill in them was a self-confidence and belief in who they are. Not so that they would become arrogant or a pain in the neck but just enough to make sure that they could stand up to things when confronted by something they knew not to be right and/or just.

Today I've been doing a couple of end year reviews with some of the folk I line manage and I realised that my 'parental zeal' was almost as strong in that context. I want to develop and grow those who work for me so that they can fly this little teams 'nest' and flourish in a new bigger nest, maybe as a manager themselves.

Life can be about allowing people to move on. About knowing when its time to let go and move on...

And that's includes all sorts of situations - especially those that have outgrown their usefulness... or you have outgrown them...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Gosh, was it really a week ago that I was dashing around Norwich making final preparations for the wedding??

Where has that time gone? How can a whole week just evaporate?

Yet there is also a strong sense of having filled it to overflowing. Squeezing every last second out of the ever moving hands of the clock. the passage of time is inexorable and utterly constant... yet its amazing how it appears to speed up and slow down depending on what we are doing.

Occasionally, when I'm feeling like an intellectual challenge and I have the opportunity and energy to chew over a really 'meaty' thought - so you can guess how occasional that really is! - I try and get my head round the concept of time and God existing throughout and in it and before it and creating it. frequently that's about as far as I get because it makes my brain hurt.

Our lives are so controlled and constrained by time... I suspect that's why Dr Who has such unending popularity, the concept of time travel is one we can only imagine... Yet the potential consequences of being able to travel in time are just as weird to comprehend as time itself...

But back to God! The only way I can start to approach an understanding of God's relation with time is through art. Salvador Dali's painting Christ of Saint John of the Cross is one that helps me... That somehow captures an image of God in the universe, above the confines of our planet, inextricably linked and yet separated...

But less of the philosophising - there's another wedding to begin to think about now!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Its SO annoying!

My number plates have been stolen again - actually only one this time, the front plate.

It makes me so angry - though mostly with myself because I'd found a way to prevent them being nicked by parking the front of the car against a metal railing that was also planted by some thick laurel bushes. Only last night I didn't park quite snug enough and there it was - gone when I left for work this morning!

So I had to go to the police station and report the theft and provide all the necessary details and explain that I do really live in two places - twice... and yes, this has happened before and no the criminal damage wasn't to my car but to my bedroom window... But its done now.

All I have to do is drive home carefully this weekend making sure I keep my crime reference number with me so that is/when the police stop me - because the number plate has been reported stolen....

Actually, this didn't happen for years. The first times were ages ago when I moved into the flat nearly nine years ago. Then its happened twice in the last 8 months or so... If I were to offer an opinion I'd say it coincided with things getting tough on the job front and prices going up and folk having to take desperate measures...

It may be annoying for me but what drives someone to commit a crime???

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

I noticed the difference today! Westminster and Whitehall have been recaptured by the civil service!

Barriers have disappeared. The tents belonging to the Royal family's ardent followers have packed away until the next time. The palatial media stand is beginning to be dis-assembled, even the window boxes along the front are showing signs of fatigue. Road blocks are no more and we can post letters again. Life returns to something approaching 'normal' though I am never quite sure what 'normal' is...

In some ways its as if it never happened at all though the queues of people waiting to see the trees and flowers are still forming...

Exciting things, special things, out-of-the-ordinary events are like that aren't they. They usually engender a huge amount of anticipation and preparation; then they're over before you really start to relax and enjoy them.

But our unique memories linger and keep it all alive...

Monday, 2 May 2011

Today has been a quiet day for me...

After all the fun and excitement of the weekend today was one for peace and a chance to reflect.

Some times when we meditate the subjects are thrust upon us but today the answer came easily.... I was struck by how much folk today miss out on and so respond to the simple gifts of listening and touch...

The train of thought was prompted by pondering how we can express a healing ministry. My London church has a regular Listening Service which is offered free to anyone who feels the need and drops in. Listening, as I've remarked before, is such a precious gift. The opportunity to speak to someone whose sole task is to be there for you is incredible and should never, ever be underestimated.

That thought led me to another and I realised how much I looked forward to massages and the like. The common thread there is that it is someone who is focused solely on another person...

It is so simple, the gifts of listening and touch and yet we're often too busy or too reticent to offer them...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Its hard to know where to start on re-telling or even just capturing a glimpse of such a magnificent, near-perfect day...

The weather was incredible, wall to wall sunshine, though as the day wore on a breeze sprung up that was a tad chilly and made veils and trains billow in the wind.

The alarm went early but only so that the golfers could dash out and play a nerve-soothing 9 holes or so. Breakfast - pre-ordered was waiting in the dining room. The rest of us gathered at a more leisurely pace and civilised time. I wandered about camera in hand taking snaps of the preparations. Then the golfers returned and I became 'chief buttonhole pin-ner on'! After they left - and returned to collect the rings and left again - I could concentrate on getting ready myself!

The church looked superb. The guests as splendid as those who adorned the Abbey the day before. The music group arrived had a rapid run through. The ushers, best men and groom joined others at the pub at the bottom of the road for a little courage. The vicars put their robes on and people began to take their seats.

The service was so relaxed and so personal. Spontaneous applause erupted on a couple of occasions. Smiles were broad. The sun continued to shine. The photos were duly taken and the biodegradable confetti thrown - outside the church gate as requested.

Back at the reception the celebrations continued with fine food and drinks in a beautiful marquee. However, the highlight was undoubtedly the three speeches! Each superbly delivered - they reduced me to tears - of laughter!

There is nothing so precious as being surrounded by friends and family enjoying and celebrating a special moment in the lives of two young people.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Missed a day! But I just didn't have a moment to spare...

Neil gets married today! Yesterday started off with a call from my Mum saying she wasn't going to be able to come and help do the flowers in the church... at 6.40am!! And she had all the greenery and the ribbons and the oasis and - well all the stuff we were going to use with the exception of the flowers, which were to be booked up locally. Aaarrgghh PANIC!

However, I managed to regain composure and sorted a plan in my ind in the time it took to shower. I drove to hers picked up the stuff ands still arrived at the church on time! The only hiccup was that my phone didn't have a signal and Neil was trying to reach me! But we all got together in the end and extra folk pitched in!

In fact - as so often - out of adversity comes a real blessing. Naomi (daughter) and Colin (her fiance) arrived with my Mum-in-law. They ALL did arrangements, Colin becoming quite creative with ivy! Neil swept up and arranged chairs. Ray (his future father-in-law) got up a step ladder and helped me deliver the hanging arrangements on the columns! Nicola and her brother-in-law Andy turned up with food.

A fabulous, wonderful family effort. In some ways its what weddings are all about - a celebration of all that is family!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

This weekend is all about family...

The obvious family celebration tomorrow. Though it some times seems like they are packaged as a reality TV programme - by the media, not necessarily by their own volition

But we're embroiled in our own family celebration - our son, my son gets married on Saturday and the work to prepare for it truly started today!! I crammed the normal weekend chores into a single day and added a whole load of others, including welcoming to close family friends from Taiwan to stay and also I'd agreed to give a talk at a local church about my reflections on General Synod!!

If nothing else proves that I'm mad that does - it must've seemed like a good idea at the time... but as I gulped down my supper and looked at the still enormous 'to do' list I questioned my sanity.

As it was the talk must've gone well because there were lots of questions afterwards and they want me to return! What a gift - being able to make the government of the Church of England look and sound interesting!

I've finished packing. I just have to pack up the laptop and prepare for the fun of tomorrow... LOTS of flowers to arrange and a church to make even more beautiful...

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I woke up at 5.30 this morning and just couldn't switch my mind off and go back to sleep! I hate it when that happens - its bad enough in the middle of the night but at least its worth going back to sleep but when its within an hour or so of the alarm going off its hardly worth the effort!

However, I made at least one major decision that I'm still grappling with it - trying to work out if it was merely a result of some state of over anxiety brought on by the early hour or if it is a wise move. Then I ran over all sorts of things I have to do in advance of the wedding - ours not the 'other one'! I then remembered a really random email that I needed to answer and, when that happened, realised the battle was lost!

I was awake!

Its interesting how the time of day influences our reactions and thought processes. Maybe its the solitude and peace that comes with night-time that exacerbates things. Even if you have someone else in the bed or room its still, often, a lonely time and place. Problems seem more dramatic and scary. Resolutions feel more frantic and urgent. I invariably end up having very vivid conversations with God. Real and gritty discussions that challenge (me - of course!)

In the end there was only one thing for it...

I got up!!

Its already been a long day and I don't get into Norwich until 11pm tonight!

At least I can cross roads there and not trip over campers or have a camera follow me! We're now barricaded in, post boxes are sealed, roads well and truly blocked. It makes the preparations for our wedding this weekend look pathetic!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Has someone closed London?

The office is so empty and quiet. The tube had a range of seats to choose from. Even the train into London this morning was approaching 'deserted'. However, tourists seem to be making up the difference! Wandering along streets noses in printed out maps or following their personal GPS system... Stopping abruptly on streets and platforms. trying to stuff the wrong card/ticket into a gate...

You can sense my rising frustration can't you...

I guess working where I do doesn't help, there's no way to avoid sightseers even in a 'normal' week.

It makes me realise how easy it is to slip into being selfish and inflexible. How simple it is to get into a defined routine that has to happen like clock-work, smoothly, seamlessly without hassle.

Its not the first time I've realised I'm becoming selfish ad self-centred. I realised that a decade ago when I went to Taize for a week and really resented the lack of personal space and being told where to be and what to and what to eat and what (not) to drink! I was quite angry by the end of the week and surprised by the depth and vehemence of that anger.

Becoming aware of ones own failings is a good thing - provided you do something about it!!

Monday, 25 April 2011

New life... an egg has been laid by peregrine falcons at the base of the spire of Norwich Cathedral - as the congregation attended Easter services.

Then my Mum texted me to say that the blackbird's that are nesting in her garden have hatched. Such tiny weeny fragile little creatures. All huge bulging eyes and translucent skin.

The weather has continued to be amazing so I have been doing all sorts of things that will probably immobilise me tomorrow! I cleaned the car inside and out, then waxed and polished it till it gleamed.

Not content with that I then decided to creosote the fence - except it isn't creosote anymore, its something that looks the same but doesn't have the smell and can wash off the brush in water!

Having had to bend down and contort my back in some rather unnatural ways I then decided to go along to the health club I belong to for a sauna.... Now that is my idea of bliss!!

As I drove into the car park there was the youngest fledgling ever. I suspect it had only left the nest that day. No tail - or hardly any - standing still in the middle of the drive. As my car approached he did eventually panic and try to fly away.

Delightfully gauche new life...

As for the sauna... I'd forgotten how fabulous it is and how relaxing I find them... I almost fell asleep... my breathing had just dipped into a sort of semi-snore. I feel chilled just thinking of it!

(What an inappropriate use of words!!)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Day! For me its a bit like Christmas Day... the time leading up to it is full of preparations and then the day itself dawns! And its over in a flash!

I don't need much excuse to dress the house and make it look beautiful. I've already told you that! Its a feast day, a festival! And for me that means one thing... going to church - because feast days and festivals always involve that!

I saw a headline on the BBC website about a Chinese Christian and it reminded me of the time that we spent Easter Day in Beijing... We were in a hotel that was next door to a Catholic Cathedral. The coaches of people never stopped turning up on Easter Sunday. We managed to squeeze into a service but it was constant movement and people trying to get into the building to celebrate the festival!

Its a bit like that in your average Church of England parish - not... sadly. I sometimes wonder if its too easy for us... We've certainly become dulled to the message of the Easter story. Dulled by its familiarity. Yet the story is so incredulous to be almost beyond belief...

New life. The reason behind the Easter festivities...

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ooops! The Queen was 85 on Thursday so that means I got he number of Maundy money folk wrong... Hmmm I think that shows where I stand when it comes to the Royal family...

Today had been sooo warm! I feels like August rather than April and I have spent lots of time watering the plants in the garden. Even the established ones are beginning to look decidedly peeky! But how wonderful to have the whole four days of Easter so delightfully sunny... though as I write this we're about to put the curse on the weather in Norwich by lighting up the barbecue! In fact the clouds are gathering at the mere hint of the preparations we've done.

Still it won't be the first time we've barbecued under a large umbrella and its not likely to be the last!!

I've put the cover back on the garden table and chairs in a pathetic effort to stem the inevitable. Playing psychological mind-games with the weather is really rather desperate!!

Spring just seems to be happening at double quick time though... I saw the first Marguerite daisy on the road side this afternoon. The cheery blossom is already falling - it only came out last week...

English weather is rarely dull... actually its often dull as in grey and overcast but its rarely dull as in boring!!

I just wish the clouds that are gathering were as wispy as those in the photo...

Friday, 22 April 2011

I love beech trees in the spring - their leaves are just fantastic!

The 'ordinary' beech, the green leaved variety are such an amazing colour - vivid, bright, yellow-y lime green so paper thin when they emerge from the bud that you could almost believe you could see through them. They keep their colour for quite some time before they grow old and dull.

But their cousin the copper beech are just on another scale in terms of beauty! Their fresh, new leaves are stunningly beautiful. They are almost the colour of flesh when they emerge. Then they unfold and spread out they begin to change to a shade that is hard to describe but is somewhere between burnished copper and a vintage red wine....

Trees are an integral and precious part of our ecosystem... as well as being exquisitely stunning.

A tree featured in my thoughts today... or maybe I should say a structure that was originally from a tree...

Good Friday - a curious name to give such a dark and forlorn day.

I was transported back to Jerusalem - immediately. To the smells and the crowds. To the hustle and bustle of the tiny covered streets. To the noise and the smells. To the jostling... I'm glad I wasn't jeered...

Hands that flung stars into space, to cruel nails surrendered

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Maundy Thursday...

I went to work this morning and found Westminster buzzing with people. They were snaking their way around the streets as they queued to get into the Abbey. It was a special Maundy Thursday though, because it was also the Queen's birthday. 84 men and 84 women received the specially minted coins... and the mother of a friend of mine was one of them!

I think there are some amazing traditions in the UK and this is one of them. I love the little posies that they receive - even Prince Philip gets one! I was told that's a throw back to when the ordinary folk didn't smell that sweet... who knows!

I love preparing for Easter as much as I love preparing for Christmas. Dressing the house and making it look festive and distinctive. Ever since we went to Switzerland at Easter in 1987 I've been making dyed eggs, using leaves from the garden to decorate them.

This year I've added a new feature - little eggs hanging from the bay tree at the front door...

Maundy Thursday is poignant... a gift that we still recreate... the last supper

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Some things just strike me as odd!

I was on an early-ish train to Liverpool this morning and as I walked along the platform at Euston station I was quite taken aback to see a set of footprints on the tarmac beneath me! Not fresh or damp. Not shiny or slippery. But distinct and clear, left and right prints.

Is it just me or do you also feel compelled to follow, implant your own footprints onto those?

There is something that draws me to measure my footfall against those. When I'm at the beach for example I often see what it feels like to trace the walk and gait of others. Its almost like you get a better sense of that person. It might be a complete stranger but you can immediately tell if they like to step out, for example, by the length of their stride.

If you have time and care to examine footprints more closely - especially in sand - then you can also work out where folk put the pressure on their feet. If they have an uneven walk then you can tell. If they're running then heels 'disappear'...

So much from something so 'insignificant'.

To follow in someone's footprints bring many thoughts to mind. Its an honour to follow them. Its often a challenge as well. On occasions it can be quite tough. At other times it offers comfort.

It invariably a privilege though because you are continuing their work... where they left off...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

This morning as I emerged from the tube and went through the gates a gorgeous black and white spaniel greeted me the other side of the exit gate. How sweet you might think... when the reality was how sinister. It was a sniffer dog and came complete with two burly police handlers.

Apparently there's a wedding happening soon, somewhere near here... roads are being shut. drains peered into. Every inch is being combed in the hope that any malicious act might be foiled. I wonder if the dog or one of its 'doggy colleagues' will be there every day from now until the end of April?

Every possible vantage point is now adorned with scaffolding to maximise capacity - and (I suspect) earning potential. The media frenzy that we're starting to see in our papers and on our screens is clearly nothing in comparison with what's to come...

I'm rather relieved that I shall be preparing for my own family wedding celebration. One that will attract just a tad less attention but actually still means exactly the same for the two folk involved. Brides and grooms share the same intentions and hopes, dreams and desires. They long for happiness, for the fairytale happy ending.

I'm just glad we don't have to worry about getting in sniffer dogs... there's enough else to plan for without that!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Manmade things can be sooo ugly!

For the last twelve plus years I have looked out on a flood meadow more or less each Monday morning from my train carriage. I love to see the seasons pass by and the marvel at how the 'landscape' changes. The little river that flows alongside it meanders beautifully sometimes with grace and calm dignity and at other times it churns and swells.

In the autumn and winter it regularly bursts its banks, spilling its contents in such an elegant way and thereby doing what it says on the tin and flooding the meadow... Flocks of birds land in/on it and paddle and possibly even find some tasty morsels to eat.

However... someone has decided to carve some extra channels/ditches into the meadow and they look horrid. They are square sided and straight. Nature has yet to colonise their banks so they look like great big gashes. Wounds on the perfection of nature.

They really are quite ugly! Offensive even....

I'm not sure who decided to do it or why because the meadow is still under water - despite the lack of rain recently. I shall watch over the coming months to see if it does improve and becomes blended into the beauty of the original... but I doubt those harsh straight lines will ever be softened..

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Its Palm Sunday today. I begin the journey to Easter... the last time I did that I was in Jerusalem - we experienced Holy Week in a day.

This morning we walked from the village green to the church - it was beautiful but not quite the same as being in Jerusalem and walking in the steps that legend has it the Christ walked. I have to admit that I suspended reality in many places and at many times. Who can prove that this is actually the very spot that this or that happened? And does exactness matter any way?

I got so much from just being in the vicinity. I got to understand what it might have been like to be in a city like Jerusalem. Not exactly the same but the tiny lanes, the noises, the temperature, the smells, the crowds, the jostling - all will have been similar.

It was a lovely day here. The sun shone and I took the cover off the table and chairs in the garden. We even risked a barbecue and that didn't invoke rain - highly unusual.

Some times its really hard to make that leap. To transfer how it felt to suddenly realise what Holy Week was really like to the reality of daily life. Its not easy. Life seems so distant or maybe its the grim truth of the crucifixion that is difficult to translate - or easy to hide from.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

I've been weeding my garden today.

I love my garden, its still very new - only just a year old and watching how it has grown in that time has become a real delight. I only see it each week so I really notice the difference.

But back to the weeding. I think I know a reasonable amount about plants but when they're tiny its quite tricky to tell the difference. Aquilegia - is a favourite of mine and it always produces lots and lots of weeny black seeds that I like to shake over the garden. But, the seedlings are quite similar to those of wild clover - which is a weed and once it takes hold its a nightmare to get rid of! I know...

Some times people are like that...

They look similar to something familiar. You think you know them. In fact that pretend to be what you know - maybe not deliberately but they do so none the less. Then when they start to grow you suddenly realise that they're different and threatening. They stifle the all around them by taking over.

It takes time. wisdom and experience to spot a weed... I'm still learning!

Friday, 15 April 2011

I find the diversity of folk I encounter on the tube each day fascinating.

The human form is pretty standard really, or at least you think so until you start to look around. The obvious difference are height - or lack of it - shape - often too much of it and sometimes (far too often) to little of it... Then you notice skin tone and hair colour - or lack of it - the latter made all the more exciting by the multiplicity of dyes available combined with the skills of hair technicians (I learnt that was a profession yesterday!) and a greater acceptance of individuality.

I notice fashion - in London in particular, that same recognition of individuality adds much more style and colour to clothes. I notice languages - possibly most of all, because you can be aware of the spoken word without seeming to be rude - looking is easily mistaken for staring, which might be offensive...

I love to listen to the intonations of various languages. I really love listening to the sing-song tones of far eastern languages, so utterly beyond understanding they almost become a sort of music. You can pick-up moods and tensions.

I also notice people's state of well-being. The often proud but clearly homeless folk who sit up a corner trying to be invisible. Those who are burdened by exhaustion. Those who resemble hamsters on a wheel, just going through the motions to keep up. Those who are vibrant and full of vigour. Those who are trying to hide their sadness.

The human form is pretty standard really...

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A new lease of life!

That's a phrase we often hear isn't it. "have you noticed, so-and-so has got a new lease of life" and the next word is often "since". Since they changed jobs. Since they retired. Since they fell in love. Since they recovered from... that illness, that relationship breakdown, that accident.

The list is almost infinite. But the difference is real.

I've been thinking a lot about change today. Change pervades my life quite a bit at the moment. My work life is a constant sea of change and my family life is pretty similar at present!

But what I was chewing on was mainly focused at the way change goes down at work, with my colleagues, with the people in my team. Some handle it, others don't. Some thrive, others shrink.

I know I thrive on change at work, though I don't do it for the sake of it - I am a fully paid-up member of the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" club! But change seems to be an essential part of business life today. Some folk handle changes on process but feel unsettled by physical changes in the office, a move to a new floor or different building can be a real challenge.

I've learnt to enjoy change at home. Having kids almost forces that! Kids are change. They grow each day. They learn something new. They discover a fresh skill or gift. They constantly push the boundaries. And then they peak... or at least you think they do.

But the reality is that their pace of change just alters, slows down. They still change. They move away from home - and then boomerang back when funds are low. They form relationships... that some times end in a serious, life-long commitment.

I'm going through most of the above at the moment - and its exhausting! I feel ten years older! But we grow through experiencing and dealing with change. We deepen our spirituality...

So it was delightful to see a colleague who retired recently back in the office for a chat. She does look well and truly like she has had a large new lease of life... It gave me a bit of a boost!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

There are some things that just don't seem 'quite right'!

I came out of my office building last night and the first thing that hit me was the smell of a barbecue. Its bad enough that its still mid-April so that makes it highly unlikely but even more so when you think that I work in the middle of Westminster!

My supper carried on the theme - I was at a church listening to a Lent lecture so it was a sort of pack-up meal. My friend had filled hot cross buns with apricot jam - not too bad, peanut butter - hmmm not something I'd experienced before and cheese definitely outside my taste experience - ever! All were rather delicious but two were on my not 'quite right' scale!

We have so many expectations don't we... Of people and places, of tastes and textures, of right and wrong, good and bad. But our scale may not be the same as the next persons... In fact its highly likely it won't be unless you're a parent and the people involved are your children - though even then that's not a given.

Squaring our joint but different expectations in life is quite a task. It is often the glue that binds a relationship - when it works well - or the final nail in the proverbial coffin - when it doesn't.

I rather like it when I get challenged by something that is not what or as I expected. It shakes me out of my sloth! It makes me think about why... and it challenges me to evaluate just how important that difference is...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I work in an open plan office... In some ways I always have - throughout my career. Though initially for office read lab! Actually all the labs I've worked in have been for many more than one person, working with chemicals on your own is not the best plan!

But since I've moved into a role that is desk based I've always worked open plan and never felt the need or even the desire to have a little room on my own. Though in my 'business' - like so many others I imagine - space often equates to status and 'personal' space is definitely a significantly higher rung on the ladder! Or maybe - you know those extendable ladders - its a whole new 'piece' of ladder!!

I like the chance to hear what's going on... that says a lot about how inquisitive I am - some call it nosey! But I work in a busy environment where things happen at a pace. Often I can pick up little wriggles that have the potential to turn into a major problem by over-hearing a telephone conversation for example.

I love the buzz of conversation. I find it highly amusing to hear the ring tones people use. The different little bleeps for texts. You can tell a lot about people by their ring tones, maybe that's a whole subject for a thesis!

Today there were only a few folk in so it was really quiet! It was strange almost like being in a place where you have to be quiet! A library or a church maybe. It just didn't feel the same let alone right. Almost like there was a frisson of tension in the air. Who was going to speak loudly first or laugh even.

Does everyone pick up those signals? Do all people sense the same emotional environment I do?

I suspect the answer is no. I suspect we all pick up different 'vibes' and I am sure some people pick up none whatsoever! Its all part of knowing how to live in a harmonious way... or in a community...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Tranquil... A word that lingers on the tongue and invades your very being...

If you let it!

I often have a sense of tranquility touching my life on a Monday morning. Cocooned in the train as it makes its way inexorably towards London and busy-ness. Watching the world go by, reading newspapers, indulging in consuming whole articles as opposed to skim reading the first paragraph!

Seeing regal swans glide with seeming effortlessness across expanses of still water just adds to the sense of peace and "all being well with the world"...

Delightful... Time to be... Time for me... How deliciously selfish!

How fortunate am I to have this space?? To be able to wallow in being surrounded by people and chatter, creation and passing time yet utterly isolated and alone...

And then the train arrived at its destination and its been busy, busy ever since... How precious are those short two hours...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I saw a magpie today. It flew across my path with a twig in its beak that was longer than it was!

It must really mess up the aerodynamics of flight - to have such a huge in balance. But it seemed to manage OK. Nest building is wonderful. It is so diverse. There are birds that just put together a mass of twigs and others that truly weave their 'home'. Some line them with moss or feathers or even the lints/fluff that comes out of the drier.

When I was doing my final exams at school many, many years ago one of my friends did a project looking at the fleas and insects that could be found in different nests - to see if there was a difference. Fascinating things - nests!

I've been doing some nesting myself! Neil (son) and Nicola (his fiancee) moved into their new home yesterday and will marry in 3 weeks! Neil will be here during the week to collect some bits and pieces of furniture - including a small wardrobe that I've promised him.

At the same time Naomi (daughter) and Colin (her fiance) will move in here for a month or so until they emigrate so I had to empty their drawers and wardrobe so they have room for their clothes. Well the ones that won't go into the container taking everything else.

At no time did I carry anything in my 'beak' but I can tell you now my back knows I've been 'nesting'!!

I am thankful that I have to and can do it...

By the way - I didn't find any bugs or other little nasties....

Saturday, 9 April 2011

I've just had THE most wonderful day.

It started well because we had friends staying overnight so breakfast was long, leisurely and satisfying. (We didn't eat again for another 7 hours... and then only a toasted hot cross bun! In fact the taste still lingers...)

But then we went to the north Norfolk coast to a place called Brancaster - to walk round a golf course called Royal West Norfolk... The thing that Pete (Hubby) said that struck a chord as we marched towards was "this course is hand-crafted by the Maker". Its a fabulous links course, its contours moulded and etched over time by wind, tides and nature in its broadest sense.

The golf was a distraction! The tide was on the way out and folk were making the most of a clear blue sky. Spring was tumbling out all over the place, bursting forth from its winter straitjacket. I saw the most incredible 'silk nests' from which tens of tiny caterpillars were emerging! I must check out what they were - apart from an abundant and readily available food supply for hungry hatchlings.

I've added a couple of photos but what I can't capture is the smell of the sea or the sound of the larks... I hope you can add that with your imagination - or better still find a similar location and wallow in it yourself...

Friday, 8 April 2011


I love bridges. My favourite bridge in London is the Hungerford Bridge, its beautiful and just for pedestrians (and trains!) Its lit up at night in such a way that attracts you.

I adore the bridge across the Victoria Dock outside the Excel centre - not because it pretty but because the scenes from it are stunning.

There is that magnificent bridge in the south of France that almost looks like it is suspended - full stop!

There are aqueducts and viaducts and the amazing Ironbridge that gives a place a name...

I'm currently watching the golf from August and the bridges across the water are superb, mostly for the perfect patterns that they form with the water.

Bridges are important. They join places and people. They create a new path.

Bridges are key in relationships...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Don't you see some strange things in our streets?

Earlier this week I had to smile, even stifle a laugh, when a young man rode by me on a Boris bike (I'm assuming everyone has heard of out bike hire scheme in London and the nick name they've been given courtesy of our rather flamboyant major...). That in itself is not enough to make you laugh but when he holding the handle bars with one hand and an enormous black umbrella with the other it is rather amusing!

Though potentially dangerous!

Then a utility company are digging up the road outside our office. The hole is deep and yesterday I watched - with more amusement - as three of them stood around peering into it scratching their heads. Immediately I could hear Bernard Cribbins singing...

There I was, a-digging this hole A hole in the ground, so big and sort of round it was

There was I, digging it deep It was flat at at the bottom and the sides were steep

When along, comes this bloke in a bowler which he lifted and scratched his head

Well we looked down the hole, poor demented soul and he said

Do you mind if I make a suggestion?

Don't dig there, dig it elsewhere Your digging it round and it ought to be square

The shape of it's wrong, it's much much too long And you can't put hole where a hole don't belong

If that wasn't enough this morning as I came into work some (possibly) other workmen were playing loud pop music and one of them was video-ing the other on his phone - I expect it'll be on youtube before long!

Don't you just love the things that go on all around us every day???! Wonderful, wacky things. Equally serious solemn things. But life plays out before our eyes in all its brilliant rich variety.

I'm really glad that I can enjoy it!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Do you remember your dreams?

I don't all the time and I know people who never do but every so often I have a dream that is so vivid that I can recall it like I've watched a show on TV or a film at the cinema! I even have what I call serial dreams, ones that happen in a series that I pick up on a different night some times weeks apart but that continue a story that I started in a previous dream... I have no idea whether or not that is unusual.

Last night I had a dream that would be worthy of engaging Tim Burton to Direct! The whole dream was just wacky! I mean surreal, with people completely out of context and 'sets' that were only just short of being classified as utterly bizarre.

It ended with me swimming in a deep slow moving river where wide circles of ever moving/changing shape pretty red "insects" floated around us. I was swimming with my friend from infant school days (who now lives in Australia!). As we swam into these circles I suddenly became aware that the feather-y "insects" were in fact jelly fish tentacles! For some reason I was in a swimsuit (I think...) but I had bare arms - my friend was in a wet suit!!

At that point I woke up with a jelly fish wrapped round my left upper arm... quite exhausted - though not panicking!

I find dreams fascinating. What on earth did that mean? Did it mean anything at all?

A couple of years ago I did a course in Spiritual Direction and one of the modules was interpreting dreams. I was transfixed the whole day - not least because of the concept that God speaks to us through dreams.

I'm not sure what his message to me was last night - maybe it was to tell me to slow down and let my poor brain have a rest!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I had a "flashback to my childhood" moment earlier today.

One of my colleagues was talking about a food supplement product described as 'tasteless cod liver oil'. Immediately I was about 4 years old standing in front of my mother, mouth wide open, who was wielding a teaspoon with a daily dose of cod liver oil that I had to swallow. Fortunately I wasn't that bothered by it though I know its not to everyone's liking.

It also made me remember the thick, syrupy orange liquid that swiftly followed the oil. I guess they were both providing me with essential nutrients in an era where food rationing had not long ceased to be a part of daily post war life.

How times have changed... at least here in the UK for the most part young people have a balanced diet, though even here there are still areas of poverty and malnourishment.

The whole image got me thinking, not just about the memory of being fed 'medicines' - we also used to get given tablets (for all sorts, from toothache to travel sickness pills) crushed in a spoonful of jam - unlike the sugar Mary Poppins dispensed! We survived and grew up strong.

I contrast our choice and relative food wealth with those whose bellies are distended from hunger. I look shame-faced at the waste we produce and am challenged about the injustice of it all. I think about the use of precious water supplies to irrigate luxury crops for our voracious appetites. I think about fair trade...

I actually and firmly believe that there is enough provision in this world to go round, to feed everyone... so why isn't it working??

Monday, 4 April 2011




These are things that we can all do, its not the exclusive domain of women who have borne children, nor even of parents. There are times in our lives when we all have to mother, nurture and cherish.

At home with our whole extended family - we even have to "upward-mother" to tweak a management phrase!

At work with our colleagues of all ages and grades, those senior as well as those junior - we are all human, vulnerable and in need of occasionally being mothered.

At leisure, for those who are our friends, those who we socialise with and relax with.

Mothering is part of valuing others. Not necessarily of loving them so much as caring for them.

God is a mothering God... nurturing and cherishing us, helping us grow and learn, encouraging us to strike out alone but always being there when we need support...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Aaaaggghhh! Missed another day... but I just ran out of minutes! Life is too busy!

However, I will download the joy of spring in this little bit of the world. The garden is a sea of colours, yellows, purples, even the odd hint of red here and there. All the hardy perennials are bursting into life - they grow so quickly you could almost sit and watch them! And to greet my return on Friday night were two delicate fritillary's, their heads nodding ever so gently in the breeze. Stunning!

Yesterday we finished staining the fences round the garden. We started last summer but then winter came and it just wasn't the right time to continue. Pete did the vast majority of it by I managed a small panel. As I was carefully applying the stain I could hear the goldfinches chattering away with what I am sure was definite indignation - how dare she be in the garden! We're hungry and need to eat! Wonderful...

Then this morning walking to and from our little parish church I was just plain spoilt by the abundance of natures rich beauty! Buds of every shape and colour exploding on the bare branches. I particulary love larch, hence the photo today. Its buds are tiny expolsions of bright green with the most gorgeous red flowers. I also saw great clumps of daffodils and shy primroses clinging to steep, shady banks.

But what joy to see and hear the birds. A jay flew in front of me, alighted in a bush and squawked noisily. However, the most exciting bird I sighted was a heron as it spiralled in to land by the balancing pond near my home. I stood absolutely still almost hidden in the dry reeds. They are so perfectly, elegant. So sleek... yet so deadly!

Friday, 1 April 2011

When you walk along a street what do you??

I always look up - my eyes are drawn to the top of buildings... are yours? I suspect I'm a liability though! I rarely see what's in front of me or if I'm going to bump into folk!

Yesterday evening I walked from work in Westminster up to Soho where I was going to see a film at the Curzon cinema with my new flatmate. I decided on my route before setting out - there was no doubt which way I'd go... along Horse Guards towards The Mall.

That road is edged on one side by the beauty of St James Park and on the other by the most magnificent buildings. Just before you get to the back of Downing Street in the building where the Cabinet War Rooms reside there is the most splendid building. I ought to know what it is but it doesn't matter... it might be the Treasury... but it really doesn't matter!

I was transfixed. Its really crazy because I must've been by that so many time but last night I looked up!

The detail took my breath away! There were different stones used so that natural colours were used to heighten the beauty and relieve the monotone of the main stone. There were carvings and stunning statues. There was a balustrade edging the roof that looked so ornate you began to wonder why...

I think it helped that the sky was blue and the sun was out but never the less it was just wonderful!

So why not try living dangerously in the coming days and look up... not down!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

I feel sad now... This should've been my 100th post but because I missed yesterday and the day before its only my 98th... Still my century is only delayed! It'll come round at the weekend!

So much has happened in the last couple of days it will need a while to process it all. But there is one thing that has gnawed at my mind since early Tuesday morning and that was the sight of Wembley stadium.

I see the new Olympic park twice a week as I go to a fro between London and Norwich - its been incredible to watch it all rise from the rather unattractive brown field site into a splendid new development that will attract the world to its doors. Shape and design is so important and yet so personal. I like the new Olympic stadium but I have to say that Wembley with its graceful arch is somehow more pleasing to me.

The shape and angle with which the arch traverses the stadium is just so elegant.

It is truly iconic!

I think many of the Chinese buildings erected in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics were equally immediately recognisable - who will forget the ice cube or the bird's nest?

In a couple of decades will folk instantly identify the stadium at Stratford... I'm not so sure. That's not meant as a criticism because I think its a remarkable building but its not the most beautiful structure in the park.

Being an icon comes with all sorts of pressures and burdens. You have to maintain that status. You have to somehow remain contemporary. You have to retain your appeal - whether you're a structure of a style icon...

Of course the photo is of an altogether different sort of icon!!

Monday, 28 March 2011

I feel slightly perturbed...

I'm going to be at a conference for the next two days and I have no idea whether I'll be able to access a computer to do this... It will feel strange! I've tried to capture a thought for so many days now and even though I started to write one on Christmas Eve I polished the final version on Christmas Day and posted it amid the festivities!

So it could be a real trial and then three days worth of ponderings!!

Today has had a real sense of being on a cusp... betwixt and between winter and spring. We woke to thick fog but even as we drove towards the station some 50 minutes later it was clearing. The spire of Norwich Cathedral was silhouetted against a crystal clear blue sky at the top and shrouded in thick fog at its base!

The garden I took in eagerly as I departed was a wonderful mix of bright spring colours, mostly purples and yellows, with the odd dash of pink. But the trees are still mostly bare, though the faintest hint of green is beginning to transform their austere winter garb.

So it feels like a threshold moment... neither one thing or the other...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

We were talking about baths recently and someone used a word I rarely hear and spoke about "an array of unctions" to make the whole bathing experience all the more delicious.

I have only ever used that word in one context and that is in a hymn!

Come Holy Ghost our Souls inspire... is a stunningly beautiful hymn that is sung to a plainsong chant whose simplicity just adds up to the most perfect 'package'.

The second verse includes the word unction. Thy blessed unction from above is... Unction is an oil or salve for anointing. its something precious and special.

Why am I writing about this word? Because its been travelling around my mind for a few days. Its such an amazing word isn't it! simply because its rarely heard and used... And what does the hymn say unction is?

...comfort, life and fire of love

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Smells are so powerful aren't they...

They can evoke a whole range of responses from revulsion to desire. We've been doing quite a lot of cooking today so the house has been full of the most delicious smells - savoury and sweet - as we prepare a meal for some friends this evening.

Though before we started cooking there was the business of Saturday breakfast, which in our home is now traditionally a full English breakfast. So even before the meal started to tempt us the air was heavy with the scrumptious smell of bacon and sausages.

However, the smell that arrested me most today was outside. We've had very little rain for ages, I realised that last night when I saw some of my plants were drooping for want of water. Its been dull and chilly today, which is so unfair after days of sunshine while we were stuck at work. But the cloud cover has been enough on a couple of occasions to deposit a little rain - not much but enough to make the fabulous smell that only happens when rain falls onto parched earth.

You'll know what I mean if you love it as much as I do. Its virtually indescribable but it seems a fresh smell to me.

We haven't been without rain for that long really. A couple of weeks or so. I haven't noticed it because I'm struggling to find water for the necessities - or luxuries - of life. The tap still flows freely...

Goodness knows what that smells is like in a place of drought...

Friday, 25 March 2011

This is going to have a sense of deja vu!!

However, the train journey back today was utterly, utterly wonderful! Spring has well and truly sprung!

Willow trees are just magical this time of the year. They look like masses of golden tresses. The way the hang and move remind me to locks of hair. The colour is so delicate its almost surreal. The leaves are tiny little shards of bright yellow beauty.

While most other trees still linger in their winter state willows are adorning the countryside with their presence.

The train dawdled quite a bit but still managed to come in on time?! How does it do that... However, while we were at a standstill in a cutting I was treated to the most delightful display of primroses. Masses of them adding a delicate splash of colour to the otherwise drab undergrowth.

Primroses always seem so quintessentially British. They epitomise spring for me.

Then, finally, I reached Norwich and the blackthorn was just amazing. Even better than last week - everywhere seemed to be a cloud of delicate white flowers.

Is it better because winter has seemed so long? Is it the same but we appreciate it more?

Does it really matter when it makes your heart sing...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

I was enjoying my shower this morning, just lingering in the warm water, when it struck me how privileged I was to be able to enjoy that luxury...

There are people all over the world - in obvious places like areas that are developing or areas that are suffering the ravages of conflict - where the idea of a shower on demand would be beyond wildest dreams. More recently there are places around the world that took this simple luxury for granted that can no longer reach out for the tap or press the button. Places like Christchurch and the north east of Japan...

I then spent some time wondering just what it would be like... to find myself without proper washing facilities, no running water, no sanitation, no cooking facilities, no privacy. I'd struggle - BIG time. I find it hard enough when I go to place where the facilities are 'Spartan and I have to share a bathroom. We've become so used to these things. We've even become used to the ultra luxury of en-suite bathrooms...

What if we lived on a fault line? What if the eastern coast of England and Scotland had been decimated by an enormous earthquake? How would we feel living in a sports hall with dozens of others?

I have been bowled over by the quiet dignity of the New Zealanders and Japanese... Would I be so stoic?

We need to become a more joined up society. We need to respond to these events in the quickest and most humanitarian way. Generally speaking we do but sometimes we're deluded by wealth and assume that developed countries can 'cope'... There are times when even they can't!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Isn't spring just the most wonderful time!

The sun feels warmer with each passing day. The birds appear to be louder every morning. And as for the flowers... well! Everywhere I look is a profusion of colour and the nodding trumpets of spring bulbs.

However, each year my prize for the most stunning spring flower display always goes to the most MAGNIFICENT magnolia tree I have ever seen. Its tucked away on a road in north west London. But it is huge and always full of blooms. For the rest of the year it is quiet unremarkable but in February the buds thicken and bulge until their burgeoning size bursts the seams and the furry bracts are propelled to the ground. Today the buds were huge and clearly about to unveil their true splendour...

(The photo I've attached is from a couple of years ago)

What is about spring that lifts the heart so much? Is it the fact that we all long to emerge from the dark cold days of winter; to end our semi-hibernation? Is it because the lengthening days encourage us to anticipate the warm weeks ahead? Is it because (new) life is just so obvious and so abundant all around us?

I think its a combination of all of them and more... and it works like a charm every year!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I really like my job because each day I arrive thinking I know what is going to happen and each day I am confronted with the unexpected!

I've been doing this role for far too long - some would say - but the fact that its so unpredictable makes it great fun! Challenging. Exciting. There is rarely a day when I just sit back and think - well, that all went as I planned it this morning!

I like expecting the unexpected. I enjoy rising to the challenge of an immediate deadline. I feel OK when I have to think on my feet, when I have to give quick answers that serve the organisation best. I flourish in fast moving situations. Its certainly not a role that everyone would find enjoyable. Isn't it great that we're all so different!

I guess that is why I love to escape to somewhere that is utterly quiet, preferably remote. where I can be alone. No mobile, maybe some music but not even that is necessary. I love to walk. Equally, I love to sit and watch the world go by... I particularly like it when I don't see another soul all day. I love to wallow in the magnificence of creation.

I love the contrast from the daily routine. It energises me!

No one to converse with. Well no physical presence. Its at times like that I find myself entering into long discussions with God. Looking back over something in my life, from the not too distant past or from decades ago. I often return feeling as if my batteries have been recharged.

I think everyone needs that in their lives - but their own way, not mine...

Monday, 21 March 2011

You learn something new every day - or in this case - the penny drops on some nugget of information every day!

I do know quite a bit about the equinoxes - not least because I was born on one! I knew they were the mid-point between the depth of winter and the height of summer. (I just love how summer has a positive descriptor and winter the opposite!) But it wasn't until I was watching the weather on the tele last night that the penny dropped.

The equinox is the day when daylight and darkness are equal. Its blindingly obvious once you know it and I could've - maybe should've - made that deduction myself without waiting to be told after all these years. Something that is perfectly normal for someone living on the equator but only happens twice a year for those of us who live further away - though of course its minutes different each day so the gradual change is barely noticeable.

Yet I say that when actually I really DID notice the difference late last week. On Thursday night as I was finishing work the sun was sinking on the horizon - well behind the buildings that surround our office and I noticed that it was setting in a different place!! It had moved significantly! Again this is something that I should've deduced because I know that the angle of the earth means the sun 'moves' with the seasons - low and angular in winter, high above in summer. But I'd never noticed just how much it had moved...

I won't see a sunset for a while now - well not at work! I shall look forward to them adorning my day in the autumn...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Birthdays come and birthdays go...

Its just another day after all isn't it...? Or maybe it isn't. There are cards and presents to open. There are texts and phone calls. There are people wanting to share it with you, friends and family who want to help you celebrate.

Another year. Another notch. Its strange to be a different age. I've only just got used to the last one. I don't feel any different, I still feel like I did yesterday. No dramatic overnight decline!

However, in the last few days and weeks I've been hearing my mother as I speak. Her intonation. Her words, even in the way that she uses them. Is it inevitable? Will I turn into my mother? I am a different person... but having been brought up by someone you must learn their mannerisms... mustn't you??

I'm off to celebrate with a glass of bubbles - that doesn't break my Lenten fast to give up white, rose or red wine!!
By the way, 3 doesn't figure in my age at all. Not for quite a few years!!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

I awoke to more white!!

We had a sharp frost overnight and the cars were coated with a semi opaque layer of ice whilst the daffodils were bowed low, limp and dejected - their heads almost touching the soil.

Then the sun came up and its power melted the frost in an instant. The daffodils regained their strength and were soon standing up straight again.

But that wasn't the only white experience I had in the morning. The air was heavy with the scent of a white flower - a hyacinth. As the sun warmed it the perfume increased. There is something utterly delicious about the fresh scent of flowers and hyacinths certainly provide a lot, their heady almost pungent perfume lingers long...

It was a gorgeous day, wall to wall sunshine. The warmth of spring held the promise of summer.

Its my birthday tomorrow and I recall the weather from previous years - its often one extreme or the other. I can recall being allowed to wear my new summer clothes as a child as well as having it snow. Snow... more white connections!

Friday, 18 March 2011

White assailed me this evening!!

I got an early train back to Norwich and the blackthorn was so, so beautiful I felt like I'd stepped into a different world - well almost! Clouds and clouds of delicate white blossom shouted the arrival of spring from hedgerows throughout the city. They don't have a powerful scent but they do brighten every vista that they adorn.

Is white a colour? Some say not...

The next bright white object that stopped me in my tracks was the moon - it was HUGE!

I suspect its something to do with the orbits and how close we are but it looked so much bigger than normal! Its almost a full moon - you still just make out a tiny sliver that was missing - maybe tomorrow it will be even more magnificent. It was just incredible to see it hanging there in the sky knowing that so many other people all over this country and others can see the same...

Somehow it makes you feel close to folk who are far away... to share the same vista, same vision...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The church I am part of on a Wednesday night always has an eclectic group of priests visiting to preach or take the service. Last night was no exception! We had the Episcopalian Bishop of Iowa leading our worship and after the service he spoke to us about what its like to be part of the Episcopal Church in the United States at the moment.

He hadn't preached so this was our first and only chance to listen to his wisdom.

He spoke powerfully of the need to listen and draw alongside people. We seem to shrink away from contact, preferring to send messages of good (or ill) will rather than hop in the car or on a train or plane to go and meet that person face to face.. To identify with their pain or need, share in their joy or grief, simply to just be in their physical presence...

He spoke about how theology by email has shrunk the process and somehow allowed it to wither. Emails are short and functional. They don't allow the breadth and depth of theology to expand...

But most strikingly he spoke about Japan and the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding there before us. He spoke about how the world must reach out and provide for their basic needs: water, food, shelter. He also remarked that the last time Japan had faced such a catastrophe America had been the source. You could sense the shared grief in him....

How privileged I am...