Monday, 31 January 2011

Weight has been weighing on my mind. In fact it often does but since its a grey Monday (or at least it is where I am) I thought that something light-hearted might not go amiss.

Though weight is rarely light-hearted is it...

However, last week in my hotel room were a set of scales in the bathroom so I did what most women would do and stood on them - having checked they were zero-ed properly. I was delighted to learn that I weighed 8 stone!! Now anyone who knows me will also know that figure is seriously wide of the mark and might ask if I had one foot on the floor still! I tried it a couple more times and each time I got the same answer. I did contemplate popping them in my suitcase - but only for the briefest moment!

Seriously though, our body size and shape is an increasing modern concern. The pressure on people to conform. The constant bombardment of images that portray tiny models can be quite depressing.

I know I could do with shedding some pounds but I also know I enjoy my food and drink - I'm rather partial to the odd glass of wine!! It requires determination and will to change your habits - and that is what dieting involves... Life-changing routines.

Like everything else in life, done for the right reasons its good and healthy, done for the wrong or obsessive reasons it is quite the opposite.

As for me, I'm trying to exercise more... its a good first step, if you'll forgive the pun! Even better - the sun has just come out!

(And for anyone who is interested... I can give you the room number and hotel I stayed in!! tee hee)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Its official! I'm losing it!!

I have just walked to and from church, a pleasant 10 minute stroll, only to be shocked by noticing something for the first time that I must've passed more times than it is possible to count.

On a piece of 'green' - though its hardly big enough to warrant being called the Village Green, despite the beautiful name plaque that adorns it - I spotted a massive village water pump for the first time. It is nearly as tall as me and painted in black gloss so its hardly brown, rusty and blending into the background.

Why haven't I ever noticed it before? I pride myself in being observant. Its a wonderful gift that allows me to encourage people gently just by noticing and remarking on something new. It may be something personal, glasses, hair style/colour or a new top. It may be something in their home, new curtains or an ornament. It may be something less easy to spot like a faint bruise or a change in demeanour or a different expression.

Why had I missed something so obvious? I've lived in this area for 25 years and must have driven past it thousands of times, even as a passenger and more able to scan the scenery.

Some times we miss the blindingly obvious. We are so focused on an attraction in the background that we fail to notice what is right in front of our eyes...

It is all too easy to miss the little messages on the faces of those you see each day...

Some times its because they are trying to hide them...

Some times its because we're to preoccupied...

Some times its because we see what we want to...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

So, the first month of the year is nearly over... Time really does seem to fly - or maybe its just me...?

I know I'm my own worst enemy. I try to fit too much into my life. I'm sure that's made worse by living in two different places and attempting to do things with friends in each place. I just get carried away! I also offer to help or more often than not I have an idea so feel bound to see it through. It certainly leads to a busy life and not much 'me' time.

I belong to a fabulous health club just outside Norwich. It's set in farmland and the pool and gym areas have windows that provide wonderful vistas. When I first went there - many, many moons ago - my trainer gave me some really wise advice. He suggested that there would be days when the best thing I could do to keep myself fit would be to relax... Indulge myself by using the swimming and sauna, steam and jacuzzi facilities.

An hour on my 'own' - albeit surrounded by folk - you can be alone in a crowd, really energises me. It's almost like a mini silent retreat.

I haven't been going regularly since we moved 18 months ago, not least because of all the things that needed to be done in the new house and garden. But I know my body misses the chance to just chill out!

It makes me slow down. It makes me get off the metaphorical treadmill and attack the real one. Bizarrely it makes the days less manic and time fly by slightly slower...

It's incredibly easy to fill our days with busy-ness and forget that for ever six units of that we should set aside one for rest... just to "be"

Friday, 28 January 2011

My first breath of fresh air this morning was so cold it was exhilarating! I love these days. Cold and bright. They make me feel so alive.

It seems that the local bird life also respond in the same way. They are flitting around from tree to roof, fence to lawn. Their songs are filling the air and everything just seems more vibrant!

I've got a half day holiday today and am going to spend it walking two gorgeous black Labradors with my friend. I can't wait to get out there! My walking boots are standing ready, my hat and gloves are on the table. My camera will be in my pockets... It can't come fast enough!

Its quite remarkable how much influence the weather has on our lives...

But the weather is so intimately linked with the health and well being of our planet, it is the visible expression of the atmosphere that coats us.
We are so intimately bound to the weather. Our often moods reflect the weather, a dull, drab, still day in winter can invoke greyness in us. A still, clear, warm day can fill us with a sense of peace and relaxation. Storms energise. And so on...

I am just so thankful for bright sunshine and the ability to appreciate and revel in it

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bracken is such funny stuff

Have you ever tried to break a piece off while it's still green and full of life? It's nigh on impossible! It's not especially easy when its dead either.

Railways cuttings are often covered in bracken and brambles. My many train journeys this week have allowed me to 'examine' it at greater length.

It is now utterly dead. Brown, beaten down by snow, frost and ice. Withered through starvation. Drab and wet from the rain. Yet for all that it still had the look of something that possessed depth - though that's not exactly the word I'm searching for.

It brought to mind my childhood days when I consumed all the Enid Blyton adventure books I could lay my hands on. I have no idea how many times I read Secret Island, its sequels, the Circus series and the other fabulous, famous (five) series of children's (unlikely - but who cares) adventures.

The heroines and heroes were CONSTANTLY making snug warm beds for overnight stays outdoors using great billowing armfuls of dry bracken and heather.

Both of those plants have a springy-ness and scent that made me utterly envious. I could just imagine snuggling down into a mattress of bracken and heather, sleeping deeply and waking refreshed by their comfort and aroma. Gosh I'm turning into Bear Grylls!!

I love this bit of the seasonal cycle when everything is - on the surface at least - just dead. You see so much more. You see through woods to what lies beyond. There is a sense of space and distance that you don't get in summer.

Yet when I was looking more closely at the bare branches at the weekend life was plain to see! Buds were beginning to bulge and burst. Brown twigs had the faintest tinge of yellow-y green.

Beneath that dark brown bracken those tightly coiled lime green fronds are waiting to push their way through and uncurl in the warmth of the spring sun.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I was travelling on the local train service in Liverpool yesterday. It's a good system and takes me from the main station to the local stop close to the office quite smoothly.

I was waiting on the platform for the right train to turn up just observing folk - its what I enjoy most. Lots of people get their energy from engaging with others- in groups or singly, some get it from solitude, I get it from observing the world around me. I know that sounds strange but it give me a real buzz...

My eye was drawn to a mother and child. The mother was the epitome of fashion, down to the sort of skyscraper high heels that make me feel weak at the knees to just look at them. Her hair was bottle blonde and immaculate, fashioned beautifully into a little backcombed mound. The buggy she was pushing was bright red and with all the gadgets. Her daughter was equally stylish.

I know a lot of the above sounds bitchy and unpleasant but there is no other way to describe them. I am so not like that!

We got on at the same door of the train and they sat on the opposite side of the carriage to me.

I was then completely blown away by their relationship!

The mother spent the whole journey playing with and talking to her daughter. First of all it was a sort of game of hide and seek with a brightly coloured rag doll. Her daughter's giggles were infectious. Then she realised it was hot in the train so they threw off the cover, and took off her coat. They laughed so much and the games continued. She also spoke to her constantly and not in a childish way but saying things like "we're going to see Grandad's new house, I wonder what it will look like". It was just a joy to see and a privilege to overhear.

I am ashamed to say that I was surprised but that is mostly because I've witnessed so much bad parenting that I expect the worst. This mother was a fantastic example and wonderful role-model.

Don't judge a book by its cover!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

It's only 9am and yet I'm already in a state of sensory overload!

I'm travelling to Liverpool for work so it was an early start. But it was worth it!

When I came out the tube at Euston Square I was met by my first moment of pleasure. There is a fruit stall near the exit/entrance and they sell their own freshly squeezed range juice. I caught that aroma and was immediately transported to a little beach bar on a family holiday where we used to sit and sip freshly squeezed orange juice... Warm sun, happy days...

From the train, whilst reading my papers for the meetings, I caught a whole series of stunning snapshots that enhanced that warm feeling.

The Grand Union Canal full to the brim and looking serene. My romance with canals started only recently but they evoke memories of fun and friendship, tears and laughter and initial bewilderment at water with steps in! Where I come from it's all level!!

Then in rapid succession two elegant white swans grazing in a field of fresh, tasty winter wheat shoots.

A flock of sheep, heads down intent on eating - all white with one, proverbial, exception! I love black sheep!

A plethora of nests. Some solitary, a pile of twigs crafted into a safe haven among the branches. Others in close proximity to one another. Like us, some birds want a social life while others prefer solitude.

The last rays of sunlight as we raced into the gathering clouds on our journey north.

Little whiffs of smoke rising from narrow boats moored in tiny marinas.

Being transfixed by the horizontal path of rain drops on the window pane.

I could go on and on and on...

But all these things made me realise that it is the simple things in life that bring us so much pleasure...

Sadly, all too often we're too busy to notice them... What a shame. What a waste.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Fear is such a puzzling emotion

I have to own up to two fears in my life. One reasonably rational and the other utterly bonkers!

My reasonably rational fear is I find enclosed spaces a challenge. Its a mild form of claustrophobia that isn't enough to stops me using lifts but is sufficient to make me avoid small, dark damps tunnels etc. The sort found when you decide to visit ancient buildings and do the full tour. I can even get a whiff of the musty smell as I write this.

The completely mad fear I have is of spiders! I'm a scientist by trade and know that here in the UK they pose no threat, quite the opposite they eat annoying insects like flies that transfer infections.

Yet, yesterday I had a "spider incident" that included a big - and I do mean big, my family will corroborate that - spider crawling all over me! My right ear was the first time I felt it but of course I couldn't see it. By the time I did 'clock it' it was on my right hand. My screams brought the family running to my rescue imagining near fatal injuries.

I survived - though wondered how I'd sleep, OK I'm glad to say. No nightmares. I really do not know why I'm so scared of them, its stupid. I seem unable to combat it. Spiders beware...!

However, I've just read an article that has put confronting fear into a whole new context. It was written by a priest exactly a year on from his first article when he revealed his cancer diagnosis and the impact that had had.

This one started from the point when his specialist told him there was nothing else they could do to counter the growth of his cancer.

It was a truly inspiring piece, open and honest, raw and real.

It confronted and conquered a fear so many of us avoid for far too long...

We often build up our fears into something complicated, adding to them piece by piece. To a point when it becomes difficult to undo them...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Music... It's fabulous isn't it!

I love music for all sorts of reasons. It is a universal language that transcends all barriers because the rhythm and tune convey so much more. Musical pieces evoke the sea and the wind, the storm and the calm, joy and pain, laughter and tears.

Music also marks moments in our lives. A particular piece of music can bring all sorts of memories flooding back. The first dance with your partner. The hymns that were sung at a baptism, wedding or funeral.

Music shows are always so entertaining. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen The Sound of Music - it always reminds me of my maternal grandmother who adored it so much she fell in love with Austria and Salzburg. I've also become mildy addicted to Mama Mia not least because Abba's music is so... so... 70's!

I was reminded that the Bible is full of songs the other night in the pub. We were talking about choral settings for pieces of worship and someone mentioned a piece that I'd learnt and sung as a child. It was a setting for the Magnificat - the song that the Virgin Mary sang when just after she was told she would bear the Christ child.

The person who referred to that particular piece of music said that he'd always imagined that was the sort of tune Mary would have sung.

I'd never thought of it like that...

Then I hummed the tune and knew immediately what he meant. the notes soar away and you can hear the awe and wonder, mixed with the confusion and humility...

Music... It's fabulous isn't it!

Saturday, 22 January 2011


It's such a wonderful word!

It lingers on the tongue and rolls around the mouth. It has a bountiful feel to it.

It came to my mind this morning as I was walking to a prayer meeting. Despite the very harsh weather before Christmas I was surprised to see that the hedgerows still had some fruit clinging to the branches. I rather assume that these are the berries that are the least tasty for birds and small mammals but I was still amazed to see that nature's abundance still had provisions left in the store cupboard - so to speak!

As I walked along it brought to mind a piece I read in the paper last week which was suggesting that we should adopt a "one child per family" policy as they have in China. The reason being is that the limited food supplies we produce are rapidly reaching a point when the population demand will outstrip the supply.

I firmly believe that we have the resources on this planet to care and provide for everyone. But we do have to use them carefully, wisely and unselfishly.

I am sure I am not the only one who senses they are detecting a "reverence" for our planet and a real drive to protect its future...

I am sure there is sufficient for us all... I pray there is...

Friday, 21 January 2011

I'm staring out of the office window because the sunlight is so bright it's almost hypnotic!

And more! On the brick walls of the buildings that surround our office there are all sorts of shapes and intensity of the sun's reflected light.

I'm fascinated by reflections... though you're probably getting to realise I'm fascinated by a LOT of things! I just love observing!

I carry my camera with me all the time because I want to capture images that I see.

I particularly like to ponder the way images are distorted when they are reflected...

The way sharp, harsh structures are rendered softer and less substantial often provides a whole new way of looking at something.

Like ripples from a pebble dropped into a pool of water - reflections eventually fade and take on the image of their surroundings

People and their reactions /emotions are often oh so similar too. For each step away from the originator, the truth becomes misshapen. (I don't want to use the word distorted because it infers a negativity that isn't always there - though sometimes it is appropriate.) Each re-telling softens the intensity of the original.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Spring is just round the corner!

How do I know?

Well, it's because lurve is in the air

Along with quite a number of other people I was waiting for the tube this morning. The nearest station is above ground so there are lots of our feathered friends around. I've mentioned them before. On the canopy above the platform opposite were a pair of pigeons who were definitely indulging in a little bit of "billing and cooing" !

It was fabulous. We were all transfixed. I should make it clear that this display was strictly limited to courting, nothing more explicit!!

The male looked splendid with his iridescent plumage all puffed up as he really did "strut his stuff". He paced around his lady companion as she wandered nonchalantly back and forth, leading him a fine dance... His head bobbed up and down and he swayed from side to side. It was such a beautiful display. I don't know about the focus of his attention but those of us watching from the platform were impressed!

Nature is definitely starting to get frisky. I noticed that the catkins have also blossomed. They were rippling and waving as I drove along the road on Monday, shedding their pollen on the breeze like precious gold dust in search of their female counterparts.

It struck me afresh that all creation puts on its most gorgeous "clothes" when undertaking the deadly serious business of reproducing.

It made me smile!!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

I should have learnt by now...

Words hurt!

Having only yesterday written about correspondence sent in haste and then regretted, I have to own up to correspondence sent with careful consideration and then regretted even more. In my haste to help I've made things worse... Have you ever done that?? It's horrible! Oh, to retract it all and start again!

Having now reviewed what I originally wrote I doubt I could have phrased it any differently but what I didn't take into account was how it would be received... When we communicate with one another so much relies on the non-verbal signs like body language... Then on top of that there is intonation. The written word is so bald, pared down to the minimum. Bereft of gentle tone or caring gesture... It's so easily open to misinterpretation.

We are all sensitive souls, even those who appear hard as nails. In fact they are often the ones who have the softest cores. Its amazing the armour we develop over our lives and how easily those little darts of words sneak in...

The old adage is very true - "If you can't say it to their face, don't say it at all!"

Fortunately, however, there is hope...

Words heal too!

In fact there are some very simple words that heal situations quicker than others... like saying "I'm sorry" - and really meaning it

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Emails... are like Marmite!

... you either love them or hate them!

They've revolutionised the way we communicate on a work and personal level.

Two things have sparked me pondering this... The first was a conversation yesterday with someone about the sheer volume of emails we received on a daily basis - it almost approached 'bragging rights' status. "I've had over 70 emails since we started this meeting 3 hours ago" "Really? I can't beat that!"

Then this morning my attention was drawn to one of the Poems on the Underground - have you ever noticed them whole travelling by Tube in London. I always look out for then as they invariably cause me to react. The one I saw this morning was called "Loving the rituals" a translation by Tony Harrison of a verse by Palladas, a 4th century Alexandrian schoolmaster;

Loving the rituals that keep men close,
Nature created means for friends apart:
pen and ink, the alphabet,
signs for the distant and disconsolate heart.

Isn't that delightful... I found myself overwhelmed by a little tsunami of nostalgia. I love getting letters and have generally found that other folk like receiving mine

Emails still utilise the alphabet and they are with you in the blink of an eye - more often than not! But how many times have you tapped out a rapid reply and pressed send only to regret it and wish it back... Somehow the process of composing a letter was - and is still - never quite so fraught with the potential to be misunderstood...

And don't even get me started on the "reply to all" button!! (That's for another day when I feel more "up to it"!)

There is something beautiful about receiving a handwritten letter, something that says you're being thought of... cherished...

Monday, 17 January 2011

As the radio alarm came on this morning, the presenter was talking about how the third Monday in January is THE most depressing day of the year...

I could see his point when I looked outside! It was misty and pouring with rain. There was no distinction between land and sky - everything was grey, dull and - yes - depressing...

As the morning has worn on I've started to wonder how much my mood had been influenced by those first words I heard. Would I have noticed it as much if it hadn't been drawn to my attention?

The phone went and it was someone for my husband, I gave him his work number and then he said "what have you done to make it rain?"! I was puzzled but amused - he has the most fabulous Norfolk accent so that makes a conversation with him a delight anyway. But I "owned up to it"! I said that I'd planned to do some gardening today so it was indeed all my fault!

How depressing...

We are easily influenced at times aren't we...

Fortunately, the radio station has just regained my confidence by interviewing a psychotherapist who said in dark times we should remember something that is good. He used two examples - the feeling when we saw our children for the first time or when we first got a sat nav.

Not so sure about the second one... neither was the presenter!

I did dash out into the garden to fill the bird feeders and noticed lots of spring bulbs breaking through the soil and shoots on two shrubs. Now that did lift my mood!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I'm fascinated by "signs and symbols"!

Just the phrase gets my mind going, chewing over the actual meaning and wondering about its significance, if any, in our modern society.

In ages past signs and symbols were given great importance. Folk would put great store by someone who could interpret them - successfully of course. I imagine that events like the eclipse of the sun and/or moon would've been a source of considerable speculation because they happen so rarely and even when they do happen - as we (didn't!!) witness recently - the weather can obscure them. So the handed down wisdom of what happened last time becomes all the more key.

And following on from my musing yesterday, signs and symbols are often interpreted in different ways to suit different needs. They can be manipulated to speak of good or evil. To be portents of happiness or messengers of doom. Just think of the way we link the colour of the sky with what to expect weather-wise!

Despite our modern ways there is something inherent in us that draws us to signs and symbols. It reminds me of how some celebrities have referred to the forces in the universe that have guided their success...

For people of faith this is a real challenge because so often they are linked with - what young wizards would call - the 'dark arts'. Yet, and this is where my brain gets dangerously overheated, God speaks to us in a myriad of ways... and I am convinced that signs and symbols are among them.

All you have to do is work out which they are...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

There are two sides to every story

Each coin has two sides

The sky on my journey home last night was also split down the middle!

To my right it was that dark blue-y grey that always delivers its promised deluge. It looked magnificent and majestic against the plain fields and bare hedgerows. The rich brown ploughed soil and the tender green shoots of winter wheat somehow seemed more vivid. More vibrant. More alive. The energy was almost palpable!

Initially my attention had been drawn to the sky by the stunning colours of sunset to my left but reflected in the window I was next to. The contrast against the darkness was enthralling.

A great swathe of white cloud was transformed into a canopy of coral that arced over the setting sun. It reminded me of a theatre stage, the curtains held in great gathers at each side, rippling with reds and deep pinks.

Each vista breathtakingly attractive

Diametric opposites - rain and shine

Somewhere above me, hidden from my view, they joined together and formed a whole...

The delights of complementarity...

Come rain, come shine

Friday, 14 January 2011

Hoodies - what do they bring to your mind?

They have a really negative connotation at the moment. Linked with people who want to remain anonymous at best, threatening at worst.

I've been pondering this all week because on Sunday I was delighted to see that one of the young choristers at church had a hoodie on! I knew because it was worn outside her traditional robes carefully draped and arranged on top! Fabulous!

Then it came back to the top of my musings yesterday evening as I walked through London to meet a friend and suffered what can only be described as "hoodie-envy"! The weather was sort of wet, one of those horrible drizzles, barely enough to warrant an umbrella but too much to ignore if you're out in it for a while. A hoodie would've been perfect.

Some times we're so swift to tar everything - or everyone - with the same brush. We see a symbol or a sign and immediately assume an allegiance or action.

One person's chronic shyness or desire to keep warm is another person's threat or intimidation.

Like relationships - great societies rely on our understanding and consideration of others...

Broken societies betray a lack of that: a pervading intolerance and a preference for "me" as opposed to "us"

At the end of the day hoodies are actually an ancient form of very practical attire that have been somewhat hijacked!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

I can't not say something about all the flooding that is happening across the world!

Queensland has been decimated. Media reports talk of flooding of "Biblical proportions". certainly the pictures and video footage that we see bear out the devastation that is occurring there. Then there have been yet more catastrophic floods and lethal mudslides in Brazil.

Hundreds have already lost their lives and many more are missing.

Natural disasters are what they say on the tin - natural and disastrous...

They frequently give little or no warning yet the havoc they cause lasts long, long after the journalists disappear - as witnessed by the return by many in the media to Haiti one year on.

I'm really not sure if climate change and humanity's influence on it are part or even all of the cause of some of these dreadful events. I'm a scientist and I can see the logic in a potential causal link. But that's not really the issue for me or at least its not the starting point!

We live on the most beautiful planet (I've said that before in an earlier post) and we should do our utmost to care for it

We shouldn't give in to the temptation to plunder it

We shouldn't give in to the fallacy that its resources are endless

We should cherish the delicate balance between eco-systems and mineral wealth, between the atmospheric cloak that protects us and the demands of modern life

We should be driven by a desire to pass on its beauty and resources to many, many future generations

And finally - we should never underestimate the power of nature to fight back...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Today was the same as every day when I arrived at the building I work in. I smiled and said good morning to the reception team and Paul said "Morning Sue"! (You already know about my tendency to talk to everyone and anyone!!)

As I went through the barriers with my swipecard and wandered in the direction of the lifts (I work on the 6th floor) I was struck by how great it is to be greeted by my name.

What a delight that is!

A personal good morning...

Tuesday evening's I gather with a group of friends - as often as I can - and we chew over all sorts of things about our faith in all sorts of diverse ways! Yesterday evening we reflected on last year's star events in our lives and speculated on this year's. What we'd really like to look back on in twelve months and say 'that was good'. It doesn't actually have to be faith related and I think many of us do it anyway, even subconsciously, around this time of the year.

We read one short passage from the Bible but one tiny section of it can crashing back into my thoughts as I walked to the lifts. The passage was chosen because it is referring to stars and the whole piece is fabulously inspirational, but the little bit that bobbed to the surface of my mind was...

He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name

It's so special to be called by your name isn't it...?

The whole passage is Isaiah 40. 25-31 It's a beautiful piece and has a particularly precious place in my heart... if you want to check it out

By the way - I woke up in the middle of the night last night - pitch black 2 or 3 am - to the sweetest bird song! I'm sure it was real, not just my mind playing (delicious) tricks!!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

As the alarm broke my sleep this morning I was aware of another noise - bird song...

That makes my heart soar...

It immediately lifts my mood!

Why? Well its invariably a sweet sound, a melody that immediately transports me to balmy spring days; warm summer evenings.

Of course there are bird songs that are anything but tuneful. The caw caw of crows is an ugly sound. The chatter of magpies - which has become much more common of late - always makes me searches the tree tops to find out where they are.

Back in Norwich we have a pair of wagtails that visit the garden to feed, their call is a fabulous conversation. The goldfinches have a more staccato cheep as the flit away. The robin just warbles its heart out. Blackbirds seem spend much of their time squabbling with one another.

Isn't it fascinating - I identify human emotions and actions with their songs.

The one that roused me this morning set my mood for the day.

Maybe it was just as well! I've been sitting waiting for a service engineer to come - all morning! Not his fault that someone has to be last but it did try my patience as I ran out of things to do!!
Then I had a mood boost. While waiting for the tube a pigeon swooped in, with a rather acrobatic manoeuvre on a gust of wind, landed neatly and started to coo coo softly...

Balance restored...

Monday, 10 January 2011

I'm so lucky!!

There are days - usually those when I have time to sit and ponder it - when I realise how fortunate I am. When the little niggles that cause my brow to furrow are put firmly into perspective!

I treasure my two hour (sometimes longer) commute on a Monday morning because I have the luxury to watch the rhythms of life unfold in front of my eyes. And the gift of sight to enjoy it...
It is truly mid-winter that I see through the window. Every last leaf has been stripped from the deciduous trees by storm, frost, snow and ice. They look splendid and revel in their naked glory!

Nakedness is so revealing, it strips away pretence and deceit. It uncovers hidden tales - in trees it's often nests or a flourishing "community" of mistletoe. London plane trees show off their very seasonal 'baubles'. In people we see the pattern of lives revealed through the visible scars.

However, there is something more that catches my eye. Have you ever noticed how the thick trunks, sturdy branches and delicate twigs mirror the images of our own circulatory and lung systems?

Isn't nature amazing?!

The resonances and echoes that are repeated in all life systems is truly incredible. But undeniably logical - though logic is much less romantic! There is something deeply attractive about this very basic connection...

I'm so lucky to have the luxury of the time on a train journey to ponder all this...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hmmm... I woke this morning to quite a sharp frost!

Maybe I shouldn't have been so wistful in my memories yesterday!

It reminded me that I recently had to say to my last flatmate "be careful what you wish for" when she was wondering if her flight home to New Zealand would get away on time because of all the snow. Earlier in the autumn she had said that she hoped it would snow before she went back home (for good)... She got her desire in bucket loads!

Those sort of coincidences are just that - coincidence. We can't order the forces of nature!

But there are times when we say something in all innocence or even with a hint of mischief and others hear it in a different way. They take it more seriously and try to deliver it. 99 times out of 100 there will be no harm done but there are times when our inadvertent words cause harm.

Though it's always tempting to point the finger at the indiscretions of others (especially today when political rhetoric appears to have influenced an act of aggression) I'm not going to quote any examples because we've all been there.

One of the benefits of a crystal clear sky in winter - apart from the frost - is that dawn is just a wonderful palette of colours. As I looked out this morning a window on the house opposite was the colour of polished aquamarine. I thought it was a new light/lampshade at first and then I realised it was just the reflected light of dawn...
Utterly breathtaking...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

I've been remembering the beautiful frosts we had just before Christmas.

Its amazing how ice crystals transform the most ordinary - even ugly - item into something of beauty. Snow is stunning but it doesn't have the delicacy that frost possesses.

On a long train journey during the cold snap I saw a goods train whose wagons looked fabulous, as if they were draped in shimmering organza.

But now it has all gone. The snow has melted, the frost has disappeared and even the ice in the balancing pond near the house has dispersed. It's left quite a mess. Plants, damaged and burnt by the cold, look brown and soggy. Nature is definitely not at it's most attractive at the moment.

Somehow frost disguises the decay and death of winter

An external coating that beguiles and belies the truth that lies underneath

Equally the opposite is true!

We're often unimpressed by what we see on the surface and that applies not just by objects or nature but also to people. However, ultimately its the hidden beauty that lies beneath that is the real treasure.

Sometimes we struggle to get through the unappealing surface to discover the gem inside...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Time is so precious

The time we spend with people, either physically or virtually, can be so important. More than we sometimes realise... Yesterday's blog started me on a whole new sidetrack of thought!

It is so easy to let folk slip off your personal radar - out of sight is (or can be) out of mind... Yet you never know how important your contact might be to them. A quick hello - by what ever means - can be invaluable...

And wider than that. More often than not I pause and say good morning to the staff at my local tube station, to the point that we now have a short conversation! I thank bus drivers as I get off. I chat to the checkout people in the supermarkets! I apologise to people if I bump into them - though that's often because someone else has bumped into me.

I leave what my mother would call "a little something" (usually a box of sweets) for the folk who remove my rubbish and deliver papers/post. OK it's their job and they get paid for it but I wouldn't want to do it and I'm really glad they do!

I just try to show my gratitude and it's not been dismissed yet. Neither have I been arrested for harassment!!

Yes, our time is precious...

... which makes the gift of it to someone else much, much more...

I won't make a habit of adding a postscript each day about the previous day but... I have to tell you that we were treated to the most beautiful sunset yesterday afternoon. Warm hues lit up the sky and lifted the hearts and spirits of those who saw it! (But we're back to grey and drab today!! Boo!)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

What a difference a day makes!

When I awoke this morning it was dark and dreary and I as I write this now its still dark and dreary! It's wet but in a persistently drizzling sort of way. No spectacular, energetic downpour or flashing storm, just constant, continual drizzle. And I find my mood mirroring the weather... it's grey and drab and I feel the same! In fact looking round the office I'd say I'm not alone!!

Have you noticed that even though the shortest day (in the northern hemisphere that is) has been and gone the days don't seem to be getting any longer? The mornings still seem to be dark when you leave for work.

The days of mid-winter are often such difficult days. Days when people feel the lack of sun and warmth. The festivities of Christmas and the New Year have been and gone and there seems little to look forward to... and weather like this doesn't help!

I read the paper on the way to work - one of the joys of using public transport. Today there was a story, buried on the inside pages, of a young woman with more than a 1000 friends on her social networking page who wrote that she had just taken all the tablets she could find and said farewell. 17 hours later one of them called her mother. The police found her body...

The greatest gift we can give to another person is to listen to them... properly...

It shows we have time for them

On a lighter note, following on from yesterday's post, I went to church in the evening and the first words of scripture were "Arise, shine; for your light has come" How did God know I was going to focus on light yesterday?! I hate it when he does that! Those "coincidences" are just too close for comfort!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Light intrigues me...

In fact it captivates me!!

Over the last 24 hours I've been even more aware of it than normal. The partial eclipse of the sun yesterday was what triggered my interest. As I sat on the train I made sure I had a window seat that could look at the eastern horizon and I waited as dawn started to unfold in all its glory.

First there were a myriad of pinks and reds that lit up the whole sky, so vivid that they reflected off the clouds in the west. And therein lies the problem! The clouds!! The eastern horizon had a few but as we travelled further south they thickened and all hope of even catching a glimpse disappeared. Though I would swear it did get darker for a while - or was that just my over-active imagination?!

This morning as I left home dawn was breaking once again but this time into a virtually clear sky. Just a few candy floss coloured vapour trails criss-crossed the sky. Why wasn't it like this yesterday...!!!

However, by the time I emerged from the underground and walked towards Westminster Abbey I was awe-struck by the clarity and sharpness of the light. The white stone of the Abbey was tinged burnished gold on the eastern facets and the vapour trail above shone like polished silver. The shadows were long and coal dark.

I love sunrise and sunset in the short days of winter...

Light is so precious, so vital, so dynamic...

It really makes me ponder the meaning of "I am the light of the world"

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

The compulsion to make New Year resolutions is fascinating. I decided to give myself a better chance of success and not start until today – when in my mind everything returns to normal… whatever “normal” is!

The decorations have been put away for another year. The last guest left with me for the train to London this morning. It’s back to work – so that provides an obvious chance to embed a new routine. Doesn't it...?!

But surely each new day provides that opportunity, not just the first day of the year...

Each day stretches out like a vast clean beach as the tide recedes or a fresh field of snow; ready for us to imprint our footsteps. Or the edge of a cliff to step off and glide effortlessly through the air. Or a deep, still pool to dive into causing ripples to lap against the shore. We choose what to do. Which path to tread.

Why should my resolve be greater today?

Why should I succeed this time?

I don’t know the answers to those questions but I shall try and resist the temptation to turn this into a version of Bridget Jones’ diary!

But temptation is what it’s all about and I’ve more often than not found that I can identify all too well with Oscar Wilde who wrote “I can resist anything except temptation”….

Monday, 3 January 2011

Life can be so cruel...

We had a wonderful family celebration yesterday - my Mum turned 80 and had a party to mark the occasion. Not only were there lots of family there but Mum had also asked many friends from many different areas of her life.

Nothing remarkable about that!

As folk started to arrive we all took turns to meet them and I ended up greeting a couple whose connections with my Mum go back to when they were teenagers. The place was quite busy and someone nudged into us causing red wine to be spilt onto the husband's jacket sleeve, so he went off to wash it immediately.

I then spent about 10 minutes and more with the wife. I recall her from my own childhood and youth, she was fun and feisty, vibrant and a bit of a "hippy chick" - even though she wasn't a child of the 60's.

In those 10 minutes we had the same conversation at least three times... She has dementia...

However, there was a blessing in our time together because, despite her short term memory being non-existent, she recalled and regaled me with snippets of tales about when my parents met and how it was so obvious that they were meant for one another...

I'd never heard that before... and though I grieved for her lost present, I gave thanks for her recaptured past...

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Someone said something to me yesterday that rang all the right bells!

I can't wait to get back to normal...

Its funny isn't it, how a really long break can be quite exhausting. You can have "too much of a good thing"!

Our festive season has been as busy as anyone's. The endless preparations and imperative to party, feast and generally "make merry" is unrelenting. And that's all before you make it to Christmas Eve!!

Is it worse than it used to be? I'm not sure as it's difficult to be objective. Certainly the arrival of decorations, glittering gifts and Christmas 'musak' in autumn does everything to dampen anticipation and heighten indifference for me... But that's just me. I was horrified to see an ad on tele yesterday for a famous Easter egg.

I find commercialism distasteful, yet I know it helps keep folk in employment. Swings and roundabouts...

But that's all a bit of a sidetrack of thought. We're creatures of routine and rhythm. Lack of it and we quickly become disorientated - or at least I do!

I'd almost go as far to say that I can't wait to go back to work on Tuesday... but only almost!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

I am so glad I have all my senses

I'm also fortunate to enjoy good health, but senses are particularly key to me since I get so much from observing the world around me and reflecting on those observations.

Smell is such a fascinating sense!

It evokes so many memories...

At the start of my walk the other day I wandered along the road and went by a number of homes that had planted conifers as hedges. Their scent hang heavily in the air as if they had been freshly cut but they hadn't - it was the combination of the icy weather ending and the sodden foggy air. It was such a beautiful smell!

Pine reminds me so much of my childhood. We lived in a house that had trees - lots of them - in the front garden which required constant attention. Branches broke off. Leaves tumbled down in autumn. So did nuts, delicious sweet chestnuts!

Us kids used to help Dad saw up the wood for the open fires that warmed our home. He used a great big saw with a little handle on the smaller end. We pushed the saw back to him.

Pine logs were just the best because of their smell, both whilst being chopped up but also when they went onto the fire.

Cosy thoughts... warm memories... all from a brief waft of scent!
Memories define who we are...
But enough of this indulgence! I must go back to the ironing mountain in the Chinese laundry!!