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Thought for the day

May's Thought for the day

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1 May 2020We passed two milestones yesterday, the Prime Minister told us the country had passed the coronavirus peak and we are on the downward slope, and Captain – or as he is now Honorary Colonel Tom Moore reached his 100th birthday. Here at home, life carried on the same as usual, I am still working from the dining room table; Simon still anxiously watches and waters the lettuces and tomatoes as they grow taller and stronger on the window sills; there was still a queue (albeit a very short one) outside the Coop – its shelves still with gaps in places, although not as many as there were at the start of lockdown. I enjoy walking, especially in our open national parks. One of the first challenging ascents I tackled when on a walking holiday with friends about 15 years ago was Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. A hill, mountain, also known to my brother Colin, who was in the TA at the time, who told me of an exercise called the “Fan Dance” which involved yomping/sprinting up and down the steep side in full kit. Our motley crew of amateurs put on our sturdy walking boots, put our sandwiches and flasks of coffee in our rucksacks, before we scrambled, fell, tripped, up what we thought was the easy side; when near the top, we reached a small vertical area of rock, it was windy, rain and hail was coming down sideways, I was cold, my hands and feet were slipping, I was nervous about falling, I was muttering and swearing in a very unladylike manner under my breath (good job my mother could not hear me), but encouraged on by the group, we made it to the peak. The feeling of achievement was immense, the views from the top were worth the effort. As we stood there taking pictures, feeling very pleased with ourselves, a group of paras with enormous packs on their backs sprinted up and over the top, and somehow, our efforts seemed a bit pathetic. We encouraged ourselves, noting they were probably 30+ years younger than us, and had been professionally training for years. The slow amble down the other side was easier than the ascent, although what looked like straight contours on the map proved not to be – the map did not show the tiny streams cutting into the hillside, which involved a sudden sharp descent, then a quick paddle across the stream and a clamber up the other side. Although reaching the peak was the high point, in more ways than one, it was the journey up and the journey down that made the whole excursion memorable. As the saying goes, life is a journey, not a destination, and as with the Fan Dance, reaching the peak is an achievement, but it’s the whole journey that matters. Our journey through lockdown continues, we wish Hon. Colonel Tom a very happy birthday, and carry on washing our hands.
2 May 2020I learned a new word this morning “coronaphobia”. The host of the Radio 4 Today programme was talking to experts and other folk about the effect on our mental wellbeing of staying in isolation, or social distancing for too long. I suppose we risk getting too used to self-isolating, maintaining a social distance, shielding vulnerable housemates, that this way of life becomes the “new normal” – another new phrase that has popped up recently. “WFH” (working from home) crops up regularly in emails, along with “self-testing”, “lockdown”, “furloughing”, “Zoom meetings” and others. Life is changing, but it seems to me as if it is changing at two levels. The obvious outward changes – examples above, in the way we interact and move about, but a subtle unseen inward change, in the way we think and react to the outward changes. Each one of us has our own view of the world, literally, our “worldview” (another word I hear in news reports from around the world). Most of us like to “fit in” to the world around us, and will pick up signals that help us do that from all aspects of daily life, from our bodily needs for food, water - which is being affected by what happens to be on the shelf in the Coop from day to day; from a sense of belonging to family and community which is being affected by the fact that we cannot meet, greet and hug the people who mean so much to us, or to have that physical touching or proximity reciprocated by others who love us, we also need a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. Unconsciously, over time our outlooks shift, as the outward influences on us shift, that is natural as our lives unfold. Thinking about it now, I can sense my attitude to going out has changed over the last few weeks. I felt uncomfortable surrounded by people when I was giving blood on Wednesday – a sensation that unsettled me as I was sitting in the chair with the needle in my arm, I felt uncomfortable when I was queuing for the Coop on Thursday. Yesterday morning, I felt a sense of relief at the thought that I would not have to go out at all yesterday. At the moment, there is a very good reason for behaving as we are, but as – and indeed it surely will – the pandemic passes and the restrictions are lifted, I know I personally will need to make a conscious effort not to let the current isolation become my “new normal”, and making a mental note of that now, will – I hope – help me to prepare for that, but in the meantime, I had better go and wash my hands.
3 May 2020I walked to Ridley Church yesterday to buy Raw Milk, which the farmer leaves in a cool box in the porch. Just put £1 in the money box (in the shape of a cow) for milk in a plastic bottle, or £2 for milk in a glass bottle – there is £1 refund allowed on the return of glass bottles. I saw the farmer in the yard as I went to the church, we had a chat (at a social distance), she said they were working on extending their lines from raw milk and eggs, to include farm made cream and butter. I asked about cheese, but she felt that would be a step too far. I look forward eagerly to the cream and butter, if its anything like the milk, it will be well worth the wait. For me yesterday, that was a perfect way to spend an hour of my time. I reflected as I walked down Hartley Bottom Road for the first time since last weekend, that the fields and trees were much greener than the week before; the field, where I had sat at dawn 2 weeks ago on Easter morning was brown then, with just a slight shimmer of green when I looked closely. Yesterday, it a carpet of green, really green, a bright, strong fresh green. The shoots of the crops were saying boldly, we are here, and we mean to thrive here. The wild flowers and plants in the hedgerows seem to have more than doubled in size in the last weeks, and the leaves on the trees were also proudly announcing their arrival, the contrast of the fresh, vibrant green of the leaves, against the bright blue of the sky a joy to behold and a refreshing sight after the rain of last week. I took the long way back, down Rectory Road and New Street Road, then along a footpath through a field down to Hartley Bottom Road, picking my way carefully to avoid treading on the buttercups and – also avoiding the cow pats. On the way down, I got playing some of my favourite hymns on my phone “How great thou art”, “great is thy faithfulness”, and my Dad’s favourite, “Lead me oh thy great redeemer”….. my heart lifted my the music, and the wonder of God’s world all around. My mind also went to the scene at the start of “The Sound of Music”. Julie Andrews with her arms spread wide, singing “The hills are alive ….” But I resisted the temptation to imitate that. By the time I got back home, I felt at one with the world, I wiped down the bottle of milk before I put it in the fridge, then I washed my hands.
4 May 2020I am not looking forward to going to the office today. Friday before last, a former client sent me an email asking about something that had happened a few years ago, I explained in my email reply – as clearly as I could – that due to the pandemic, I was working from home, with no access to archived files, but that I would be going into the office the following Wednesday, and if he could deliver whatever he wanted to the office before Wednesday (bearing in mind he lived only a 10 minute walk away from the office) I would look at it that day. He did not deliver anything to the office, instead, he sent me an email on Thursday, with a few illegible attachments, demanding a full answer by today, with the threat that if I did not deal with this urgently he would be claiming compensation etc. I opened the email Thursday morning, and after reading it, I sent it on to Management to let them know about the threats. I then put it on one side for a few hours – if I had replied straight away, I risked telling this chap exactly what I thought of it. I am not looking forward to the conversation I know I will have to have with him today. In the meantime, I have tried to put him to the back of my mind, and concentrate on nicer thoughts. When putting the washing on the washing line over the weekend – with my hearing aid on – I noticed the birdsong all around, even though there did not seem to be many birds around. I went onto the RSPB website, and Simon and I compared the birdsong on the website with the sounds we could hear outside. We ticked off blackbirds and wood pigeons. The tapping of a woodpecker was unmistakeable. We see magpies and blue tits on the bird feeders, and robins – who seem fearless – come up to the back door. We thought we also saw 2 pheasants under the feeders a few days ago, but by the time I had dashed into the dining room to pick up my phone to take a picture, they had hopped onto the garage roof and disappeared. Simon went up the drive to see if he could find them, but they were out of sight. As I was watching a pigeon in next door’s trees this morning, I was struck by the size difference between the pigeons and magpies, and the blue tits and robins, and the difference between their colourings. Each beautiful in its different way, and each living – I guess – in harmony with each other and the other wildlife in the garden – except for 2 pigeons who, I can only imagine must be a “pair” who seem to be constantly squabbling under the apple tree, they fly, hop, walk and peck around a few feet away from each other, then, for no apparent reason, they go for each other, the feathers fly, then they get over it and go back to the pecking. The two contrasting thoughts going round in my mind at the same time, the complaint awaiting me in the office, and the amazing, complex beauty of nature all around us. I know which is more important, and it’s not the complaint, but I suppose I had better steel my nerves to face it, so before I set of for the office, I had better go and wash my hands.
5 May 2020There was a fly in the kitchen yesterday. In previous years, house flies buzzing round the kitchen was a common problem, in recent years, the number of flies seems to have declined. Our visitor yesterday was the first one I had spotted in the house this year. According to Wikipedia, which I consulted prior to sitting down to type, is was a “house fly”. As I was tidying up after tea, the fly was navigating the airways around me, not getting too close, so I let it get on with it. I don’t like using fly spray, especially in the kitchen. Not knowing what chemicals the sprays contain, or where excess globules of spray might land (I assume they have got to settle somewhere?), I decided to take the view – it would find its way out, or die in a corner, eventually. I felt a degree of annoyance when it settled on the breakfast bar, just where I always eat my breakfast, and also when it flew to the other end of the kitchen, where we prepare food, but I maintained my laissez faire approach, wiped down the surfaces, and moved on. I then sat down to check my emails – only to find the fly had followed me from the kitchen. It was carrying out acrobatics at a safe flying distance from my head, but occasionally swooping between my face and the screen. It was starting to get on my nerves. When I had finished, I wiped down my laptop, and settled in the lounge to read the latest edition of Church Times which had arrived that morning. The fly followed me. It was time for action. Simon was upstairs, but I did not feel the situation serious enough to call in reinforcements. Simon has the knack of exterminating house flies by flicking a carefully aimed elastic band at them, a skill I have never mastered. I stood up, Church Times in hand, and observed the fly’s flight path around the armchair, with occasional sorties in the direction of the rear picture window or the French doors. It homed in on the rear window, which consists of two large panes of glass. Clearly the fly could see neither, and had not grasped the technology it was bashing its head on. It preferred the lower pane – the one that did not open. I reasoned with myself, that if I could coax it, with my newspaper, to the upper pane, I would be able to release it from captivity. I tried shepherding the fly upwards with my paper. The more I tried to coax it, the more determined it seemed to persist in crashing into the lower pane, occasionally flying over to the French doors, and bashing its head on them. When it found its way back to the my window, I was getting frustrated, I escalated to plan B. I closed the curtain behind us, so that it could not escape to the French doors, opened the upper pane as wide as I could, and after many failed attempts, it got the message, and flew out to freedom. I reflected that fly was like me. Going about my daily tasks under the watchful eye of God, who gives us free will to move from room to room, but knows what is best for us, if only we will listen to him he will set us free. I wonder whether He feels the frustration when I keep going in the wrong direction, but also feels joy and relief when I listen to him, and are set free to to fly. Mindful of the germs the house fly may have been harbouring, its time to wash my hands.
6 May 2020I could not watch the 10 o’clock news last night. After a few evenings that were grumble lite, the focus seemed to be shifting to accusations that Govt had got it wrong from the start, experts wearing serious expressions saying “they” had got it all wrong, and they (said experts) had been warning them for years that this would happen. Ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly, but as I have mused before, it is all too easy to tell others they are doing things wrong, but a lot harder, if not impossible, to get it right every time. Having thought last week about an expedition to Pen Y Fan, my mind turned this time to another expedition a couple of years later to Sca Fall Pike. A group of about 10 of us had gone up to the lakes for a walking holiday, Simon and some other “other halves” who were not Serious Walkers had stayed at home. Anyway, 3 of us decided to tackle Sca Fell Pack, whilst the others went in another direction. It started off fine, but the weather it notorious for being to change quickly in the lakes. As we were bimbling our way to the top, we met others on their way down telling us about mist and snow at the top. We carried on. The ground on the top of Sca Fell Pike is made up of boulders and stones. There are no paths, the routes marked by lines of cairns. Several routes converge at the top, we had planned a circular route, so when we reached the top, we took the obligatory photo of ourselves huddled togethers shrouded in fog, trying to smile, before setting off following what we thought was the correct line of cairns. However, the way seemed to be more rocky than we were expecting, but not having been there before, we carried on. When we descended below the fog, and crossed over a particular ridge, we looked down into the valley below. According to the map, there should have been a stream running along the centre of the valley. There was a valley – but no stream. We were lost. There was no-one around to ask. We had no mobile phone reception and the map on my phone which should have told us where we were could not pick up a signal. We decided to carry on down into the valley, and when at the bottom, after squelching our way through unmade ground, we came across a hardy band of campers with a small tent pitched on the side of the hill. We swallowed our pride – and asked them where we were. They told us. We were in the wrong valley. Our hearts sank. We had headed off in a direction 90 degrees away from our intended route. We re-oriented ourselves, and set off on foot for the nearest sign of civilization, a pub on the road through the Hardknott Pass. After a long and misereable trek, we arrived at the pub, bedraggled, cold and wet. We order a drink, and ordered a taxi, to take us back to where we had left the car, we eventually got back to where we were staying about midnight. In the meantime, all hell had broken lose amongst the rest of the group, there had been frantic attempts to reach us by phone when were overdue back – not least because it was our turn on the rota to prepare dinner! Alarmist phone calls were made to Simon and to other friends and relatives back home, pressure was applied by some to call out the mountain rescue. We were in Deep Trouble and a full inquest was held over breakfast the next day. But we could not help it. We had not set out on purpose to get lost. We had a worrying few hours wandering around on the hills not knowing where we were. It had been no walk in the park. As I think about decisions being made by those in power to get us through uncharted territory of this pandemic, I am sure there are situations in which we will find ourselves in the “wrong valley”, I hope and pray that we can all pull together, not apart. Now its time to head off to the office, so I had better go and wash my hands.
7 May 2020My hair is getting on my nerves. We have had a routine in the Heads household going back a couple of decades, whereby our local hairdresser comes to our house every 6 weeks (or thereabouts) to attend to our locks. Robert still makes a regular trip home every 6 weeks for this ritual -no doubt influenced by the fact that Yours truly pays for all 3 of us, and Simon prepares our evening meal. The 6 weekly routine has inevitably been broken by the lockdown, the appointment fixed for 30 March had to be cancelled, the last time we had our hair cut was 17 February, and the last time I had my hair coloured was 13 January 2020. I had, after much internal discussion, made the decision to go for a bold colour change late 2019, because I was becoming dissatisfied with the shade of mouse grey it was becoming. The colour (purple) was controversial, and did not receive universal approval (Simon did not like it) – but I thought it was fun – it was quite loud though. By a couple of weeks ago, the mouse coloured roots were visibly making their presence known. I bought a colouring kit from Avon, the shade was a lot darker than the bespoke shade applied by our hairdresser, I am not keen on it – although Simon says he prefers it to the purple. Ho hum, there could be another tricky debate when the lockdown lifts and the hairdresser’s next visit comes round. But it’s the length of my hair that’s getting on my nerves, its flopping in all the wrong directions, and feeling unkempt, its as if I cannot be bothered, I have just let it go. Simon is also now sporting a beard, not going out, and not having felt the need to shave since a couple of weeks after the lockdown started. He had been clean shaven for years, but had a full beard when we first met, funny though, I don’t remember it being that colour in the 1970s(!). Is it just vanity to feel self-conscious about my hair? Possibly there is a degree of that. When meeting people, I do like to feel “respectable”. Sub consciously we do judge people by appearances, whilst at the same time realizing its what’s on the inside, that matters. But there is another side to it, we only have one body to see us through our lives here on earth, and we need to look after it, in terms of what we eat, daily exercise (at a social distance) getting enough sleep, and feeding our hearts and minds – and an unruly mop of the wrong coloured hair on my head, sticking out in the wrong directions, does not do my mental health any good when I look in the mirror. But if that’s all I have to worry about at the moment – which by and large it is – then I also have to remind myself firmly that it’s a small price to pay to defeat the naughty little virus that’s running rings round the planet at the moment. So I will grin and bear it, and go and wash my hands.
8 May 2020In 2007 my Mum wrote a short book, it was entitled “St Martin’s Church. A Potted History and Reflections on the first 70 years”. Initially published in monthly episodes in the parish magazine, it was later published as a slim volume, to raise money for church funds. Mum had moved to Barnehurst with her Mum and Dad, when she was aged 8 in 1931. The church was built just round the corner from their house (which my brother Colin and I still own) in 1937. Mum was one of the first group of people to be confirmed in the church, and sadly, her father’s was one of the first funerals. She had seen the church grow, literally, from the foundations upwards, and wanted to record her memories for the benefit of generations to come. In the chapter about the 1940s, which she describes as having “Two distinct halves”, Mum says “… with the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, we were given two days holiday and on my return from Windsor (where she had been working) I joined the crowds in Piccadilly Circus…… With the end of the war people tried to resume normal life, with long separations, after which children had to get to know their parents again, it was not always easy”. Although it was hard, she also says of that decade, that there were lighter moments, “… we were well fed and clothed. There was great friendship and care for each other. We still had much to be thankful for….” VE Day marked the end of almost 6 years of war, and there was still to be conflict in the Far East for another 2 months, yet Mum can speak of lighter moments, of listening to Big Bands, going to the theatre, and being supported by her extended family and very good friends. One contrast between VE Day and today, is the sight of people tightly packed together in the squares and streets of the West End, contrasted with the empty streets of today, but they had endured nearly 6 years of war – our lockdown can, so far at least, be counted in days and weeks. With tragic irony, it’s the last of the generations who lived through the war years, who are now feeling so much of the brunt of the coronavirus in Care Homes. We owe them all more than we can ever imagine, and owe it to them, and those in the front line now, to Keep Calm and Carry On washing our hands.
9 May 2020The tomatoes are growing up nicely, but still at the stage where they go out on the wall outside the dining room during the day, and come in at night. Sitting on the windowsill they are motionless, but as soon as they get out on the wall, they start dancing. Even the slightest breeze – the gentlest breath of wind - catches their leaves and the start jiggling away, it’s as if they are singing for joy, happy to be alive, feeling the sun on their leaves, as they stretch and grow, they will soon need potting on to larger pots. The other thing we have noticed, is that some of the plants are bigger than others, by quite a remarkable amount, some only about 2” tall, others over 4”, but a close inspection of the labels on the sides of the pots – which are now getting difficult to read because of water stains – revealed that the cherry falls (red) tomatoes where the tall ones, and the tumbling toms (yellow) were the smaller ones. In a curious way, perhaps because of the amount of time we spend staring at them, it almost feels as if they have their little personalities, each one very similar, but each one a unique specimen of life in its own right. In the busyness of life in previous years, I would barely have given them a second glance, until the time came to pick the fruit and eat it. This year, lockdown has given the opportunity to see, and appreciate the abundance of nature growing under our noses. I noticed yesterday that the blackcurrant bush in the garden is now almost as tall as me (we forgot to prune it last year) and covered with tiny fruit – we will soon have to put netting over that to stop the birds getting their first, and walking back from the Coop, I noticed the wild cherries also starting to appear in the trees as the blossom is dying back. Nature seems to be moving on quickly. The sun is out, its promising to be a beautiful day. I give thanks to God for the wonder of creation, and this year, I intend to make sure I take the opportunity on my doorstep to get outside to appreciate it to the full – social distancing permitting, so now I had better go and wash my hands.
10 May 2020As I walked up to the bakers yesterday, to buy our favourite granary loaf – and two jam doughnuts, I noticed how many houses had VE Day bunting draped round porches and windows. One house I spotted on Manor Forstal had also been displaying a splendid Flag of St George from an upstairs window as I walked past on Friday. The thought that struck me as I walked past the houses, was that the bunting looked lonely, there should have been people outside, having tea parties, gathered together, sitting round long tables in the street or – in the case of New Ash Green – on the Residents Societies’ amenity land between the houses, everyone playing silly games, wearing silly hats, throwing streamers, balloons tied to the backs of chairs. It felt as if there was something missing. But I remembered the many What’sApp messages that had been pinging on my phone on Friday, and it brought an inner smile into my mind, to reflect on the many creative ways people had thought up to have parties at a social distance. It was amusing to see small family groups, sitting on garden chairs – a social distance apart, wearing silly hats and waving flags. Highly decorated fancy cakes had been made – and no doubt eagerly eaten and enjoyed – the groups comparing and contrasting their celebrations – some quite competitively! – through the airwaves and wonders of modern social media. Looking at the What’sApp images, I was reminded that, when I was looking at the bunting, I was only looking at the outside of the houses, real life in all its shapes and sizes happens behind the front doors, and whilst social distancing stops us meeting in real space and time, we can still meet up virtually. It feels strange, and its not (in my opinion) anything like as good as a proper get together, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to connect using technology, or the good old telephone. Looking at the bunting, I was not seeing the full, wider picture. I was only looking at the surface. The real stories were being played out behind the bunting, and reflecting on that, the bunting did not feel lonely at all. The very opposite. The bunting was a reminder that life, in all its fulness, can still be carried on, it can be a challenge, and seems to take a lot more effort and creativity at the moment. Churchill inspired people during the war never to surrender, and neither should we. So now its take time to go and wash my hands.
11 May 2020I am confused. Simon and I listened to the Prime Minister’s address yesterday evening, in the hope that new insight would be given into the way out of the present lockdown. By the end, I felt puzzled. I get what the Prime Minister was saying about coming down, being harder than going up. My mind went back again to the experience of myself and two friends at the top of Sca Fell Pike, which I relived in painful detail on my thought on the 6 May. Last time, I contemplated the experience from the perspective of blame, when we got the descent route wrong and found ourselves coming down the wrong valley. This morning, I am thinking about the feelings we had when we were standing at the top, surrounded by fog, trying to find the right way down. We took the wrong route, which was not only tough to negotiate, but took longer and was much more arduous than the route we had intended to take. I guess those in Government feel the same as we did at the top of that mountain. Surrounded by fog, unable to see the horizon, unable to fully get our bearings and navigate our way safely down. I get that, but that does not help the rest of us who are seeking guidance from our leaders. I have mixed feelings, I want to do the right things – but don’t know what they are. Simon and I pondered over what “stay alert” meant. We cannot see the virus, we don’t know whether the person standing next to us in a queue is carrying it – and it’s quite likely they don’t know either. Every time I cough, or sneeze, I anxiously feel my forehead to check whether I have a temperature. So far – as far as I am aware – I have managed to avoid it, but will I still avoid it if I venture out today, “staying alert…” – to what? I appreciate a 10 minute talk from the PM could not cover everything, and listening to the Today programme this morning, Experts were talking about a 50 page document which would expand on the headline announcements. Even 50 pages does not sound a lot, for such a complex range of communities, comprising millions of people. Before the pandemic unfolded, Simon sometimes phoned me when I was in the office, asking my opinion on some small decision he was facing, eg, what to take out of the freezer for dinner, and my stock answer was to “use your initiative…. “ and it feels as if we might all be having to do quite a bit of that moving forward. In the meantime, I personally am not going to make the same mistake we made at the top of Sca Fell Pike, by setting off on the way down, without making sure I was heading in the right direction. Today at least, we carry on as we are, pray for guidance, at a personal, national and international level, and wait and see what the next few days bring, so now I had better go and wash my hands.
12 May 2020Yesterday I felt confused (following the PM’s address the evening before), this morning – having spent too much time listening to the news programmes yesterday – I feel rudderless. Simon and I like watching tv programmes about the natural world and countryside, a couple of weeks we were watching a programme where a complete novice was trying to get to grips with steering a coracle, one of those tiny single person crafts, about the shape and size of a bathtub. The expert doing the teaching, knew exactly where to place the oar, and how to twist and manipulate it to get the little craft to go in the right direction. The novices was prodding and pushing the oar – and going round and round in circles. I was reflecting as I pondered the chap thrashing around in the coracle, that the chap trying to teach him had probably been doing it all his life, and had got the skills of navigation down to a fine art. I pondered also the feeling of floundering around trying to work out how Simon and I might navigate our way through the coming days and weeks. Where to go to for guidance, on how to master the oars that we need to steer us through the coracle of the covid pandemic. My mind went to the gospels, and I reflected on the leadership and teaching skills of Jesus. A style of leadership marked by servanthood, which can be summarized as “come to me” – which we see from the way he called the disciples, and the way the crowds flocked to see and hear him; “follow me” – he inspired (we would not follow him if he did not), he led by example, and he set the way by his teaching, the parables making his hearers think, and reason things out for themselves, by reference to examples they could see in their daily lives; “wait for me” – he took time to prepare himself – spending time in the wilderness; and “go for me” – we have heard his message, and are challenged not only to follow his way ourselves, but to take that message out to others. My thought now is – if he was here now what would Jesus do? Then I thought, well of course, he is here now, inside each and everyone of us who strives to follow him, and no doubt in my mind also working through the lives of a lot of others, who don’t even realize they are doing God’s work here on earth. So, as I type this morning, I still don’t know the answer, but I know I need to turn to the chap who has been steering the coracle all his life, watch, listen, and be guided, and maybe with a little divine intervention, my coracle may also stop going round in circles, and set off in the right direction. But now its time to head off to the office, so I had better go and wash my hands.
13 May 2020Our television reception went on the blink at the weekend. Reception on Iplayer which (apparently) comes through the internet was fine, but Freeview reception through the dish on the back wall of the garage kept on cutting out. We stared at the screen, as the picture came and went, speculating on the cause – had the trees grown to block the sight line to the satellite in the sky, had the antennae got dirty or damaged. We could only stare and shrug, then turn it off, and look up the number for a technician to come and look at it. He is due to come this morning, but technology being as fickle as a flee, it was working fine again yesterday evening, and all we could do was continue to shrug and stare. Thinking the dish would still be playing up, we had watched a programme on Iplayer earlier in the evening about the Hubble telescope. I am awestruck, that scientists, engineers and technicians, can have such amazing minds, to be able to create equipment, strap it to a rocket, and send it out into space to search the far reaches of the universe. I am also awestruck, that astronauts can have the spirit of adventure, and bravery, to willingly strap themselves into a capsule attached to a rocket, and to take the equipment up into space, and I am also awestruck at the pictures from the far edge of our universe, millions of lights years away. For me, even the fact that I can flick a switch on the wall, to illuminate a lightbulb hanging on the ceiling is a mystery and a wonder. The fact that we have a dish on the garage wall that can point – I guess – at a satellite spinning round our planet beaming back signals, to open our eyes to the wonders of our universe is something I need to reflect on, and be very grateful for. Especially in the present lockdown, I am finding I am relying more heavily than ever on my smart phone, my laptop, and all the high tech stuff that keeps our business moving. I give thanks for the minds, much smarter than mine, who can create these technical wonders, and even more than that, I give thanks, and praise, for the amazing wonders of our universe, of which we are such a tiny, tiny part. Time to log in and get started, so I had better go and wash my hands.
14 May 2020When I walked up to the Coop yesterday, I noticed that the two Estate Agents’ offices in the shopping centre both had lights on, and there were staff sitting at desks (one person only in each branch) with phones held to their ears. This was a sight that, with my work hat on, gave me mixed emotions. I was very pleased to see the estate agents were able to get back to work, that is good not only for the businesses themselves, but also their clients wanting, or sometimes needing, to buy, sell or rent their properties, but also the other businesses and organisations that fit into the house moving process, valuers, surveyors, removal companies, mortgage lenders, the Government – for whom Stamp Duty Land Tax is a source of income – and of course the lawyers. The other emotion, I had, with my lawyer hat on, was one of apprehension, because I know from the conversations in the office, that all the teams working in residential conveyancing have been working hard to keep chains together, to keep the preparatory work moving, so that, when the day came for the Government to say – as has been saying over the last couple of days – that people could start moving home again – subject to observing safe practices – we would have done all we could, and when the inevitable phone calls and emails start coming in with new urgency, deadlines, and the pressures that come with it, we there, ready to leap into action and get the job done – except life is rarely that simple. Moving home is known to be one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life, it is up there with getting divorced and dying at the top of the scale. We often have a challenging time managing expectations and trying, as best we can, to achieve the client’s goal – which can sometimes be different to the expectations of others in the chain. It can sometimes be the final details that cause the most stress, Person A says they need to move on a Monday, to work around work/family; Person B has a hospital appointment on a Monday, and can only move on a Tuesday, Person C in the same chain then says they cannot get removals Monday or Tuesday, and can only move on a Wednesday – and we usually get the blame if we cannot square the circle. Added to the usual stresses, there will be the added stress caused by the delay that has been necessitated by the pandemic, and making sure that the arrangements for moving day are safe for everyone involved in the process. I know my colleagues and I take our professional roles very seriously, we all take pride in providing the best service we can, and we feel the pressures personally. Its almost impossible not to, but we need to be very mindful of our own mental health. Its tempting to think of someone working for an organisation as just literally that – part of an organisation – and not an individual in their own right. It has been interesting to see on the news programmes that broadcasters focus on NHS workers as people. Showing faces, giving their first names, telling their own story. Not just “a nurse” or “a doctor” but people with real names, feelings and skills which they use to the full for the benefit of others. So, when the urgent phone calls and emails start coming in, I must remember to pause, take a deep breath, remain calm. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time” but as my Mum and Dad both used to tell me very often “…. You can only do your best…” Now its time to set off to the office, so I had better go and wash my hands.
15 May 2020Walking back from the Coop yesterday evening, I could hear a lot of noise in the distance, people shouting and banging, it took a few minutes for the penny to drop, and it was not until I saw two families standing outside their front doors banging saucepans, that I realized it was Thursday, it was just after 8pm. This was the time to clap for carers. I hitched my bag of shopping onto my shoulder, raised my arms above my head, and started clapping. I have to admit, that this weekly tribute is something Simon and I have missed in previous weeks. Tucked away in our quiet corner of the village, we have not been prompted by the sound of clapping from neighbours, and its quite often until later in the evening, that we will look at each other, and remark that we have missed it again. There was a feeling of togetherness joining in the clapping yesterday, even if only for about a minute, as I scurried home. I had two frozen pizzas in my shopping bag and wanted to get home before they started to thaw. It made me think as I was walking, how much the little words “thank you” mean, and how much they can do to perk up the spirits and improve morale. I was thinking about the wide variety of emails I send and receive every day. Most are routine, matter of fact exchanges of information, some are quite tense, and some down right challenging. The ones that stand out, and the ones I appreciate most, are the ones where someone has gone out of their way to say thank you, not just to me, but to pass on thanks about a colleague, or to say how helpful, kind, considerate, someone else has been. I can take pleasure in genuine heartfelt expressions of thanks given to anyone, and I actually think its easier to accept thanks on behalf of someone else than myself. False modesty and all that. It gave me a good feeling yesterday to join in the 8 o’clock clap, and to see the smiling faces of others doing the same. There were probably no carers around to hear or see us, but it was still worth doing. I finished my walk home with a spring in my step at the unexpected opportunity to join in the clap. Just saying thank you, expressing gratitude, for the service of others, is good for all of us, any time, any place, any where, and on that note, it’s time to start work, so now I need to wash my hands.
16 May 2020I am recognizing every day, that my brain finger coordination is not as acute as I would like it to be – especially when I am tired. It happened again this morning, that as I typed the document title for today’s thought, the words in my head were “thought for the day 16 May 2020”, but the letters on the screen read “though for teh day…” all the right letters (more or less) but not necessarily in the right order (to misquote the legendary Eric Morecambe). Usually, in the body of the text, the auto correct puts the letters into the right order, or into the order close to the ones I intend, but it can sometimes be too clever for its own good. Transposing “not” into “now” can change the meaning of a sentence dramatically. To say “I am not going to the Coop” and “I am now going to the Coop” have opposite meanings, and skim reading quickly under pressure, there is a tendency to read what we expect to see on the page, rather than what is actually there. In the context of my work where we can negotiate for days over the words in a particular sentence (I have one such case on the go at the moment), the need to get the words saying exactly what they are intended to say, without room for ambiguity or misinterpretation, is a key part of a day’s work. We often adopt the four eyes approach, asking a colleague to proof read documents, the second pair of eyes picks up what the first pair misses – most of the time. As I read the words aloud, I am often struck by the simple beauty and the structure of the collects in the Book of Common Prayer, and I wonder whether the writers of the prayers had the same struggles as I face, getting all the right words in the right order, getting the message across clearly and simply, and in a pattern that flows. I think they succeeded to a degree I can only aspire to, and I am grateful to them for the heritage they have handed down. The collect for grace from Morning Prayer is a particular favourite of mine “O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” And at the start of this day, time to go and wash my hands.

17 May 2020It’s a jungle out there! After an intense 6 hours staring at my laptop yesterday unravelling the latest challenge to come my way, I went for a walk down Hartley Bottom Road. As I walked past the end of our garden, I looked at a large tree that had fallen in the woodland that runs as a belt between the backs of the gardens and the road. It’s a strip of land, probably about 40 – 50 metres wide, running the whole length of our neighbourhood. The fallen tree had come down in the wind last autumn, and had been untouched since then. I had assumed it would have died, but as I looked at it yesterday, I could see new leaves on its branches, despite the fact that it was lying flat on the ground. I decided to investigate. I clambered up the bank, over and between smaller saplings and rotten fallen branches, my trousers snared by brambles, discovering the ground below the layer of plant life covering the woodland floor was very uneven, I was leaning and lurching in all directions, clutching out at any twig that was in sight, trying to avoid the ones – of which there seemed to be many – with sharp spikes. As I got to the base of the fallen tree, I still could not work out from my angle of approach whether it was completely uprooted. To get to see the uprooted base, I decided – foolishly to squeeze underneath it, there be no navigable way round it, realizing as I continued, that this really was a Bad Idea. If I dislodged the tree, its thick trunk, about 50cm in diameter would have squashed me – and all this, within about 20metres of our back fence. When I extracted myself from under the trunk, I looked again at the base of the tree, and was none the wiser. I still could not see whether any of the roots had survived, because of the profusion of greenery now growing over it. Feeling rather rash, I clambered, over more brambles, twigs, fallen logs, miscellaneous trip hazards back to the safety of the footpath, my dignity more or less intact, hoping nobody had seen me thrashing around, wondering what on earth I was up to. We keep our garden more or less under control, except for the area at the bottom under the trees, which we leave semi-uncultivated, part laziness, part also to leave a haven for wildlife and the bluebells which cover the area in Spring. The area beyond the back fence is completely natural, and I think the trees and plants were telling me that this was their space, you have your own space, please leave us to manage this area on our own, and I think I will do just that in future. Nature knows how to manage itself, its been doing it for billions of years, until man came along and starting thrashing around in it. In future, I will appreciate its wonders from the safety of the footpath. When I got home yesterday, I was covered in bits of leaf, twigs and leaf mould, so of course, the first thing I had to do after I entered the house, was to brush myself down, and go and wash my hands.
18 May 2020I went for a ride on my bike yesterday, for the first time this year. In Normal Times, the bike used to come out mid March, and go back in the garage mid September. I did not like cycling after dark round our unlit country lanes, no matter how good my light was, it did not feel safe. This time last year, I was trying to get fit for the late May Bank Holiday Cloisters bike ride – 40 miles round some beautiful Kent villages, followed by London to Brighton in June. The London to Brighton ride started, very conveniently, a 10 minute walk from Robert’s flat in Clapham, which gave a great opportunity to stay with him the night before, ready for the early morning start. Simon drove to Brighton to bring me and the bike home again. The weather forecast for the day was not promising, overcast with a hint of a shower, I thought I was appropriately prepared with my showerproof jacket over my bib-shorts and top. The weather forecast was however optimistic, and what was promised as light showers, denoted by a single rain spot on the chart, was in fact heavy rain – more like “two spot” weather, cyclists were slipping and sliding up and down the hills, there were pile ups – not matter how much the marshalls called through there loud hailers to “slow down” there were some who though it did not apply to them. By the time I reached Crawley, I was soaked through, cold and wet, my clothes sticking to my skin, I had taken my glasses off – I could see better without them than I could through the rain that settled on them. My gloves were stuck to my hands, I could barely feel my fingers, although the focus of the goal at the end – Brighton sea front – was at the forefront of my mind, and surrounded by so many other drowned rats, we pedaled on. By the time I reached Ditchling Beacon the rain had stopped, I had started to dry out, and appreciate the scenery as I pedaled on. The last couple of miles were through roads in Brighton that were still partially open to traffic. About a couple of hundred yards from the end, I could see the beach in front of me. The little group of riders I was in had to stop for traffic lights, the rider at the front pulled to one side as they stopped, the rider behind them reacted by doing the same, and in doing so, clipped my front wheel, sending me sideways into the gutter. I lay there for a moment, thinking of all I had been through in the last 50+ miles, wondering whether that was where my journey would end. So near, and yet so far. A small crowd gathered and helped me onto my feet and back on my bike, and I wobbled off to the finish line. Elated to have made it. The finish all the more satisfying because of the challenges faced along the way, and the fact that there were thousands of us, in all shapes and sizes, encouraging each other, pedaling in the same direction. I don’t mind that I was one of the last to finish, the satisfaction for me came from taking part, and making it to the end. It feels like that with the lockdown, we are all in it together, and there will be times when the journey is more of a challenge than others, but we need to stick to the course keep pedaling on, always remembering to wash our hands.
19 May 2020As I was walking up to the bakers yesterday morning, my route took me along a footpath that cuts through a small patch of woodland on the edge of the village. At about the mid point, where the trees were at their thickest, and the light dimmed as it struggled to find its way through the canopy overhead, a black and white cat crossed my path. I have to keep a social distance between myself and cats due to a life time allergy to them, just stroking a cat, or being in the same room as a cat has been in sitting, can bring me out in a rash. I keep antihistamines in my purse just in case of an unexpected encounter, so the sight of the cat yesterday caused a momentary pause in my journey. I stood and watched the cat, wondering which way it would go. The cat also paused – I imagined the cat eyeing me up the same way. It was a very striking creature, the large splashes of black fur contrasting with the white; large round eyes, and a round attentive face taking in the world around it, as it paused, its right front leg raised, as if it was deciding which way to pounce. After taking the measure of each other for a few seconds, the cat made the first move, it slunk down, and slowly, stealthily cut across my path, and off into the woods on the other side of the footpath. My mind went to the David Attenborough type of nature programmes Simon and I enjoy watching. Listening to the narrator speaking in hushed earnest tones, as a large cat, lion, tiger or whatever made its way majestically across the screen, taking full stock of its surroundings, before setting off in pursuit of prey. I pictured the cat as that wild feline – the woods part of its territory, on the prowl for mice or small birds, to take home, no doubt to the horror of its human benefactor. We can gaze in wonder and awe at the spectacle on our television screens, but completely miss the same activities being played out by native creatures, some domesticated some not – under our noses. Looking at our rear patio, I wondered whether the badger is still using the run under our fence. I wondered whether foxes came into the garden at night; I have seen mice scurrying round the base of the shed from time to time. I wonder what else is out there. The cat sees it, and from watching people taking dogs for walks, it’s obvious, from the number of owners standing patiently while their dog sniffs at something interesting in the undergrowth, that they see it too. I have got too wrapped up in creature comforts of home, to appreciate what the creatures around us are up to. If I get a chance today to escape from my laptop, I intend to go and sit for a while in the garden, and do nothing, but follow the example of the cat, and look, take it all in, and experience it for what it is, the wonder of creation, just outside the door. I will have to remember when I come back in, that I will need to wash my hands.
20 May 2020“Location, location, location”, were words that ran through my mind quite a lot yesterday. The thoughts were prompted by a small headline I noticed on my home page, noting that yesterday was the second wedding anniversary of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – which was the same day that Carol and I, and the other members of the 2015 intake were sworn in as Licensed Lay Ministers. It was a warm sunny day, much like yesterday, and a truly memorable day, surrounded by family and friends as we were presented with our Licenses by Bishop Laurie Green during a service in Rochester Cathedral. The theme – and opening words - of Bishop Laurie’s sermon was “location, location, location” – which is why the words spent so much time buzzing round my mind yesterday, as I sat crouched over my laptop, then went for a 2 mile walk in the evening. Bishop Laurie’s message, behind the word “location”, was that our calling was in the communities in which we lived and worked, to take, and live, the message of the gospel out with us, and apply ourselves in the locations we find ourselves every day – not cut off, remote from the real world, but in there at the heart of it. I pondered what had brought me to this location today – it was partly choice, Simon and I found the house we live in nearly 40 years ago, we decided to move to New Ash Green, and here we have stayed, my work location in Chislehurst, came about as a result of long chain of coincidences and opportunities – far too long for this reflection, but was ultimately a location of choice. I pondered that not everyone is as lucky as to have the freedom of choice that has been open to me. We see on the Kent news very regularly stories of migrants crossing the channel; the current pandemic has highlighted the plight of the homeless; the number of people claiming benefits, and whose lives have been turned upside down, through no fault of their own, are overwhelming. Its tempting to look at “location” as a physical place, but the message I took from Bishop Laurie’s sermon, was that location goes deeper than that, it’s physical and emotional engagement, getting stuck in, and if we can, making a difference, hopefully, for the better. There are times, when I am glued to my laptop, that it feels futile, never ending, wading through treacle, but I like a challenge and it can be rewarding, to unpick a problem and offer a solution, but I do need to look up from time to time, look out the window, watch the trees gently swaying in the breeze, their leaves all shades of green from a bright yellow/green where they are caught in the sunlight, to a dark bottle green in thickest parts, I can see now a woodpigeon perched on the garden fence, just surveying its world. I can appreciate, and be very grateful for the location in which I find myself sitting this morning, both physically as I look out the window, and mentally, as I take a deep breath, and brace myself for what I will encounter in the day ahead. Better get started now, so it’s time to wash my hands.
21 May 2020I am preoccupied with the birds and the bees this morning. For the last couple of weeks, Simon has heard a feint buzzing noise just outside the dining room door. The sound was to feint for me to hear most of the time, but if I stood on a particular paving slab about a metre out from the door, and about half a pace to the right, and if I concentrated really hard, then occasionally I could convince myself I heard it to. We craned our necks skyward, but could see no tell tale comings and goings of bees or wasps above our head. A few days ago, our next door neighbour said she had heard a buzzing sound when gardening next to the party fence. Yesterday evening, we looked upwards, and could indeed see two or three rather large round bees – well I guess they are bees, although they just looked like round black blobs from ground level – buzzing around the apex of the roof. This morning, they have increased in number, they were buzzing round to quickly for me to count them, but I guess there were about a dozen of them, although I still could not hear them. Simon helpfully suggested yesterday evening that I stick my head in the loft to see whether they were nesting inside, I declined the invitation, but I think my curiosity will get the better of me, and I will be opening the lift hatch – rather gingerly – later this morning. In the meantime, on another side of the house, I did hear a flapping of wings in the wisteria this morning. (Simon often comments that it's odd that there are some things I can here, and others not. I think it’s something to do with the frequency of the sound, but that’s a whole different train of thought). In previous years, wood pigeons have nested in the wisteria just above the lounge window. We have been looking out for them this year, but seen and heard nothing until this morning. I peered into the wisteria, in the hopeful anticipation I would see a nest, but the foliage is getting quite thick now, and I did not want to risk disturbing them. Another wildlife situation to monitor closely. Curious though, we look eagerly to hosting the woodpigeons, and will be hoping and praying “our” birds’ eggs will hatch and the birds survive and thrive, whereas, we are not at all thrilled about a nest of bees, or whatever they are, under the tiles – yet – if they are bees, they may be endangered (don’t know the answer to that one) and they probably pay a vital role pollenating flowers, plants crops etc. As for the role of woodpigeons, in terms of supporting stuff we humans rely on and take for granted – I don’t know the answer to that one either. Luckily for me, I have a day off work today, so I should have plenty of time to ponder the birds and the bees, but before I get started, I had better go and wash my hands.
22 May 2020It’s official, the wood pigeons are nesting in the wisteria. I could not see them from outside, or from peering up through the lounge window, but opening the bedroom window above the lounge – just a few inches, so as not to spook them, I could clearly see the distinctive grey feathers fluttering amongst the leaves. This year’s nest is only about 2’ away from last year’s. I wonder whether they are the same birds. I wonder where they have been for the last year. I wonder how did they found their way back to the same plant. I am notorious for getting lost when going anywhere new, I don’t have a stat nav in my car, I rely on the AA Routefinder, printing off the route before I set off, trying to memorize the sequence of road names and numbers, looking for the road signs - which have a tendency to flash past before the words have registered in my brain – or to be missing from the crucial junction, and add to that a substantial dose of “feminine intuition” (unless Simon is also in the passenger seat in which case we share the intuition input), yet despite all that, getting from A to B is still a game of chance, with a fair number of U turns along the way. The problem with the Routefinder map, is that (at least the way I use it) the route is linear, it only shows the roads actually used along the way. If I miss a turning, the map does not help me, because the road I am on is not on the map. It becomes necessary, or at least advisable, to stop as soon as is it safe to do so, consult the map book tucked down the side of the driver’s seat, check the GPS on my phone, and then take appropriate corrective action. I wonder whether the pigeons have to do that, whether they get blown off track from time to time, and have to re-set the direction finder. It had me pondering that the whole of life is full of wrong turns inadvertently taken, and there have been many occasions in the last 65 years and 8 months and 4 days, when I have had to have a re-think about some particular aspect of life. The tricky bit can be the moment of realization that I have taken a wrong turn, directions in life – like a lot of motorways and A roads, can look very similar, the slow dawning realization that something does not feel quite right can take a while to crystalize into confirmation that yes, I have taken the wrong turning. Something I need to reflect on amongst all the busyness of lockdown, is the need to look around, spend some time in quiet meditation and prayer, check my routemap, my bible, and check I am heading in the right direction. In the meantime, I thank God the woodpigeons found their way back to the wisteria, and I look forward to the prospect of eggs hatching into new life under the bedroom window, but for now I need to go and wash my hands.
23 May 2020It’s Saturday, and I feel a little unsettled. In the old days, in the times of the Old Normal, Simon and I would be going out somewhere. Probably nowhere exciting, possibly to Bluewater, for breakfast in the M&S café, or to Sainsburys, Morrisons, or Asda – depending on the type of shop we were doing, maybe going to Gravesend, or Sevenoaks, perhaps a garden centre, or a trip to the dump. We would always be going somewhere. Yesterday evening, we were sitting in the lounge, and I said “what shall we do tomorrow….” We then exchanged blank looks for a while, discussed the possibility of potting on the tomatoes, but decided to wait and see. This morning, I still have that unsettled feeling – we should be going somewhere, but I know that Simon will be staying at home, because he is a vulnerable person, and I will venture no further than the Coop, the bakers, and probably a walk or bike ride later in the day. It feels like we are in limbo, treading water, the Old Normal is behind us, the New Normal has not yet crystalized, we are in a sort of Interim Normal, not wanting to consciously settle into a way of living built around social distancing, hoping and praying we will get to go on holiday… sometime; meet up with Robert, my brother Colin and sister-in-law Alison, other family and friends …. sometime; being able to hug each other again …. sometime; but not wanting to dwell to deeply on what we cannot do at the moment. I know when I sit down this evening, I will look back and wonder where the day has gone, I know I will have filled every possible moment with – something (the washing machine has just pinged so the first thing will be putting the washing on the line), I will have been for a walk, or bike ride, somewhere, I will have spent some time in the kitchen cooking – something I enjoy, I may have spent some time reading a book (I certainly hope so) I may have found time just to potter and sit in the garden (I certainly hope to do that too), but most of all, I want to enjoy, and appreciate all that the day has to offer, focusing what we can do, not what we can’t do, so – as the laundry beckons, I had better go and wash my hands.
24 May 2020A much needed shower of rain yesterday afternoon meant Simon’s plans to re-pot some of the tomatoes and petunias had to be put on hold. We turned to another project we had contemplated for this weekend – and I fought my way to the back of the saucepan cupboard in the kitchen, and to the farthest reaches of the freezer in the shed to pull out Mum’s old preserving pan from the cupboard, and 1 ½ lb each of frozen apple slices and blackberries from the freezer. We were on our last jar of blackberry and apple jam from last year, stocks needed to be replenished. Simon and I have got jam, and marmalade, production down to a fine art. For apple and blackberry jam, every autumn, we harvest blackberries from hedgerows around the village and bramley apples from our garden, or from the garden of our late parents’ house in Bexleyheath. Remembering always to wash our hands before we start, Simon selects and washes the jars from the stock we accumulate in boxes in the shed, we take it in turns to stand over and stir the jam as it boils, bubbles and spits on the hob. Together we carry out the wrinkle test, putting a small blob of boiling jam onto a cold saucer, waiting a minute, then push it gently with a finger – if it wrinkles, its done. In the office, we have to record how we spend our time every day. The firm needs to carry out a cost benefit analysis, to make sure we operate at a profit. If I were to apply the same principal to jam making, I would not even bother to start. It takes hours to find, pick and wash the blackberries; it takes hours to pick, peel wash and slice the apples, and then another couple of hours to prepare the jars, make the jam itself, and clear up afterwards. The last part of the process being Simon’s task of neatly writing the labels – (should it be blackberry and apple, or apple and blackberry?). Even though the fruit is free, and the jars are all ones that have been recycled, thanks to friends kindly save and glass jars for us, the only ingredient we have to buy is the sugar. It would be quicker to go to the Coop and buy some ready made stuff off the shelf, but we don’t do this to save money, we do it because it is fun (providing we can avoid the spikes on the brambles), and it is very satisfying to eat something made from scratch. The cost of making our jam can be measured in pence, but the benefit cannot be measured in monetary terms, it’s the warm glow of satisfaction that comes from fresh, dark, rich, fruit packed jam on warm buttered toast for breakfast.
25 May 2020Local Lay Minister Susan Heads shares her thoughts of how the unfolding events, in light of the Corona-virus (Covid-19) measures, are affecting her and offers encouragement and insight through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Simon’s tomato plants have just spent their first night outside, they have been spending their days on the wall outside the dining room, coming it to the windowsill overnight, but last night, they stayed in the greenhouse, and the plan is to move 2 to bigger pots, 3 to a trough and 3 to a grow bag today, the other 3 have been offered for adoption and will be moving on to their new homes over the next couple of days. The first thing I did this morning, after washing my hands of course, was to go outside to see how they had fared overnight. I thought they looked happy, standing side by side (except for one, social distancing from the rest on the other side of the greenhouse because it had a touch of greenfly) upright and proud in their little pots. Simon was concerned a few days ago that the stems did not look strong enough to resist wind and rain, but they seem to have acclimatized nicely, the warm weather, and frequent watering, having encouraged them to put on a spurt in growth. Curious though that they are so upright and straight of stem, they are supposed to be “tumbling” varieties, that grow more bush like than upright. We will watch with interest to see how they develop from here. Although we can feel proud of our achievement, having nurtured them to this time in their lives, all we have really done, apart from a lot of worrying and staring at them, is put the seeds in the compost, added water, and introduced them to the sunlight from time to time – and left the rest to nature. We will continue to do the same - worry, water and watch as their lives unfold, as they individually deal with the hazards of life, greenfly, slugs, heavy downpours of rain, wind, cold nights, and look forward in eager anticipation of the fruit they will produce. I think we are all like those tomato plants, we are planted where we are, fed and watered, with hazards to deal with every day, our father in heaven watches over us, cares for us. As St Paul says in his first letter to the people of Corinth “ … be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord, your labour is not in vain” and we also will produce fruits in abundance.
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