Friday, 30 December 2011

busy doing nothing

The calendar looks very strange for this week - there is nothing written in for the whole week. Each morning I wake up and can decide what I will do that day - so it has been a week of doing things that have been left for months - no... years, waiting for some spare time.
When we moved in, two and a half years ago, curtains were hung up but in most cases they were too long. The curtains in the bedroom were floor length, which is no good if the radiator is under the window - so for the last two winters, each evening when the curtains were drawn the spare fabric was stuffed onto the window cill. They now end just below the cill and I shall save the spare fabric to recover our matching cushions - one day!
This morning I decided to shorten the bathroom curtains which were originally in my study when we lived up north. They are made in the William Morris design 'Strawberry Thief'. 
Many of our curtains are made in William Morris designs which is mainly due to my school days. The school consisted of three large Victorian houses in twenty-six acres of grounds.
Two of the houses were then joined together by the 'New Building'. One of these houses was originally owned by Mr Sanderson of wallpaper fame who was friends with Mr Morris and the whole school was decorated with Sanderson/Morris wallpaper with a piece of original wallpaper underneath the glass top of the 6th form table in the library. As a first year I remember looking longingly at the table thinking that it would be years before I would be able to sit there. But the day did come and although I cannot be certain, the design may have been 'Iris', the same as the bedroom curtains.
No photos of the bathroom yet - still work to be done but the end does seem to be in sight!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Our Christmas Day services always start an hour earlier and folk like it to be short! and I'm quite happy to oblige. There was a slightly larger than usual congregation and the singing was superb - but then we are in Wales. There were no children with their already opened presents - but a few of the grown-ups told us what they had received. One lady was brave enough to tell us that her grandchildren had given her some anti-aging cream!  
We celebrated Christmas on Friday with some of the family, so today we had 'left-overs' for lunch. Cooking a large meal for more than just the two of us seemed to slow the oven down and I always find it difficult to make sure that everything is cooked at the same time. But today was a far more calmer event and although we both enjoyed Friday's meal, today's seemed even more tastier!
So what will I be doing for the rest of the day? Well after the recent visit to the Chapel by the local school - the teacher saw that we collected stamps for BMS (the Baptist Missionary Society) and has kindly donated a huge amount of stamps to us - and so I will be sitting trimming off the excess envelop from around the stamps. I've already spent several hours doing this but it keeps me quiet and out of mischief! 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I'm ready!

It's been a while since I last blogged but this is not due to either ill health or being too busy - in fact I've been in better health with more energy than I have been for several years, so instead of sitting down playing on my computer or watching the tele in the afternoons I have made myself a coat, put underlay on the bathroom floor, been to a couple of Christmas parties, made mincemeat and turned half of it into pies. 
I've not overdone things - just made the most of the new found energy! and in the last few days I've made the Christmas pudding, cleared my study of all papers on the floor and every available work surface, made chocolate mousse, stewed pears in red wine for Sarah who doesn't like dried fruit and made two batches of ice-cream and - oh yes - prepared the service for Christmas morning!
I will now wrap the last few presents that I bought this morning ready to celebrate Christmas on Friday - Paul and Sarah and the grandboys are coming for a couple of days, which I will really enjoy and it will be so nice and quiet on Christmas Day when they will be at their other grandparents!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

back at school

Once again I'm at college, ready for the day's course tomorrow, and feeling so much better - thank you for all your messages. 
I am so grateful to my Mum and the way she treated me when I was little and poorly - she got me to really think about how I was feeling, never pushing me or molly-coddling me. It has helped me not to push myself when I'm not quite right and not to over-do things. 
But I did make full use of the time. As you must realise by now, although I love dance I also love sewing and stitches of all kinds and over the last few weeks have made myself a long jacket (they used to be called car coats!) out of some lovely fabric I impulse bought three years ago! and also picked up a tapestry I put down 30 years ago! 
That was when we adopted Mandie, then I lost the instructions and have since found them, many moves later! The tapestry is for a cushion, all stitched in beige with various stitches including one which is used for making carpets - it's a cross stitch with a loop in the middle which is then cut - it looks good but takes ages! 
I have now completed the 2nd quarter of the cushion and put it down once again to knit myself a cardi with some wool which has been waiting its turn for the last two years.
This evening I met with Mandie and Dave for dinner, then tomorrow after the course, its down to Brighton in time for Stanley and Ted's bath-time and I will then babysit so that Paul and Sarah can have a child-free night out. On Saturday, I will drive up the M23 round the M25 to Epping Forest to cuddle Oliver and will ask Mark very nicely to tweak my computer while Katie and I catch up on Oliver's progress.
After lunch I'll be back on the M25 to the M4 and home ready to take the service on Sunday morning - fortunately I love driving and I have also been able to prepare everything before coming away so that I can have a lovely time with all the kiddies.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

playing truant

Well, that is what it feels like!
Two weeks ago, I started manic sneezing and by Monday a full blown cold had developed. And although the sneezing and blowing of the nose has subsided, I am left with a nasty frog in my throat and raging lethargy! Fortunately my brain doesn't seem to have been affected too much so instead of going to Chapel today I have started preparing for next Sunday with grateful thanks to C. for listing the various themes of advent.
I never played truant from school - I was too much of a goody, goody! But when I went to fashion college, I could not see the point of some of the 'school' lessons we received on two afternoons each week. I was useless at french at school and couldn't quite understand what poetry had to do with fashion! so would often escape early. All I can remember of Business Management was asking the tutor, who was a Roman Catholic, which verse in the bible told them that contraception was wrong! I went home, looked it up and decided that it was not the deed that was wrong but the fact that Onan disobeyed God. (Genesis 38: 8-10 if you are interested)
It is beautiful here this morning, the air is fresh and the sun has been shining all morning, but a quick visit to a neighbour showed me that I was not up to walking the half mile to chapel and my rule is that if I'm not up to walking, I'm not well enough to go. I have to remember that we have some elderly members in our congregation and I neither want to give them my bugs or catch a different bug on top of what I already have! However, it is difficult for both myself and others not to go to chapel when one has a cold!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

it all started with two elderly ladies...

Let me explain...
It seems to have been tradition in our chapel to sing the blessing of 'May God's blessing surround you each day' not only at the end of the ladies meeting but also at the end of every Sunday service. Having said 'The Grace' for many years in various churches, with open eyes to as many as possible in the congregation, I opened my mouth and asked why we here sang the blessing to the floor! 
From then on we have sung it to each other and warned visitors what we were about to do - that they were likely to have people turning round and smiling at them!
Now we have two super, bright as buttons, no marbles missing, ladies with failing eyesight, who because they could not see each other very well would grasp each other's hand.
And this spread.
All down one side of the chapel!
I was speaking to another member at the Bible study during the week about my desire that it should happen all over the chapel. And this morning she sat on the other side of the chapel and started it going so that there were hands grasped on both sides.
Much has been said recently about falling numbers and the need for mission from the churches. This is difficult when a large proportion of a church or chapel is already elderly but I think it is wonderful when a congregation feels comfortable enough to smile and clasp hands, blessing each other for the coming week.

Monday, 7 November 2011

and it was wonderful!

Several days have past since tea at the Savoy, with a day's course on Conflict Resolution and an excellent journey back to Wales with trains arriving early to enable me to catch the earlier local train from Newport, thus avoiding the usual half hour wait when all I want to do is get home! Yesterday was one of my preaching Sundays with a service of prayer for healing in the afternoon.
This morning has seen me tidying up the house and ironing the washing from Saturday! So now I can sit down and post the promised photos from Thursday's treat.
The exhibition of Degas was very interesting. Maggie thought I would enjoy it as it would bring back memories of my dancing days. Which it did! His paintings and models often had bent legs and I could suddenly remember being told off for not pulling up my knees and I even have a photo to prove that I often forgot - Nora Batty had nothing on me! And then there was the blood on the tights as one removed one's points - the animal wool wrapped around one's toes still didn't stop the blisters which bled! No wonder I stopped dancing!
Degas was particularly interested in the movement of the human body, so as well as his paintings there were very early cameras which took a series of photographs - early forerunners to the movie camera - and wonderful footage of dancers as well as - dare I say it..... naked men!
And on to tea... the entrance to the restaurant had a table covered in orchids!
Sorry for the blurred background - I was so excited that my tremor was quite wild!
There was a choice of over twenty different kinds of tea but I chose my favourite of Assam and of course it was the best Assam I had ever tasted! Five different sandwich fillings and we asked for more! followed by fruit and plain scones with home-made lemon curd and strawberry jam and clotted cream. Next came the pastries; we each chose two from the choice of seven, apart from Ele who had a third to take home for her hubby. By this time I had eaten my limit, so one pastry was wrapped in a tissue for the journey home the following day along with the next course of cake!
We were there for over two hours during which we were entertained by a lady playing the grand piano. A wonderful experience with excellent company!
From the left; Maggie, Hev, Mandie and myself - Ele kindly took the photo.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

ladies who lunch

is a phrase that describes ladies who do not need to earn a living but instead meet up to have lunch in expensive restaurants!
Tomorrow I am meeting up with two 'ladies' and two daughters and instead of lunch we are going to have tea at the Savoy! We have decided to wear skirts and be proper ladies! But first we will be going to the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Having Afternoon Tea in London is something I have only done three times before and it is a special treat, especially for a diabetic as the menu is likely to send my blood sugar up rather quickly! My first afternoon tea was for a hen party many years ago and even included a lady playing a harp! 
I enjoyed the experience so much that I suggested to my friend at college that we drive up to London (those were the days when you could still park in the centre of London without paying congestion charges or take out a mortgage for the meter) and have tea to celebrate taking our final exams. Comments were made to us by our fellow male students because we were wearing skirts that we were going to see a tutor to get an extension on an essay - and they were not joking! 
And then I had tea with my son and his future bride and met her Mum for the first time.
This time I will be meeting up with my friend Maggie from teenage years - she was my bridesmaid forty odd years ago and she made my cake. Two years later, I was her bridesmaid and made her dress. The other 'lady' is her sister-in-law, her other bridesmaid, known as Hev, who I have met at gatherings just three times in all the intervening years and yet we always get on so well. It was all Ele's (Maggie's daughter) idea and Mandie, my daughter has managed to get the day off. So we will all meet in the centre of town having come from Leicester, Dover and South Wales and I expect that there will be a lot of laughter. I shall take my camera but cannot guarantee that I will remember to take any photos!

Monday, 24 October 2011

another funeral

In this part of Wales, one is either 'church' or 'chapel', and therefore anyone who would call themselves 'chapel' would have their funeral service at the local Chapel. Today we have buried a man who had been prominent in the village and although I know one of his daughters I had never met him. We were warned in advance that the funeral directors had printed three hundred orders of service and that the Chapel would be full with the family alone! Fortunately we have a Sunday School room and a converted stable - originally used when the preacher would arrive on horseback! When I arrived an hour before the start of the service those two rooms were starting to fill up and were full when there was still half an hour to go. 
By the time I greeted the family at the gates there were about a hundred people standing in the graveyard!  It is on occasions like this that the switch is thrown onto the outside speakers and the service can be heard even outside the Chapel grounds! Fortunately the promised rain held off and even though it is quite mild for the time of year I still wore an extra jumper underneath my black blouse and yes - a dog collar! With so few of today's visitors coming to Chapel each Sunday I feel it helps them to know which one is the minister!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

food glorious food

In response to the World blogging Action Day with the theme this year of food, I sit down to write with a full stomach! And realise that I am fortunate!
I am not a vegetarian but some years after a buddhist stayed with us for ten days, I found it very difficult to handle raw meat once more. I soon overcame the feeling and we do still eat meat but have just as many vegetarian meals as those containing meat.
However, when buying food, what is uppermost in my mind is that it is organic. We were advised many years ago to avoid all 'E' numbers and go as organic as possible for health reasons. At that time it was quite difficult to buy organic food - it depended if there happened to be a wholefood shop where you lived but over the years more supermarkets have an organic range. But I still have yet to find a local supplier of organic goat's cheese which is suitable for someone with an allergy to cow's milk.
And I like to buy 'fair-trade' food but only a few produce organic fairly traded products so big thanks to Clipper for our tea and coffee and Green & Blacks for our treat of chocolate!
Please don't think we are super rich to be able to buy organic - we have always done this on a modest pension because I don't buy prepared meals, we don't snack between meals or visit the local pub and only go out for a meal if it is a special occasion.
When ever I hear of people who find that they have some form of chronic disease I try to encourage them to go organic - how can the body recover if it is having to cope with man-made chemicals that we eat with our food?
Over the last couple of years I have been visiting the doctors in the hope of finding something that would reduce my benign tremor - I often have difficulty in getting my food to my mouth before my hand shakes and the food flies off my fork! She told me that she was seeing many more patients with  a tremor and when I suggested that it was caused by the various chemicals we have all eaten since the second world war, she agreed. 
Ten years ago, John Humphrys of the Today programme wrote 'The Great Food Gamble' - it still makes very scary reading but it might well explain why there are more people with Alzheimer's, M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), tremors and other strange unexplained problems with health.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

I've been published!

This post is much longer than usual - in fact it's huge! It is a piece I have written for the Baptist Ministers' Journal.

Personality and Spirituality: What are you? 
When looking through the annual magazine of the National Retreat Group, one can find many courses on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram held by Retreat Houses. Having undertaken one, friends are likely to ask; “What are you?”.
I will give a brief description on both the MBTI and the Enneagram but for further explanation of the different personality types a list of further reading is given.
In recent times spirituality has been typically expressed in different ways. Philip Sheldrake  describes spirituality as “the human response to God that is both personal and ecclesial. In short, ‘life in the Spirit’”. While Roy Kearsley stresses “that repentance is a moral act involving the turning of the whole person in spirit, mind and will to consent, and subjection, to the will of God”. 
I prefer to think of spirituality as our relationship with God as opposed to our knowledge of God which is theology. As with any relationship there is change and growth in becoming more Christlike and this is found in each of the descriptions.
The MBTI was based on Jung’s work by Katherine Briggs (born in 1875 in the USA) and developed by her daughter Isabel Myers who was disturbed at the number of people who were asked to undertake tasks for which they seemed to have no aptitude during the second world war. However, it was difficult for an unqualified woman to break into the psychological establishment in America and it was not until 1975 that the Consulting Psychologists Press took over the publication of the Indicator. From that moment it took off and has now become the most widely used psychological instrument in the world.
The MBTI is made up of two pairs of attitudes and two pairs of functions. 
Attitude - Extrovert  & Introvert
Function - Sensing  & iNtuitive

Function - Thinking  & Feeling
Attitude - Judging  & Perceiving
Each of us uses both, but prefers one of each pair, and it is these preferences which make up our type which consists of four letters; E or I, S or N, T or F, J or P.
Many people can work out their type from the descriptions of the attitudes and functions, but to obtain a more accurate typing and to discover how much of a preference one has, it is very useful to go on a Myers-Briggs workshop. Once booked for a workshop, a questionnaire is received, consisting of 150 questions devised by Myers-Briggs. The form is returned and a qualified evaluator plots the result on a scale of preference from nought to seventy. These results are only for the person concerned and cannot be compared with other peoples results because the score is the difference in preference only and does not measure abilities or development.
By studying the MBTI we can see how different people prefer to get their energy, take in information, analyse that information and also prefer either acquiring or sorting that information. This not only affects the way we live our lives at home and at work but also involves our spiritual lives, influencing the way we prefer to pray, how we like our church services and all aspects of church life. By acknowledging our type, we begin to understand why we may sometimes find some forms of spiritual activity lacking in meaning, fulfillment or satisfaction, and rather than feeling guilty or thinking that there is something wrong with us, we may wish to explore other ways of prayer and worship.
The MBTI can help to explain why some people prefer to worship where they are open to their senses being stimulated, as within Roman Catholic churches, while others enjoy strong biblical preaching to get them thinking and yet others prefer a charismatic service. It could also explain why prayer meetings are often attended by only a small proportion of a church and why some folk get benefit from going on retreat, whereas for others it seems to be a boring waste of time!
In a recent television program on Silence, we could see that for some, being quiet and on one’s own suited them, while for others it took several days before they could adjust to that way of life, but having discovered it, they found it quite profound, showing that prayer and silence is needed by us all but far more difficult for some to achieve.
Different personality types will prefer to pray in different ways, be attracted to different Gospels and like to sing different hymns and songs.
Morton Kelsey in Companions on the Inner Way admitted that “it is often difficult for us to see how those of a totally opposite type from ourselves can be Christian!”
This statement has been of the greatest help to me as I have also realised that not only those who I have found difficult, but especially those who I know have found me difficult, are of a different type to myself!
As well as each individual having a personality type, churches will also have a distinctive personality type and it may be very different to that of their minister!
And so we have to be very careful within our churches to understand the church’s personality if we wish to introduce change. We often say that people do not like change but it could be that a church is suited to the present form of worship. Introducing a more informal form of worship will not suit those who prefer order, whereas some changes will help others to grow in their spiritual lives.
Although we are aware that we grow and develop physically from babyhood, through teenage years into adulthood, middle years and old age, we often do not realise that our personalities go through a similar maturing process. 
It is believed that the four letters in our MBTI type never alter, but in mid-life we can start to discover and use aspects of our shadow type. I am an INFP and my shadow type is ESTJ. Undertaking academic study in my forties forced me to use my T function and J attitude.
By using our shadow type, the differences in our preference becomes smaller and as a result we become more balanced and whole people.
However, one of the problems of exploring the MBTI is that once we have found our type we can tend to use it as an excuse for the way we behave and the way we prefer to worship.
While the MBTI concentrates on our preferred way of behaviour, the Enneagram looks to our way of coping with life which in turn influences the way we act.
There is mystery and secrecy surrounding the Enneagram and its history. 
It is thought to have originated in Afghanistan nearly 2000 years ago, with links into early Christianity in Persia and then into Moslem Sufi circles in central Asia and India. Until the last century it remained an oral tradition, with the Sufi master only imparting that aspect of the Enneagram relevant to their student’s personality.
It was introduced into the United States in the early 1970s by Oschar Ichazo, who studied the system in Chile, and from there the Enneagram was passed on through lectures. 
Around the same time it was also taken up by G.I. Gurdjieff,  who was an early pioneer in adapting Eastern spiritual teachings for use by modern Westerners.  Gurdjieff worked with the teachings and developed the basic diagram of nine points in a circle, naming it the Enneagram, meaning nine points. Although the teachings were passed on to others, including religious orders, especially the Jesuits, part of the instruction was to keep the method a secret. However, by the 1980s this part of the instruction seems to have been dropped as many courses have been held and books published.
The Enneagram identifies nine personality types and their inter-relationships; the basic idea being that very early on in our life we slowly realise that we are unloved, which leads to some form of compulsion. It is the way in which this happens that affects us to such an extent that our Enneagram type is formed. Each type is known by its number but in some books each of the nine types is named after the compulsion. However, because many of us find it difficult to acknowledge our compulsions, which can be thought to be rather negative, other authors use the gift of each type to give a more positive description.
The nine types are:
One: The Perfectionist or The Reformer
Two: The Giver or The Helper
Three: The Performer or The Achiever
Four: The Tragic Romantic or The Individualist
Five: The Observer or The Investigator
Six: The Devil’s Advocate or The Loyalist
Seven: The Epicure or The Enthusiast
Eight: The Boss or The Challenger
Nine: The Mediator or The Peacemaker
The Enneagram was originally developed as a spiritual tool to be used by the Sufi master, to enable them to help their directee to grow spiritually but the way it is now presented in books and short courses does not generally encourage people to grow but is usually just for the interest of the student. 
The Sufi master would slowly discover the personality of their student through the answers given by the student to his questions. There was no one set of questions for everyone, the next question asked would depend on the previous answer. It was a time consuming occupation and although we now have books to study, it can still take a long time to discover one’s type and many have found that although they thought they were one number, further study has revealed that their first decision was wrong. This could be due to the fact that within the Enneagram we can have elements of a neighbouring type and move from one type to another depending on whether we are feeling secure or are under stress. A fellow student appreciated this attribute by describing it as the Enneagram’s “fuzzy edges”. 
However, serious and lengthy study of the Enneagram can show us our compulsions and those things which hinder us from becoming the person God created. 
At one course I attended, the tutor had made a three dimensional illustration of the nine pointed diagram, looking like a nine sided pyramid or teepee, with each of the nine sticks reaching from the nine points on the base meeting at the top. As we each mature, we travel up from the point of our type and at the same time become closer to the other types. This helps to explain why for some people it is difficult to know their type, realising that they can see aspects of themselves in each of the nine types.
Whereas within the MBTI we grow and develop by using our under developed shadow side, within the Enneagram, spirituality and development are intertwined. It has to be noted that there are some who have tried to link the two methods of typing which can be found on the internet. 
However, we have to remember that both of these personality typings were designed to be used by others as a shorthand method of getting to know the personality of another. But in recent years has become a tool for each individual to discover and learn more about themselves.
By accepting who we are, acknowledging our faults and the type of person we are and knowing that God still loves us despite all our failings we can grow and become the person God created.
But at the same time the personality typings can be used in superficial ways for ourselves or to second guess the personality of others, including biblical characters.
There are books on both the MBTI and the Enneagram which explore the issue of Jesus’ personality type and the conclusions have been that he is a perfect balance of all the personality types. Part of Jesus’ divinity is that he was the perfect human being and in our spiritual development we can be described as human becomings.
One of Susan Howatch’s characters explains that “by putting yourself under the microscope in this way, you’ve learned something you didn’t know before - and that’s definitely a step forward on the spiritual journey where our first task is to know ourselves as well as we can in order to grasp what we can become.”
And that is how we should use these personality typings; as a tool to enable us to go further forward in our walk with God.
But both the MBTI and the Enneagram are only tools, “something useful up to a certain point.” We cannot rely on man-made tools to guide us on our spiritual journey but must keep our eyes on Jesus, our one true counsellor, be aware of the love of God and be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
Further Reading
Bruce Duncan, Pray your Way (London: DLT, 1993, reprint 1998)
Peter Malone, The Same as Christ Jesus: Gospel and Type (London:St.Paul’s, 2000)
W. Harold Grant, Magdala Thompson & Thomas E. Clarke, From Image to Likeness
(New York: Paulist Press, 1983)
Malcolm Goldsmith, Knowing Me Knowing God (London: Triangle/SPCK, 1994)
Lynne M. Baab, Personality Type in Congregations (Washington: Alban Institute,1998)
Maria Beesing, Robert J. Nogosek & Patrick H. O’Leary, The Enneagram 
(New Jersey: Dimension,1984)
Barbara Metz & John Burchill, The Enneagram and Prayer (New Jersey: Dimension,1987)
Peter Malone, The Same as Christ Jesus: Gospel and Type (London:St.Paul’s, 2000)
Suzanne Zuercher, Enneagram Spirituality (Indiana: Ave Maria,1992)
MBTI and the Enneagram

Sunday, 9 October 2011

these are a few of my favourite things

Having returned back to Wales, this afternoon I drove up one of the valleys to a very small rural Baptist chapel, only to find that another preacher arrived to take the service. I said "not to worry" and I am now home with my feet up, which will do me the world of good after my busy three days and it does give me the opportunity to reflect on Friday's course at CCDM (see previous post).
This was an introduction to personal and professional development and included several questionnaires for us to fill in at our leisure, one of which is to think about our favourite things. Apparently our favourite things are not just chosen at random but are far more likely to become a favourite because it is connected to something or someone that made an impression on us.
So my favourite colour is sky-blue-pink! As a young girl I asked my Dad his favourite and this was his reply which really annoyed me as I didn't think it was a proper colour. But it is the colour of beautiful evening skies and is most probably why my very few pieces of jewellery contain opals, which catch the light with pink and blue.
At first I could not think of a favourite food, but when I was younger I was allowed to choose what the family had for dinner on my birthday, and it was always cod curry and I still can't quite achieve making it like my Mum did!
Favourite music is the Beach Boys back from the days when one was either a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones; I didn't like following the crowd!
My favourite person is/was the boy who lived up the road and accepted me as an equal.
And my favourite person from history is Catherine Bramwell Booth who was the granddaughter of William Booth who started the Salvation Army. She would appear on chat shows back in the 1970's and 80's and was well into her nineties, dressed in her uniform and had a wonderfully sharp mind - I want to be like her when I grow up! 

Friday, 7 October 2011

here we are again

I'm back at college. As I lived relatively nearby when I studied here full-time (wow, was it 19 years ago! how time flies) I never had a room at college; only a desk in the living room with the rest of the family going in and out - so I find it quite a luxury here, although many would find it very basic!
When I come to London I try to make the most of it and see as many friends and family as possible. So yesterday I went to Ealing where the daughter of my bridesmaid from 42 years ago lives - and my friend had come down from Leicester to look after said daughter who has had a knee op. Although we were not able to go out we were still ladies who lunch! 
Then it was a drive to Croydon to meet up with my daughter and son-in-law for dinner.
Today is the first of this year's 'Centre for Continuing Development in Ministry' (CCDM) and as it is the last year in this particular form, far more people are coming, swelling our numbers from 15 up to 30.
This afternoon I will be driving down to Brighton to see my younger son Paul, his wife and the grandboys and then tomorrow its a drive half way round the M25 to see my other son Mark, his wife and very new baby Oliver.
Then its back to Wales in the afternoon, and fortunately I'm not preaching on Sunday so I can have a good rest!

Sunday, 2 October 2011


This morning was the first of a series on Acts, where the disciples see it as very important to choose another to replace Judas. My, he had a gory end; the more wicked the deed the more gory the end!
I was explaining to the congregation, which was thin on the ground this morning, that numbers were very important in biblical days. There needed to be 12 disciples as Jesus had prophesied that they would rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. Eleven wouldn't do - there had to be twelve.
Whereas, we don't worry over numbers, except wanting more people to come to chapel - we would be quite happy with eleven in a group.
Then something made me do a quick headcount of those of us in chapel - Eleven!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

my kind of sport

Many of my facebook friends are enjoying the rugby world cup but I have never enjoyed sport. I loved gym at school so I think it must be the competitive aspect of sport that I dislike - well that along with the fact that I was always one of the last picked to be in a team and then I would get wheezy with all the running about! Funny how I rarely got wheezy when I was dancing!
When I stopped ballet lessons as it didn't look as if it was going to be a good idea to take it up as a career, I went to ballroom classes. Same teacher but the added fun of boys! And a couple of years later I would go with friends to the Frank and Peggy Spencer ballroom in Penge on a Saturday evening to dance, not just to watch!
So as you can imagine I am a great fan of 'Strictly Come Dancing' and have great admiration for the celebrities who take part, especially those who are a similar age to myself. And for those of you who are inquisitive, I'm older than Lulu but not as old as Edwina!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

party political conferences

Way back when ... there was no television in the afternoon, let alone in the morning and the screen would go black in the evening leaving a little white dot in the middle - I would watch the party political conferences and enjoyed them.  But now I avoid them. Have politicians changed or have I become very cynical?
I especially enjoyed seeing the young William Hague make his first speech and wondered where he would end up. He is now one of the very few politicians to whom I am happy to listen. 
I wonder if labour's young Rory Weal will manage to make it to university and eventually become a politician? At the moment the cards are stacked against him.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

sorry for the delay in transmission

When I started this blog I thought that I would write something every week and now I realised that it is three weeks since I last wrote. This is mainly due to having something I want to say and finding that I have to write a sermon instead and then when I have time, I can't think what to say!
And now I'm here, all I can think about is the weather! Yesterday evening, I resorted to putting on a thick cardi and even wrapping a blanket around my legs and yet today I have just returned from a walk over the hills in shirt sleeves with the collar turned up to stop my neck from getting burnt! The walk was the first long one that I have done since bouncing off my bike while on holiday. There don't seem to be any ill effects but to be on the safe side my leg is now up having its 20 minutes of ice pack treatment - its lovely when it stops!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

a change is as good as a rest

As we moved here to retire, when asked to be the minister I said that I would preach twice in the month, rather than every week. So without the need to prepare for next Sunday and sewing  all done and a deacon's meeting yesterday morning - what was I going to do next?
Back to the bathroom which needs another coat of paint on the walls - but first the door needs to be 'done'! We had the wall between the loo and the small bathroom removed giving us a much larger and spacious bathroom. When we moved in the inside of the loo door was completely covered with postcards and the builder decided that was the door that fitted best to the new doorway. So in those odd moments when I had nothing else to do (very rare!) or I was waiting for inspiration for a sermon, I would chip away at the postcards, and today is the day to get out the paintbrush.
I donned my rather fetching paint splattered romper suit with its dunlop badge - in a former life it played in the pits while a friend raced his MG Midget (no, not me, that's not one of my skills!).
But first I had to remove the remainder of the glue, washing it did no good, next was a scrub with a well known household cleaner - no luck - wallpaper scraper to the rescue - maybe it would have been easier to have bought a new door!
Having scraped and sandpapered the door is now ready for the first coat of paint. Over the years I have learnt that the best finish to decorating is only achieved by spending time in preparation. Just like many things in life!
Having revived myself with coffee and a rest writing this - its back to work!

Friday, 2 September 2011

being green but needs must

It first started over 25 years ago when Adrian lodged with us. He was studying for his Masters at London University and during that year I learnt a lot about hay meadows and small leafed lime trees along with being cajoled into using eco-friendly washing up liquid and washing powder. 
Fast forward ten years and for health reasons we are being recommended to omit all 'E' numbers from our food and eat organically as possible. And five years later, to go dairy free! 
Over the last ten years eating this kind of diet has become far easier as most supermarkets have introduced an organic range along with a dairy free range. Until now!
With the recession, certain items are disappearing from the shelves! We love ice-cream and had found one which is soya based, with wonderful flavours, tasting far nicer than some dairy ice-creams. But our local supermarket has stopped selling the chocolate one. Boo hoo!
I know its not very green, but I have bought an ice-cream maker so that we can now enjoy a very rich, dairy free ice-cream along with so many other flavours which we could never indulge in before.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

and there's more

Sorry to bore everyone but the wedding is still on my mind and having posted my last blog, I remembered that there were a few folk who I had not thanked.
I had a lovely phone call with Mandie yesterday. They had a very short but wonderful holiday as Dave, being a white van driver with no paid holidays but had been given Tuesday off, had to get back to work. Meanwhile Mandie has the rest of the week to get their new home organised and find homes for their wedding gifts.
Many years ago I met Karen who, like me, had trained at the London College of Fashion, but she specialised in hair and beauty. When Karen married, I made her dress and when I married she did my hair and make-up. I still think that was the day I really looked my best thanks to her! Fortunately Karen was free to 'do' Mandie and her bridesmaid, and when arrived she offered to 'do' me as well. Many thanks again Karen!
While getting dressed Mandie couldn't find an unopened package sent to her earlier in the week from her designer sister-in-law. It was eventually found in the boys hotel bedroom! Inside she found a garter, made from the leftovers of her wedding dress, embroidered in pink with twinkles, matching the motifs of the lace on her dress. Big thanks to Sarah.
Mandie said how wonderful her big brother Mark had been at telling her to shut her eyes and take some deep breaths to help her calm down, whilst at the same time driving through the Saturday shopping traffic on our way to the register office!
Mark's wife, Katie (39 days to go) had my cam-corder for the day (I was far too shaky to use it!), unknown to Mandie, who was so thrilled to know that the Blessing and all the speeches had been filmed. Thank you Katie.
Paul, her other brother, is a wonder at making cakes but that was already in hand. But I can still thank him for being so good to Mandie in her teenage years as well as being another super big brother to her.
Mark & Katie,  Dave & Mandie,  Paul & Sarah

Monday, 29 August 2011

the wedding

When she was growing up Mandie was surrounded by wedding dresses and loved all the glass beads that I sewed on lace on the bodices, so it was a forgone conclusion that her dress should be covered with twinkles! But the thought of hours of sewing on beads, along with knitting for the expected grandchild and writing sermons, was just too much. So we took the easier option, although more expensive, of buying beaded lace with duchess silk satin underneath. The dress stays in place with an inbuilt corset! And of course it had to have matching buttons down the back. A matching bag was made, lace motifs were put on her shoes and a band to cover her tatoo! 
Her brother drove her to the registry office and managed to calm her down when to tears flowed from the excitement of the day. She and Dave have been together for nine years although they have been officially engaged for just six months.
Her friend from schooldays made the cake with icing motifs made to match the lace of the dress.
Like most brides and grooms they were surrounded by their friends and families, but for Mandie it was made extra special as her 'real' Mum was there as well!
After the civil ceremony we went into the park where I was able to give a Blessing.
Then to the pub where we had an upper room with a large balcony so that we could enjoy the celebrations, meeting new members of the family and the sunshine.
The photos are thanks to my brother became the official photographer for the day and gave me a DVD with 414 photos as I left the celebrations!
The happy couple are now enjoying a couple of days by the seaside thanks to her bonus for being with the bank for ten years!
Congratulations Mr and Mrs Stagg may you have many happy years together. God Bless you both.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

nine months

There is a series on the tele about our first nine months of life spent in the womb and the impact it has on our later life. This is something that I have been aware of for many years especially when there is discussion over nature v. nurture - what about the nine months in between?
I know that I am one of those fortunate people to have been born after the second world war - born any earlier and I would not have lived so long - most probably dying as a child. Thank you to those who found penicillin!
The most recent programme looks at how low birthweight can lead to diabetes and heart disease, rather than being obese! Such a relief when even the diabetic association talks about diets for type 2 diabetics!
I was not a premature baby - quite the opposite! I was due on 11th January but my birthday is 4th March! Only one nurse believed my Mum that she was very overdue, saying that I had been wasting away in the womb - I was 5lb something at birth; my Grandpop describing me as a skinned rabbit!
And yes, I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic in my early 40's, have high cholesterol and now my blood pressure is playing up, while I am not obese and my weight has been pretty stable for the last few decades. 
I put my diabetes down to stress, but now it seems it is just one of those things!

Monday, 22 August 2011

a blue moon

Since I was old enough to tidy my bedroom I have had an aversion to housework. For the first twenty five years of married life, there was always some major work being carried out on the house so that lack of housework was never noticed except when mother-in-law came to stay and having been in the house for no longer than ten minutes asked if she may have a duster - but I didn't have any clean dusters!
I have delivered Mandie's wedding dress, my outfit is complete, yesterday's service is behind me and I have three spare days with nothing that I have to do - a rarity! 
So this morning, I have loaded the washing machine five times - a big thank you to whoever invented automatic washing machines, cleaned down the worktops and the kettle and then washed and polished the car! This afternoon it is feet up with knitting of a blanket for the expected grandboy. I may not like housework, but the place looks good. I wonder what tomorrow holds and if there will be another blue moon!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

catching up

It's a while since I've been here, it is not that nothing has happened more a case of too much happening!
I've been putting the finishing touches to Mandie's wedding dress to be delivered this week, finishing my own outfit, knitting baby clothes for the eldest son's expected, decorating the bathroom as well as taking Sunday services, a funeral service and a service of prayer for healing this afternoon. I do love variety!
While we were on holiday - wow it is over a month ago - I read 'The Horse Boy' ready for our next meeting of the book club. It followed the travels of an autistic boy with his parents to Mongolia in search of healing. The shamans dressed up and made quite a drama often eating and drinking weird concoctions with the parents as well as the boy!
This was in great contrast to the sessions I had with my friend Gretchen who has the gift of healing with gentle touch; sometimes this was done in silence whist at other times we chatted, putting the world to rights with laughter!
In our service today, there were times when we prayed out loud mentioning those who had asked for our prayers, and then with soft music playing, folk would come forward for prayer for themselves or those to whom they were close while others prayed silently.

Next week I go to croydon to deliver Mandie's dress. It was only a few weeks ago that I drove around Reeves Corner, surprised that the furniture shop was still there; an independent store is rare these days - I remembered it from my childhood - a beautiful building, very old and in stark contrast to the concrete skyscrapers in Croydon. Prayers were said for all those involved in the aftermath of the riots.

Friday, 29 July 2011

on the edge?

For many years I have lived on the edge of towns or villages and it has suited me well. I remember, many, many years ago doing an 'Introduction to Counselling' course with about twenty others and one of our exercises was to stand in a hall where we felt comfortable. My friend stood at the front facing the rest of us - well, she was the minister! while I stood towards the back, at the edge, near a door - for a quick escape!
And now we are living in the middle of an estate; we tried to buy a house on the edge, but it was this house, bang in the middle that we eventually bought, and in church I'm the one out the front facing everyone else!
This week has been quite hectic with a 'Village Women' meeting, a 'Coffee Morning' lunch and a 'Book Club' get together and at those gatherings, I'm still very happy to be sitting at the edge, listening to the conversations. It is the first time that I have attended so many social events and I considered it to be part of my role as minister to go and hopefully break down some of the barriers to church going. When the 'Coffee Morning' goes out to lunch in the local pub or hotel, I am asked to say grace and always give thanks for the fact that someone else is going to do the washing up! Hopefully folk will realise that church too, is relevant to their lives, and far from being dull and dreary is quite good fun with lots of laughs.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

small churches

We had our annual church meeting last Saturday morning; our only church meeting in the year. It was like that when I became the minister and I see no reason to change it. The meeting started with coffee and home-made biscuits and lasted just over the hour! such a change from churches I have been part of in the past where the monthly meeting would go on far past my bedtime!
Questions were asked about the donation to the local 'Churches Together' in our local town which is six miles away - we really feel out of it and don't seem to have much in common with the larger in-town churches.
Meanwhile, we are part of a Rural Churches Group and hold joint services and celebrations and swap pulpits throughout the year.
Each Tuesday evening one very small (numerically) chapel is hosting the Baptist Union six week course for small churches. We start with tea and coffee with home-made cakes! and so far (just two weeks in) it has been an excellent opportunity to recognise the benefits of being a small church as well as trying to see the needs of the locality.
Small churches in a town can be very different to those in rural areas. The little chapel last night is in farm land where the local population has shrunk to about 10% of what it was a hundred years ago - farming then was labour intensive.
There may not be the people around locally who have needs which the chapel can try to fulfill but holding the course stimulates those from the other chapels who may be able to help folk in their villages.
I believe that God brings together certain people at certain times to do certain jobs. And we have to be open ready for change and upheaval - not easy but I also believe that God gives us everything we need to carry out his work.

Monday, 18 July 2011

not what was expected

I was recently treated to a new bike with much lower gears to enable me to cycle up hills instead of getting off. A cycle rack was purchased and off we went on holiday with bikes.
We had planned a few days in the Lakes so that we could visit our friend who has the gift of healing by gentle touch. In March, my session with her brought a wonderful stillness to my body so I was hoping that several sessions would make a lasting improvement.
On our first morning, we got on our bikes but I managed to throw myself off after only 20 minutes and landed on my knee - so in my three sessions with Gretchen she concentrated on my knee and other bits of my body that had been shaken.

We went to North Wales for the second half of our holidays and had booked into a farm. Unfortunately, the web-site made no mention of the fact that they also ran boarding kennels and we were greeted by barking dogs and we like a quiet life! And as they also had dogs in the house we were also greeted by the smell of dogs as we entered and I started wheezing. We made a hasty exit and then started to look for other accommodation and ended up in a seaside hotel.
We had never had a seaside holiday before having always headed for the hills, but we enjoyed the coastal walk, a cycle ride, fish and chips on the beach, eating ice creams and 'people watching' from the rocks.
The weather was sunny which had not been forecast and we enjoyed our unexpected holiday.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

new members

Of the four ladies who play the organ, only one is a member. However, last month our '1st Sunday in the month' organist, who first came to the chapel as a babe in arms asked to become a member. She said that she had missed out as a teenager as she was so shy and hated being the centre of attraction so had never been baptised. 
Although when I was on the Baptist Union Council, I could see no reason why anyone wanting to become a member should not be baptised first, I now realise that there are many reason why some people would love to become members without baptism first.
I checked the chapel's deeds and it seems that we are an open membership even though a hundred years ago there was a split over this, with many just assuming that we were a closed membership.
I then approached another shy lady who moved into the area a year ago and asked her if she would like to become a member. She too, thought that she would have to be baptised first, and was delighted to have been asked.
The following morning at our deacon's meeting they were delighted to hear that we would be having two new members. We then discussed the fact that it would be good to have some new deacons and one name kept coming up but it was some time before someone realised that she was not a member although she had been coming to Chapel for nearly thirty years, was a Sunday School teacher and at one time had run the youth club. So G. was duly asked if she too would like to become a member.
Having already prepared the sermon, I decided to omit it and instead encouraged the three ladies to say a little about themselves. All three said how nervous and scared they were but gave brilliant testimonies of their gentle, steady walk with God. None had had an overwhelming conversion experience but their faiths had grown over the years. Favourite hymns were sung and relevant Bible passages were read, concluding with communion and carried over into coffee and biscuits.
Feedback says that it was a wonderful service especially as two of the ladies have been worshipping here far longer than most of the other members! 

Monday, 27 June 2011

normal service is resumed

Yesterday as I walked into chapel, the organist, who was practising the hymns we were going to sing, started playing 'You shall go out with joy', and without thinking I started dancing. The immediate comment was "You're better!"
Having been off the pills for several days, I now realise how much they had affected me and zonked me out, so that I missed the Singing Festival and only went to the Book Club BBQ for an hour so that I didn't have a late night. But I'm so pleased that I will be able to really enjoy the Village Women's day out tomorrow even though I am shaking slightly more than I have been while on the pills.
Our preacher yesterday should have been our local Deacon from the 'Church up the road', but there had been a mix up over his dates, and in the absence, due to holidays, of our secretary and the couple who usually stand in when there is an 'empty' Sunday, it was decided that another couple and the organist would arrange a DIY service as I really was not up to stepping into the breach!
It was the first DIY service I had been to as they usually happen when I am away - and I thought it was brilliant!
It was led by our retired farmer deacon who has a wonderful gift of praying; covering all aspects with no repetition! 
Various folk were asked to choose readings and our retired matron told us how District Nurses came into being; to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, women raised the necessary money. She quoted from St Paul in the Authorised Version "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." She made us think; will the women of the country do something similar for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year? The cynical me thinks not because the role of women has changed so much during the last century but hopes that something could be done to mark the occasion.
And in the afternoon I went to a little URC chapel in the middle of nowhere to take their service. I love driving but don't like the twisty lanes with high hedges where the locals drive too fast for my liking, not expecting me to be coming the other way!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

my Mum

Yesterday would have been my Mum's birthday and two years ago, just a few weeks after she died we held a celebratory strawberry tea at the care home where she had lived for the previous five years.
She loved strawberries and revelled in the fact that they were in the greengrocer's shops just in time for her birthday! She also loved Wimbledon and managed to get there one year as a birthday treat. The love of watching tennis is about the only thing that I have not inherited from her! But then tennis has changed since my parents got their first television.
Apparently I have always looked like her, which I never noticed until recently when I realised that my jaw line is drooping just like hers. And I got type two diabetes just like her, although she was in her sixties and had a very sweet tooth while I was only just into my forties but had had a stressful few years (a cause which is rarely mentioned).
And I shake just like her! She was very pleased to take her doctor's advice and have a sherry before lunch! But I had to explain to my doctor that having a sherry before going into the pulpit was not a very good idea and even worse when I have to drive to outlying rural chapels!
I have tried various pills; the first made my asthma worse, the second sent me to sleep all day and then I had a skin reaction! I'm on yet another which after five weeks, I'm still shaking and now finding that I fall asleep in the afternoon and don't want to go out in the evening. Even friends are noticing that I'm very quiet - just not my usual self. Do I need a holiday? I am going away in two weeks time or is it the pills? Time to visit the doctor again!

Monday, 13 June 2011

tiny and huge

Yesterday was one of the Sundays that I don't take the service in our chapel, for which I was quite relieved as I felt quite tired after yet another trip to London and also to Brighton - all most enjoyable but exhausting!
But in the afternoon I drove up the Llanthony valley, which is beautiful if you can see it but the rain was tipping down and the huge 4by4s coming the other way seemed to think they own the lane - not a very enjoyable drive this time!
The congregation at the little chapel consisted of the organist who worships in town in the morning, two others - one of which usually worships at our chapel and myself. Fortunately, I have been re-assured by one of them that if a sermon is worth hearing, it is worth hearing again! I hope he thinks that it was worth hearing twice! (with two years inbetween!)
In the evening it was back to our chapel where folk come from all the surrounding chapels and churches to rehearse for next week's annual Singing Festival. Our choir is now over 50 strong and the sound was wonderful - however, next week we will be up the road in the church so that there will be room for a congregation as well. 
All the music is out of copyright but we have got permission to use John Bell's and Graham Maule's words of 'The Love of God comes close' which seems to be in complete contrast to 'All in the April Evening', which has got stuck in my head!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

confused? - you won't be!

This was the catch phrase of one of my all time favourite TV programmes back in the late 70s and early 80s; 'Soap'! And as I have grown older, I feel as if my life is becoming like that programme!
In readiness for Mandie's wedding, tomorrow I am going to meet some of Dave's family. Dave is ten years older than Mandie and has son by a previous relationship. The son is now in his twenties and with his girlfriend is expecting a child.
So in August when Mandie and Dave marry, she will immediately become a step Mum and I will acquire another Grandson. Then a month later Mandie will become a Grandma at thirty, which in turn means that I am going to be a Great Granny!

Monday, 6 June 2011


this is usually thought of in a negative sense; as being lazy. But over the years, I see this as being an excellent thing to do!
Since yesterday afternoon, some very expensive material has been laid out on my study floor. And now I am blogging (procrastinating again) just to make sure that I have not made any silly mistake that might just pop into my mind before I put scissors to said fabric!
When we went shopping for her wedding dress fabric, my daughter (and I) fell in love with what was most probably the most expensive fabric in the shop, but as she is very slim, and not much fabric was needed it was bought! 
Many years ago, at the height of my wedding dress making, I had a purpose built, high and very long table on which to cut out, having worn out my left knee on many pairs of jeans and developed thick skin on the top of my left foot! All caused by kneeling on one knee. As I only occasionally sew these days it is back to the floor, like most dressmakers!

Right... it is nearly time to start cutting - but it is not quite as scary as when I was told that the fabric I had been given to make a wedding dress was so priceless that the givers of the fabric,  friends of her parents, had asked for it back. It was beautiful - pure ivory silk interwoven with pure gold threads! I wish they had told me after I had cut it out and not just as I was raising my scissors!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

why did I say yes?

My preaching engagements at our chapel are booked for the year in the previous September. Last year I offered to take the services on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays in the month but it took me a while to realise that a fifth Sunday is followed by a 1st, which didn't give me much time to enjoy being retired, walking the hills or sewing.
So this year I cut it down to the 1st and 3rd Sundays but then felt guilty about being away at Assembly so opted to take the 5th Sunday in May.
So yesterday I felt unable to go to another Chapel's coffee morning with plant and cake sale as I wanted to make a start on next Sunday's service. 
This afternoon we have our monthly 'Village Women' which I now find I will have to miss as I have to go to Newport and tonight we have our regular Book Club and I offered to host - so I have had to go shopping for real milk and posh biscuits and clean downstairs!
Tomorrow I hope to get the bulk of my sermon done as on Thursday I go to Croydon to meet my daughter to fit her wedding dress and then on to Spurgeon's ready for Friday's monthly course on Continuing Development in Ministry.
As it is the annual College Conference the following Thursday, I shall delay my regular visit to the Grandboys this week and drive back to Wales on Friday afternoon - a bad time but hopefully a large number of folk will still be on leave for the half-tern holiday.
Gosh, it takes years to learn to say "NO"!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

39 years ago

he was late! by then 11days late and still he wouldn't budge!
So he will be celebrating his last birthday in his thirties tomorrow. Apparently while I was left in hospital with the little ginger haired man, friends were celebrating with brandy at 7am!
Unfortunately due to preaching engagements being booked last September I won't be at the barbecue to join in the celebrations but I'll make sure I'm free next year!
So from South Wales I shall toast the rather taller ginger haired man with a glass of brandy.
Mark and his lovely Katie on their wedding day Dec 09; are now with bump! Congratulations!
Happy Birthday Mark