Showing posts from 2009


For my Scottish grandparents 31 December was the day to complete a thorough house-cleaning, especially fireplaces, in preparation for the big celebration tonight of clearing out the old year and welcoming the new. At the same time it was important to ensure all debts were cleared before midnight.

The origin of Hogmanay is very ancient, but today's Scottish tradition probably owes most to Viking invaders and their Yule winter festival traditions.

I come from a long line of Scottish Presbyterians, who frowned on the celebration of Christmas as a 'Popish' or Roman Catholic feast. From the late 17th century to as late as the mid 20th century in some places, the Kirk virtually banned Christmas, which was not a public holiday for workers during the industrial revolution. Hogmanay was also disapproved of but this pagan festival continued underground. It now seems bigger than ever with public celebrations like that in  Edinburgh, from where my father's family originates.
My mater…

Grumpy Sheep and Paper Shredding

After a school nativity play, I cannot get the song, "I'm a very grumpy sheep, a very grumpy sheep..." out of my head.
The 'sheep' played his part most convincingly, as did the other 4 - 7 year olds in the cast of the popular children's musical 'The Grumpy Sheep' composed by Caroline Hoile. It was fun and tear-jerking.

Later I 'grumped' around my study, trying to achieve a degree of order and cleanliness ready for Christmas and for a visiting family member to use it as a bedroom. Our compost bins are now enriched with a lot of shredded paper. I can see almost all the study floor and it's now clean! So, in the words of the transformed grumpy sheep after he'd been dragged unwillingly to see the baby in the manger, I can now sing, "I'm a very smiley sheep, a very smiley sheep..."This simple repetitive ditty is meant to be memorable, but I'm ready for a change of song in my head now please.
I came across a song while paper so…

The Running Clock

Why does time run faster for some of us as we get older? Am I getting slower at doing all those things I think I ought to do, not to mention all that I want to do in the diminshing time I have left?

Of course for some people time goes slowly, with pain, boredom or isolation unrelieved by the company of good friends and family and the opportunity to pursue satisfying work and leisure interests, or the luxury of shelter, food and health. We're not all in the same situation. But as far as the dangers for our planet are concerned, within the lifetime of my children and grandchildren, perhaps we are.

The idea that time is running out to lessen the damage we've already done to planet earth since the industrial revolution through pollution etc. is being voiced with increasing urgency by many, and especially now as world leaders prepare to gather in Copenhagen. 

It's easy to think none of us individually can do much to change things, but as a certain supermarket keeps reminding us &…

"A Big Gay Holiday Camp"

In 1961 clergymen (they were all men in those days) from the Church of England Diocese of Southwark met for a conference at Butlins Holiday Camp at Bognor Regis. They were filmed for British Pathe news. As some are shown arriving in a 'Noddy' style train, the commentator describes the scene as
"a big gay holiday camp".How language has changed! Various shots seem intended to show clergy relaxing like any other holiday camper. I fail to be convinced of this by the sight of a Bishop (Dr Mervyn Stockwood) buying a newspaper while wearing a purple cassock and carrying his crozier

And were viewers meant to be surprised at seeing a clergyman accept a drink from a barmaid in "Ye Olde Pig and Whistle"?

The whole feel conveys the impression of clergy as a breed apart, faintly ridiculous figures of fun. In 2009 there might still be some truth in that of course. To be a Christian at all you have to be prepared to be seen as foolish. I've long thought that to be ord…


As a child I loved hanging upside down from trees, climbing frames, wall bars etc. I also enjoyed standing on my head or hands. You get to see life from a different perspective.

Everything looks different upside down. I don't have a photo of me doing that and I'm certainly not going to start trying it again at my age. So here is an upside down photo of a place I know well when it's the right way up.

This blog isn't really about upside-down photos but about upside-down values, which could turn out to be the right way up.

Imagine a society where those who are despised, forgotten or neglected receive the greatest reward, or in Jesus' words are truly 'blessed'. It's the opposite of what usually happens.

Based on Jesus' 'beatitudes' Matthew 5: 1 - 10 this video is worth taking a look at.

Photo: my own, turned upside down

Women Bishops

How long will it be before women may serve as bishops in the Church of England on equal terms with bishops who happen to be male?

2014 or even later?

In July 2008 General Synod (all 3 houses) decided to plan for the consecration of bishops who happen to be female, with safeguards in the form of a code of conduct to protect those who cannot accept the authority of a bishop who is a woman.

Yesterday the Revision Committee published proposals (to be brought back to Synod) for statutory provision to be made for those who cannot accept women as bishops (or priests) and those who cannot accept the authority of a male bishop who ordains women.

I cannot see how such leglislation can avoid creating a 2-tier episcopacy. I share the disappointment expressed by WATCH (Women and the Church) that this
"would be demeaning to women and would fundamentally damage the office of bishop in our church. Were such proposals to pass through our church synods, the Church of England would be in the uncomfortab…

Progress Prize

I was surprised and pleased yesterday to be awarded a prize following the art school exhibitions in August

No I was not the winner - no surprises there. But I was presented with the award ( a bottle of bubbly) for 'the best progress in this class'.

This was a great encouragement to me to persevere with learning to paint with watercolours. Then someone I know commented,
"I suppose a best progress prize shows just how far you had to go from your start - it could mean from bottom of the class to 3rd from bottom".He's right of course, but I will not be deterred from trying a bit longer. As I've previously blogged, I do have a good tutor in Linda Travers Smith. In any case I don't see an art class as a competitive situation. We learn from and encourage each other. However I do enjoy competing with myself and trying to get better - if only I had more time to practice.

Image Credit: Pixabay, CC License

Where did summer go?

Back in May I started this blog because I like learning new skills. I managed a few summer posts and then lapsed into silence, except for commenting on other people's blogs. I clearly haven't yet learned how to incorporate regular blogging into my lifestyle.

This photo of a poppy in my garden was taken about the time of my last blog. It's not very seasonal for the UK today, but I include it to brighten things up now that our summer seems to have gone.

My last post 'Painting Sand Dunes' was about my attempts at watercolour painting. Since then I managed to exhibit 2 paintings (including poppies) among others from my class in a student exhibition in August. I was hugely encouraged by comments of people who visited the exhibition. I know I've made progress and that's all down to practice and a good teacher.

I'm going to try to blog more often this autumn. I've noticed a few other bloggers like me who start with good intentions but don't keep it up.


Painting Sand Dunes

I was full of hopeful expectation. This time I would create a painting I wouldn't be too ashamed to show in the art class exhibition in August.

I love wet-in-wet watercolour landscapes, so was pleased that was what we worked on in the "Watercolour Improvers" class this week.

I started with a photo like this, by Iain Macaulay taken in 2007 at St Fergus Links, Aberdeenshire. I assembled my watercolours for a wet-in-wet painting. I liberally soaked the paper in clean water as instructed by my tutor. I tentatively dropped in phthalo blue, raw sienna, raw umber to create my interpretation of sky, sea, sand dunes and grasses.

The lesson was about moving the paint around the paper while still wet, learning both to control and go with the flow. The tutor had made it look so easy in her demonstration. I was so disappointed with my efforts.

The tutor took pity on my cry of 'this isn't working' and with my permission picked up my biggest brush and continued to move the wet …


This poem by Brenda Marshall made me laugh last night. It's published in 'Nubs', The Dappled House 2004.

The Sting

Two queue.
She said,
"We'll wear our best:
The stripy vest That's gold and dark With pointed pin. We must get in This ark."

Oh, Noah, Victim of a con, If you'd been smart Wasps could be gone.
Would the world be better without wasps? For people like me who have severe reactions to their sting, a wasp-free world sounds good. But would it be? According to entomologists, even wasps have a useful place in the ecosystem of which we are all a part. The many species of wasps control many other insect species including those that may devastate forests and food crops. Like their bee relatives some wasps are pollinators.

OK - they have their place, but I still don't like them and would prefer them to stay away from my place.

Image Credit: Flickr, CC License

Dangerous Ascension Day

Wanting to think about celebrating Ascension Day, I did a Google search. Glancing over the first few results, I was startled to read that, 
"Ascension Day is like a narcotic, laced with danger, and totally addictive."This was a million miles from my experience today or any other Ascension Day that I remember. Was this why some of my stricter Scottish Presbyterian ancestors refused to celebrate this or any other holy day apart from the weekly 'sabbath'? Was this 'danger' associated with those places that used to mark parish boundaries on this day by ritual beating of young boys?

I went to the website with the quote. It was Amazon advertising 'Ascension Day' - a novel by John Matthews and quoting a review by John Jordan in Crime Spree Mazazine. The review continued, 
"Impossible to put down. This is what thrillers are meant to be." 2000 years ago, religious and political leaders thought they could put Jesus down permanently. They thought they'…

Dentist Phobia

What is it about a dental appointment that makes me so anxious? After the event, nothing at all. 

I had a check-up today. No treatment needed. Next check-up in 6 months, so I can relax till November.

The problem is in the anticipation, especially in the waiting room. My fear started in childhood with a dentist who told me that my tongue was too big for my mouth and told my mother that I had "abnormal tongue behaviour" which in his opinion was incurable beyond the age of 12. I was 12 then. I am now very far beyond the age of 12.

I still don't know what he meant, but then he never explained anything. That was part of my problem with him, along with that dreadful noisy drill.

My current dentist is kind, efficient, swift and explains what he is planning to do before he does it. So I really don't need to be scared, even though my teeth are far from perfect and don't merit this description:
"Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, that have come up from the washing: all o…


"Will you...?" "I will..."

Church weddings are in this season.

Also fashionable are very high heeled shoes for female wedding guests.

I can only admire the determination of some as they encounter the reality of a rural churchyard path, often cobbled, sometimes steep.

"I will make it to the church without tripping/falling over/getting stuck between the cobbles. I will not take off these expensive shoes. I bought them especially for today.

Oh well, as my French exchange student told me long ago,
"Il faut suffrir pour etre belle."Not that I ever observed her suffering as she presented herself with apparently effortless chic.

But that was in Paris.

Rural England has different challenges.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Julian of Norwich

In the Church of England calendar, today commemorates Julian of Norwich, Spiritual Writer,. She died about 1417 and is said to be the first woman to write a book in English.

Her book 'Revelations of Divine Love' are meditations on her visions of Christ's passion that she experienced during her severe illness. They acknowledge the reality of suffering and express deep trust in the power of God's love to transform.

The Julian Centre website has a photo of the 'Julian Door'. I think it is the entrance to her hermitage cell which was destroyed at the Reformation but later rebuilt. The door is half open, giving a glimpse into the cell.

I've always been attracted to pictures of doors or gates half-open, especially when looking from darkness to light. I think they evoke a sense of possibilities beyond where I now stand.

Half-open doors also represent choice. Should I step through this entrance or not? What might happen if I do? Will I step aside from busyness and ente…

Blowing Raspberries at Baptism

Having a quiet chuckle, remembering the baby I baptized this morning. He is a sociable 6-month old boy, who when carried to the font, decided to entertain the congregation by demonstrating his new skill of putting his lips together and 'blowing raspberries'. For him, it was an expression of pure joy, enhanced by the delighted reaction of his siblings and cousins.

I managed to complete the 'Prayer over the Water' with due reverence while the infant candidate continued to make his loud and 'joyful noise to the Lord'.

It's best for me to avoid catching anyone's eye at such moments. A priest who giggles while administering a sacrament may cause offence.

I'm laughing now at the way that baby reminded me of the joy of new life in Christ. That joy sometimes seems to well up when I'm least expecting it, like today.

The youngest 'raspberry blower' can teach us not to take ourselves too seriously and remind us to delight in God.

Image Credit: Wikimedia…


I've just created my first blog - not sure why, perhaps it will become clear as I practice blogging. It may only be useful for organizing random thoughts from time to time. The reason for starting today is that I'm recovering from flu so haven't the energy to get on with the gardening on this sunny day. When I feel better I'll probably have something more interesting to write. Any advice out there about blogging for beginners?