Showing posts from 2010

On Not Making a New Year Resolution

Have you made a New Year Resolution? Will it be worth it? I haven't this year and don't intend to do so. 

Last year on 31 December I blogged about Scottish Hogmanay customs, which don't include New Year Resolutions but do include much merriment in the process of sweeping out the old year and welcoming the new.

Some of you are already in 2011. Here there are a few more hours of 2010 to go. Happy New Year to you now or when it comes!

Rather than a resolution, here's a prayer on entering the New Year. In the Church of England it's the Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Christmas. It's on my mind as I'm using it as the focus for a sermon.

Almighty God, in the birth of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word, and shown us the fullness of your love: help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love that we may know the fullness of his joy; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

He came into a sh*tty world

I'm sorting Christmassy things and found the nativity set with Mary, Joseph, a manger, shepherds, wise men, a donkey and sheep. It did have the Baby, but sadly he got eaten by our dog c. 1991 and hasn't been replaced. On Christmas Eve I place a small cross on the manger, to represent Jesus. It is one of our Christmas traditions.  This year I'm tempted to add an 'El Caganer', such as this one - a Catalonian tradition. You can see what he's doing. That would give the grandchildren a great giggle.
Since the 17th century in the area of Catalonia, Spain, nativity scenes (or even nativity plays) include the figure of someone in the act of defecation. This was often a peasant, but now you can buy them in many forms, including public figures like footballers, politicians, religious people and royalty. 'El Caganer' (literally 'the shitter' or 'the crapper') is usually placed discreetly hidden behind a bush or other characters. Then children can h…

Winter Sunset


One way I relax is by playing with watercolour. You will know this if you read my earlier post 'Staring, Sploshing and Splashing. I'm a late beginner or by now an 'improver'. In recent weeks I've seen some magnificent sunsets and have struggled to paint such scenes with watercolour. This is one of the better attempts in my learning so far. It's an imaginery winter scene, loosely based on a combination of memories. I like the contrast between the warmth of the sunset colours and the cold of the ground and bare winter trees. I would like to have added a snowy owl in flight, but that was one challenge too far for me. Another time perhaps. Any other suggestions for development would be appreciated.

Last Day of the Year


I usually find November depressing. In the Northern hemisphere the hours of daylight are getting far too short for me to feel naturally optimistic. Today it's really cold here and there's snow on the ground - far too early. I'm longing for Spring already.

It's an appropriate time to be yearning for what is promised but not yet here. Today is the last day of the Christian year. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new liturgical year. Advent is a season of hope, of waiting in expectation of the coming of Christ into the world. This picture by Joana Roja uses the traditional Advent colour of purple to represent both royalty and the penitential nature of the season. She has added the warm tones and the suggestion of advent candles to represent light in darkness and the longing for what is promised.

I came across a short video by Christine Sine with beautiful images and music by Jeff Johnson. It's her 2010 Advent Meditation. It's focus is…

Flushing Liquid Gold

Do you flush your urine down the loo? You do? Shame on you. So do I. Shame on me, when I could, but don't, use it for valuable purposes, such as:
soaking my tired dry feet in it so the skin becomes baby smoothremoving grease from my clothes (like the Romans until they got soap from the Germans)making my home-made bread rise and my beer foammaking fireworks or other explosivesmaking an emergency gas mask like the soldiers in the trenches at Ypres (actually not a good idea - the reaction with ammonia just made things worse)using it as a mordant to prepare cloth for dyeingusing it to remove hair from dead animal skinsI will let you into a secret. Urine from someone living with me is occasionally (and discreetly) used as a garden compost accelerant. It's effective and much cheaper than anything you might buy in the garden centre. I don't contribute because our compost bins are too tall for me. I just remain so grateful for the invention of the Water Closet, even if it does wast…

Walls: Pilgrimage Retrospective Part 4

Separation by agreement on equal terms, like the boundary wall between our garden and our neighbours' can be useful. But enforced separation on unequal terms can only be called 'apartheid' and lead to further injustice. When the Berlin Wall came down 21 years ago I felt a great sense of hope that the 'Cold War' in Europe was finally thawing. People previously separated were coming together. It's so depressing to realize how many new walls of separation have since been built around the world. Constructing separation walls between people is now a world-wide growth industry.
Being confronted with the wall around the city of Bethlehem was a truly shocking experience for me last month, even though I'd expected to see it. I managed to photograph the wall, but not one of the many watchtowers which chillingly reminded me of a visit to Auschwitz a few years ago.
I've wanted to write about the wall shown in this photo since returning from a Holy Land Pilgrimage. I h…

Pilgrimage Retrospective Part 3: Only children enter freely

More than 3 weeks after returning from the Holy Land, this is my 3rd post-pilgrimage reflection. I said it would take months to unpack! 

Here's a door, unpacked from my camera. I'm now trying to paint it in watercolour. I want to include some children, but finding this hard.

Doors are powerful symbols. They've always fascinated me, as I've mentioned in a previous post here and also here.

This door, the 'Door of Humility' is the entrance to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. I took this photo while listening to our guide Ghassan (a Palestinian Christian) explaining why the current entrance is so small, though the former were huge. His gentle words still ring in my mind,
"now only a young child may enter freely - like the baby of Bethlehem".Then we entered stooping, as most adults have to if you want to avoid a painful encounter with the stone lintel. I thought later about Jesus' words before he took children in his arms and blessed them, 

Pilgrimation Retrospective Part 2: To be a pilgrim

What is a pilgrim? Someone on a pilgrimage? Through life or to places of special meaning? 

Pilgrimage involves a significant journey that may be hard or long. It's travel but not tourism.  

Pilgrims may follow a guide but are open to the unexpected on the way.

Bishop Alan makes an interesting comment about the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist in his post Two Roads to Remembrance. He describes 'resonant remembrance' (in contrast to 'contemplative remembrance') as messy:
"You put yourself through a routine with your wits around you, but floating on the surface, so that a stray thought or impression can resonate against something in you, and bring you up against something you thought you had forgotten all about, but can now be understood in a new light."Putting myself through a routine devised by others (the programme for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land) freed me from responsibility of deciding what to do. It allowed me to be enter into unexpected …

Pilgrimage Retrospective Part 1. What I did/didn't do.

Things I didn't do on Diocese of Oxford Pilgrimage to Holy Land:
I didn't buy a drink in the 'Lowest Bar in the World".I didn't sink in the Dead Sea. I tried and failed as did others as you can see here.I didn't run round the walls of Jerusalem (or anywhere else) early in the morning.I didn't catch fish in the sea of Galilee.I didn't get re-baptised in the River Jordan.Things I did do on Diocese of Oxford Pilgrimage to Holy Land:
I did drink a lot - mostly water because of the heat.I did stand in shallow Dead Sea water, with great difficulty from a floating position.I did take hundreds of pictures of walls of all sorts, some of them shocking.I did sing the British National Anthem standing in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. (How bizarre is that?)I did renew baptismal vows at the River Jordan, was annointed with oil of chrism and then had a paddle in the water. A full immersion would have been more cooling.I've unpacked the luggage and washed the…

Little Miss Preacher or Big Matron Preacher?

Am I Little Miss Chatterbox? Probably not. I rather like silence. On the other hand I do like to be heard.

Stuck with preparing a sermon on a challenging theme, I took a coffee break and browsed some blogs I follow. A post this morning by Richard Littledale grabbed my attention, Mr Preacher (Which one are you?) Richard writes how
"There are occasions when we preach where we feel gifted and equipped for the job. On others, however, we feel acutely aware of our own shortcomings and wonder whether we are up to the task."He then refers to the Mr Men books by Richard Hargreaves and how on different occasions as a preacher he identifies with various Mr Men characters, including Mr Small,
"feeling overwhelmed with the task in hand and hoping to hide behind the pulpit, the Bible or something."Richard Littledale asks,"which one are you?"

Here's my first thoughts answer. I don't identify with any Mr Men (I'm a woman), but could have a shot at some of the &q…

Bed, board and books by the thousands

I've just come back from 4 days away with my husband at St Deiniol's Library - my first stay in a library with beds and home-made meals!

In the shadow of Gladstone we've been thinking about the redundant model of ordained ministry based on romanticised mythology of how George Herbert did it (or thought it should be done) in the 17th century. I fell in love with George Herbert's poetry in my school days. It was only as I tried to avoid offering myself for ordination in the Church of England that I became aware of how much the idyll of George Herbert as parish priest still affects explicit and implicit expectations about priestly ministry in the C. of E. Since then, I've also become aware of how much damage that has done.

Last November, thanks to a blog post 'Get Real! Kill George Herbert!' by Alan Wilson, my area Bishop, I discovered a book by Justin Lewis-Anthony, 'If you Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him'. Then the opportunity came to attend …

Non Angli Sed Angeli

Have you ever wondered why people say "bless you" when you sneeze?

Some say it originated from the time of a terrible plague in Rome in 590 A.D. The Roman plague ended in spasms of sneezing or yawning. Gregory, as the new Bishop of Rome ordered that "God bless you" should be said to all who sneezed and the sign of the cross made on the mouths of those who yawned. It strikes me that the signing could have encouraged the plague's spread!

Today the Church of England remembers 'Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Teacher, 604'. 3 September is the anniversary of Gregory's consecration in 590 A.D. as Bishop of Rome and 'Successor of St Peter'. Gregory (540 - 604 A.D.) was the first to refer to the role of 'Pope' as "servant of the servants of God" - a helpful image for any Christian minister. The English church (in all its expressions) has special reason to remember Gregory the Great - not for his instructions on sneezing or yawning…

Strange English Laws

Early this morning I enjoyed reading about Weird American Laws in a post by The Old Geezer. Did you know it's against the law to sleep in your 'fridge in Pennsylvania? Or that birds have the right of way on all highways in Utah?

Of course every country has its collection of strange laws that it's government hasn't got round to repealing or that are forgotten but remain on the statute books. This is certainly true in England, where I live. Below are some examples of strange English laws still on the statute books. If you know that any of these are no longer true, please correct me.
It is illegal to fly a kite within the London Metropolitan Police District. (Town Police Clauses Act 1847). This is because the Victorians feared spread of disease.Taxi drivers are supposed to ask if you are suffering from 'the plague'. If you are he/she can charge you the cost of disinfecting the cab.I think it is illegal to keep a pigsty in front of your London home. Londoners, corre…

Held up in Supermarket

I've just got back from "a quick trip to a supermarket".

But it's never quick is it?

3 things hold me up:
meeting people I knowdithering over so much choiceall the goods have moved since my last visitthe shortest queue at the checkout turns out to be slowestWikihow has a rather boring article 'How to Practice Supermarket Checkout Etiquette'.  It has 8 'Steps'. I won't bore you with the details, but here's the headings:
Obey the express lane limit.Avoid standing in the walkway.Double check on your groceries.Have membership cards and coupons ready.Bag your own groceries.Relax and have patience.Respond to the cashier in a positive manner.Be sure to allow ample room between your cart and the person in front of you.Step 6 'Relax and have patience' is the hardest for some people. I'm usually patient in a queue - partly personality, but also due to my tried and tested strategies for passing the time. Some are more fun than others. Here's…


When the wood-pigeons round our way are not courting, mating, breeding, or sleeping, they are feeding.

Eating at one end has consequences at the other. Most of the year these consequences are more or less off-white. That I can tolerate, except when it lands on me.
But now -



That's why my hands are stained purple from harvesting and processing blackberries etc. The pigeons don't seem to go much for the blackberries, but they love the fruit of the elder (Sambucus Nigri).

Oh the joy of large deposits of purple bird faeces on the places where we walk or on the car. Even now I can see wood pigeons gorging themselves on the ripening berries of the elder tree just over the garden wall.
I study their subsequent flight patterns carefully.

Purple poo bombing raids on our car are all part of the fun en route to their post-prandial perch. Washing off the sh*t is my task.
I like elderberries. Today I don't like pigeons.

Now w…

Instant Analysis

The internet is awash with programmes for instant analysis of almost anything you care to mention. What sort of writer are you? What sort of parent are you? What is your personality type? What is your learning style? Which celebrity are you most like? You know the sort of thing.

Many of them are out there as bait to persuade you to buy something, after you've answered their quiz qestions. Or you are asked to enter a small sample of your prose writing and an automated system congratulates you and flatters you by saying 'you write just like...' (naming a successful published author), hoping you will spend money on a 'Write Better' programme. Well, I for one, won't.

I blogged here about one of those programmes that instantly assesses your personality type from a small blog sample. The result was surprising. Autolycus had a better idea and tried several and varied samples from his blog post, with a variety of always flattering results. Which only goes to prove that w…

Disaster under your Nose

It's happening under your nose (and mine). It's a "crisis of catclysmic proportions" that could be the "greatest environmental disaster" in the history of the United States, according to a brilliantly ironic news article published by

I enjoy irony, so it made me smile - at first. That's before the 'ouch' factor hit. No, not the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but the consequences of a legal delivery of a dangerous substance in a port in Louisana. I noticed this thanks to a link posted by my god-daughter on her Facebook wall. Thanks D!

I don't live in the US, but similar shocking and  legal events are passing unnoticed through UK ports and land transport systems and other places world-wide. Enough from me - you've got to read this - Millions Of Barrels Of Oil Safely Reach Port In Major Environmental Catastrophe


I don't use GPS navigation when I drive. And I make mistakes in unfamiliar places.

However carefully I've studied the map, a multi-lane roundabout often becomes a place of confusion. (Roundabout = traffic circle or rotary intersection if you speak American English. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

I know where I want to go, but there are too many signs and I can't see any indicating my destination. If I have a navigator with me, he will probably have chosen this moment to fall asleep. Which lane should I be in? I don't know. Where should I exit? I don't know.

As stopping on a roundabout is forbidden, there are only 2 choices. The first is to exit by the most likely looking road, hope it turns out to be right or will become obviously wrong very soon and there'll be somewhere to turn round easily. The second is to imitate an aircraft pilot with no permission to land yet and assume a holding pattern. This means driving all the way round the roundabout again (and again) …

Mechanic? You've got to be joking!

Based on instant analysis of this blog's content, an automated system thinks the author is a 'mechanic' type or 'ISTP' in Myers-Briggs terms. This is probably not true. Ask my husband or children!

I have  Prodigal Kiwi (see below) to thank for today's time-wasting activity. It's been around a long time now, but the Myers-Briggs system to identify 16 basic personality types has been found a useful tool by many organisations. It's based on Jungian psychology. Years ago I undertook the tests a few times in association with my former occupation in social work and also in ordination training for the Church of England. It doesn't matter how I answered the questions - the result was consistently the same. My Myers-Briggs personality 'type' is INFJ, which fits, but perhaps not completely. The Myers-Briggs Foundation summary of the INFJ type is:
"Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what…

Refuse to be called Christian?

Gothic novels featuring vampires or horror aren't my choice of holiday reading. I didn't see the film 'Interview with the Vampire' though I was aware it was based on the American author Anne Rice's series of novels about Lestat (a vampire). My lack of interest in her particular form of dark fiction means that the fact that 12 years ago the author converted from atheism to Christianity had failed to grab my attention. Until today.

Alison Flood, in an article for the Guardian, picks up on Anne Rice's post on her Facebook page that she has decided to "quit being a Christian" because of negative attitudes by Christians to birth control, homosexuality and science. What interests me most about this is that Anne Rice declares that her faith in Christ is still central to her life. She writes,
"I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity...It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' …

Doggy Shrines

Why do people engage in actions based on superstition like throwing coins in fountains, salt over shoulders etc.?

Why does superstition persist even in places that have experienced 2000 years of Christianity?

Why do some atheists do things like touch wood - 'just in case'?

Why do all religions, including Christianity have some form of ritual actions? Do ritual actions meet some fundamental human need? Whether those actions are based on superstition or religion or apparent absence of either? To cope with what we fear? To acknowledge something greater than ourselves? To express joy, sorrow, regret, hope etc.?
I'm a Christian. I like to think I'm free of the need of superstitious actions, (though I find some Christian rituals helpful). Then I remembered what I did when our dog Holly died. We'd asked the vet who'd hastened Holly's death to remove her body for a doggy cremation. He did. Home bereft of dog. No body to bury in the garden.
After family hugs, I had an ov…

7 Link Challenge

I like challenges. Is that why I started blogging? I don't know. Now for today's challenge. 

Thanks to Darren Rowse here's my attempt to respond to his 7 Link Challenge. The Church Mouse has done it here. Lesley's Blog has done it here. It's time I had a go, so here goes.

Link 1: My First Post

My first post on 2 May 2009 was the most boring. I was dipping a toe in the water to learn how blogging works. I was recovering from flu, so lacking energy to garden which was what really needed to be done I started a blog with a post called 'The Blog Begins'. That was a scary moment, but I was encouraged that within 5 days 2 other bloggers commented - The Church Mouse and Autolycus. Thanks to them I decided to persevere, if only for my benefit (and the challenge of course.)

Link Two: The Post I most enjoyed writing

I've enjoyed writing every post - I wouldn't do it otherwise - after all I don't have to and I'm not trying to earn a living by blogging. I cou…

Shark-filled Chasm

How do you cross a a deep shark-filled chasm? And should you even try?
In my last postI said I was delighted with the outcome from the Church of England General Synod in voting for the draft legislation on women bishops. Not everyone feels that way. I've been reading reactions from within and outside the church, some of which I've found truly shocking and saddening. I was therefore much encouraged this morning to read the 14 July 2010 Pastoral Letter of +John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford. Thank you Bishop John!
He quotes a vivid image used by Canon Sue Booys who said, "the conscience of those in favour allowed them to get to a certain point, and the conscience of those opposed to the legislation enabled them to get to another point - and these lines are only ten yards apart, but the chasm between them is very deep and full of sharks."I was very taken by that image of a deep chasm full of sharks. I think it's helpful as long as one doesn't identitfy the sharks…

Process proceeds towards women bishops in Church of England

Interesting headline from BBC News this evening, "Women bishops can be created, Church of England rules". I think they mean 'appointed' and 'consecrated'. It would indeed be a miracle if the C. of E. by a ruling could 'create' women - bishops or otherwise.

The headline refers not to an innovative theology of creation but to the decision this afternoon by the General Synod to pass (by an overwhelming majority) the 'Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure' more or less as put forward by the Revision Committee. I'm delighted by this outcome. Now I feel more confident about staying in the Church of England, but aware that some are very disappointed.

The process isn't complete. The Measure is now referred to the Dioceses. If 50% approve (through Diocesan Synods) it returns to General Synod (in about 18 months?) for final approval which will require a two thirds majority. I've been dipping in and out of the…

Last Blast of the Vuvuzela

I told you here that I'm not interested in football, but I did manage to notice last night that Spain won the FIFA World Cup 2010.
So now the party is over and overseas fans returning home, leaving South Africa to get on with life without World Cup fever. Hopefully there will be some long term positive benefit for that country and all its citizens, where 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.
According to War on Want thousands of people were evicted from homes and trading places in preparation for the World Cup. Some of these are in temporary transit camps where conditions are deplorable. Working with partner organisations in South Africa, War on Want is campaigning for investigation of the evictions and protection of the rights of all South Africans to decent housing and basic services.  
You might want to sign up to War on Want's letter about this to Dr Zola Skweyiya, the South African High Commissioner to the UK.