Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I've been helping my neighbour plan her husband's funeral and it's turning out to be a surprisingly joyous task, despite the sadness. Her husband died after eighteen years of increasing disability following a fall from the roof of their house. Before that he was a hugely energetic, adventurous man, handsome and fit and with a zest for life. That zest remained until his care requirements became too much for his wife to manage at home. Although he was then unable to speak, he made it clear that his wife was everything to him and without her, he didn't want to go on. It took three years before he got his wish and that was down to his own determination not to go on living.

The funeral is truly a celebration of a life characterised by courage, good humour and fortitude. But you cannot attribute these qualities to one without the other, because both partners have lived this life together. Two lives well lived and inexorably intertwined.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hitting the Roof

You'd think buying sixty roof tiles and getting them home would be a scoosh for someone with a tow-bar and a trailer. After all, that's exactly the sort of thing one does all the time when married to a Rob. I've no idea how often I've been to the builders' yard to pick up stuff for his latest project - actually the on-going one which is this house - only to find that it's an enormous thing that has to be tied onto the roof or stuck out the window, or somehow impede one's ability to change gear.

However, yesterday's task almost defeated me. First problem is the trailer, which I discover to be full of bags of old cement and a bag of lime which has swelled in the rain and burst. I assume Rob had intended taking them to the tip so I resolve to do just that - when I can get the darned trailer attached to the car! The cement's so heavy that I can't budge it and the bags are too heavy for me to lift out.

Now this is the first weekend for a while that the weather promises to be dry. The roof is, if not entirely open to the elements, not exactly closed, lacking sixty tiles. I need to get those tiles. I phone Number One Son whom I know to be at home and take the dogs out while waiting for him to arrive. He arrives, wearing a Superman tee-shirt. My hero. Together, with our combined weight of less than twenty stones, we somehow manage to move and attach the trailer. Hooray! Superman and I drive to the tip.

The tip is closed. Or at least, it's not functioning as a tip for the next few days. All the skips are away. It's a car-park for the Games - Dunoon is en fete for the weekend of the Cowal Games. My howl of frustration is heard by a man who kindly lets me drive in and round because I can't reverse with darn trailer attached! Okay, I admit it - I'm a woman driver and we don't do fancy reversing tricks with trailers. They go the wrong way, they twist themselves into jack-knife mode and refuse to budge. I usually have to unhitch the thing and re-attach it after I've turned, but it's too heavy this time. Superman keeps quiet. He can't reverse it either.

I decide to go to the builders' yard anyway, nursing a vain hope that there might be a skip there. The surly chap at the desk is not entirely unaffected by my tale of woe and waves in the direction of a skip which appears to be at capacity. I want to kiss him but restrain myself and try not to think about the fact that my car and trailer are stranded in the yard facing the wrong way, surrounded by trucks and and fork-lifts and men with hairy arms and buiders' bums. Superman is looking a little embarrassed beside his mother's abandoned car but cheers up with the good news and staggers to the skip with the bags of cement, which he balances on top of the full pile with grim determination, and I look for a shovel to get rid of the lime, most of which I tranfer to my clothes and person. Surly Chap goes off with my sample tile to find a match.

Sixty roof-tiles is a trailer-full and they are heavy. I can vouch for that. I manage to carry two at a time and Superman can manage five at a stagger. At some point I seize an opportunity to drive the car in a circle to face out the way as a couple of the trucks leave. Maybe no-one will notice that I'm unable to reverse. The trucks are quickly replaced by several more and a huge skip-lorry arrives to take away the skip, but he he can't get near it because of me and I'm not budging until I have sixty tiles aboard. Three more trucks arrive but they can't get in either. The man with the fork-lift has a load of floorboards on the front and wants through the gap but it isn't wide enough. Superman continues to weave his way in and out of the obstacle course with five at a time while I apologise to the hairy-armed ones. Finally I get my bill from Surly Chap and we depart - or at least we depart after the skip lorry and pick-up trucks have reversed back out of the gate to let us through. I smile and wave cheerily.

"I see you got the tiles," remarks my beloved when he gets home from work.

"Oh yes," I reply, "no bother."

Monday, August 20, 2007


I'm glad I'm not a bishop! Aside from all the problems that would evoke since I'm of the female persuasion, if last night's meeting at the rectory to discuss the Draft Anglican Covenant was anything to go by, trying to come up with a document with words vague enough to cover the whole of the hopelessly divided Anglican Communion right now is an impossible task. It took us about three hours to come up with one sentence explaining why we didn't accept the present draft. We sat around the room like a class of glumps, unable to articulate what we felt was just . . . wrong.

The commodious umbrella of the Anglican church has always accommodated people of incredibly wide-ranging views. Why has the issue of human sexuality caused it to rip itself apart in this way? It seems such a trivial thing. If it was to do with world poverty or the spead of AIDS or the causes of global warming - issues that divide the real world - it might be worth taking a stand, but whether we're going to allow gay clergy to have their loving relationships openly? Come on!

Where's the Christian love for everyone that Jesus taught? You'd think that the church would be up there among the front runners. But wait - didn't we Christians support anti-semitism and apartheid and didn't we fight among ourselves over the Catholic / Protestant divide and female clergy? We're pretty much over those prejudices now and we'll get over this one. But my question is: Why are we behind secular society? We should be leading the way.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Christian living

I'm just home from a Cursillo weekend. Cursillo is a short course on Christian living and I must say this 'weekend' (it's actually three days) was just that. My role was that of table leader, to facilitate discussion among the participants, so I was lucky enough to share all the experiences they had and watch them grow in their faith and determination to make a difference for God. Talk about recharging batteries - is it possible for batteries to overflow? Because that's what I feel I'm doing right now. Cursillo is a wonderful resource within the church to give people the chance to share their experiences on their Christian journey, deepen their understanding of their faith and be encouraged to help build a more active, dynamic Christian community within their own church. As someone on the weekend remarked, if only all churches could be like this!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh the stress of it!

Mrs Blethers and I were commiserating about the stress of management yesterday. One of the things that impressed me last weekend in the run-up to the wedding was the way my friends Doo and Mike kept all the balls in the air - sending folk out on missions to pick something or someone up, put up tables, chase up things that hadn't appeared (Where's the disco? It's been stolen in a raid? Get another one!), polish the board for the menus, make signs for the carpark etc etc - and all this while keeping up a constant supply of cups of tea, and bacon rolls. Everyone went about their task willingly, cheerfully and competently and nobody argued or complained or shirked. But most importantly, nobody was overburdened or overwhelmed with things to do - there was plenty of delegation of jobs. A fine example of good management.

Of course I know that the reference to frantically paddling swans (which look so serene on the water) in the wedding sermon would not be lost on the family. I'm quite sure there was plenty of stress going on, but I'm equally sure that there would have been so much more if Doo and/or Mike had taken everything upon themselves and not trusted others to do a good job. Perhaps some things would not be exactly as they might have done it themselves, but maybe they were better. It all struck me as a really good use of people's talents. And there were plenty of them around.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I've been to two weddings these last two Saturdays. July is a good month to get married as Rob and I can attest (35 years last Sunday!) and even if this is the wettest summer on record, the sun managed to shine on both the young couples. Both brides looked stunningly beautiful, both grooms were perfectly adorable, and both couples had love shining out of their eyes throughout, but what struck me was the contrast between the two weddings as a whole.

The first took place at my own church, Holy Trinity, small and a little down at heel but decorated to within an inch of its life with glorious garden flowers - predominantly hydrangeas (look here to see). The majority of the guests were not church people and the couple were affirming by their marriage a long-standing relationship. The wedding service - a new and disputed SEC rite - was beautifully worded to take this into account and the hymns were modern, with marriage-specific words set to folk tunes - easy to sing but still beautiful.

By contrast, my goddaughter's wedding, in a picturesque country parish church, was heaving with clergy and church people. Indeed her mother (my best friend from schooldays) married them. The ceremony was formal, the hymns traditional and the whole thing took near enough two hours. Once again the church was gloriously decorated (I believe Sainsbury's was entirely denuded of flowers for the purpose) and there were even real rose-petals scattered down the aisles. It was all quite perfect and I enjoyed myself immensely, despite being even later than the bride (we went to the wrong church) and discovering on leaving that we'd left the sun-roof of the car open (it was pouring). All this and getting to spend time with my lovely old friends. Sheer bliss.