Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fire dance

If you look carefully in the centre of the fiery circle you can just make out Paul twirling a flaming stick. This is his new hobby apparently and he's quite good at it - even I have to admit that. I'd be happier if he didn't do it in the brand new trousers I bought him but it appears they are 'ideal for fire stick twirling' because of their thickness. Oh. Right.

Fantastic Christmas dinner at Michael and Charlie's yesterday but I might blog about that separately later. Let me just say that it was brilliant not to be in the kitchen for once (in 29 years we worked out).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Out of reach

Despite the fact that I'm not actually responsible for Christmas dinner this year, I'm cooking various stuffings and sauces this morning, somewhat hindered by an over-excited dalmatian puppy who has so far demolished the compost bucket and consequently thrown up on the kitchen floor, made off with the bread for the bread sauce and failed to understand that the food I hang on the washing line is for the birds and not him. Methinks it's time for a doggy walk. Meanwhile I finally found a place out of reach of even the Long Leggety Loke Monster.

He's swiped his owner's bacon sandwich. Hah!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sofa so good

The first piece of furniture we ever bought when we were first married was this sofa. It cost an arm and a leg in those days but we were determined to have it because it matched a chair I had been given as a twenty first birthday present from my godmothers. It cost another arm and a leg to be re-upholstered a few months ago and so I ask myself - why is that not me sitting on it?

I was pretty corpsed but elated yesterday after the Advent Carol Service. Kimberlyexcelled herself once again by drawing everything together - music and words - into something magical. The twist this year was that apart from the Bible readings, every word was written by members of the two congregations. The theme was 'the day my baby was born' - an emotive subject for many - and what with the seasonal frisson and the glorious music, there was an electricity in the church that defied the damp walls and the puddles on the floor to leave us all wrung to the withers. Mr Blethers, who was responsible for the music, had no voice and had to pretend to be Monteverdi on the organ and the tenor from Rothesay had just enough voice to see him through his verse of 'In the Bleak Midwinter', but as Mrs B points out in her far better account of the affair than this, it all maybe served to add to good tension.

So I needed that sofa, doggies.

PS - don't worry, I didn't sit on the floor or curl up in a dog bed, but chased the opportunists back to their rightful place - in front of the fire. It's a dog's life.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In-car-cerated together again

The Spotty One is back with us for Christmas. He's remembered the drill here, including how to squash into the car with J and J who seem very happy to see him. Their state of bedraggledness is due to the weather, which having been crisply sunny has now reverted to storm conditions.

I had such a lovely birthday I don't know where to start. It just kept getting better from Monday with family and friends and a super party to Tuesday (the actual day) with a trip to Glasgow and a surprise visit to the Apple Store to get an iPhone, which is the most desirable phone on the planet. Not only that, but I had the undivided attention of the beautiful Mark (of the dreamy brown eyes and killer eyelashes) for an hour as he showed me how to work it. However, Ol' Blue Eyes (he of the zero grey hairs despite being nearly as old as me) was really the man of the moment of course and he even admitted to a certain smugness having set it all up.

As for me, I don't mind being incarcerated with my dogs and my new toys (I got a digital camera too) and the party leftovers to eat up, not to mention new books to read. Bring on the bus and ferry pass.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I'm proud of us at Holy T. Yesterday Kimberly hosted a discussion about homosexuality in the church over coffee and cakes at the rectory. I was in two minds whether to go, but in the end I did and I was glad.

Yes, everyone there (except the rector) was of my generation and older, yes there was a wide range of viewpoints, but most of us put our cards on the table and the discussion was both frank and honest. And most of all, we listened to each other. As people's stories came out, it became obvious that here was a group of people whose lives had been touched by the issues of welcoming openly gay clergy (particularly bishops) and blessing same-sex unions in the church, but were reaching out for reconciliation and doing so with both compassion and dignity.

Gosh, I wish the whole Anglican Communion was like us!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bus Pass Scandal

Michael's going to beat me to a bus pass! He's already applied for his and I can't get mine till December. Bah! Now I'll never be first with the gossip. He's getting used to the new pills after horrible side-effects meant more time off work, but he's going to change to something else anyway. Lots of useful info and support from the Southern General.

The Spotty One is still here but probably going home tomorrow. I'm going to miss him (and Paul). Jonny and Jess will too when their chew and treat ration goes back to normal. It'll be nice not to have to hide the toilet rolls though.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spotty Intruder

Loki is making himself thoroughly at home at Heathbank. J and J seem to have accepted the Spotty One although reckon he's going a bit far sharing beds. We foolishly left the bathroom door open the other day, despite Paul's warnings that the Andrex Puppy has nothing on Loki, and four toilet rolls were thoroughly demolished.

At the moment Michael's here too with his pack, so the pooch count is five! We're off to the Suffering General today to try to get to the bottom of what's going on in M's brain. Prayers appreciated.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Here is Paul with the latest addition to the Heathbank kennel club. Not sure who is cuter. However, looks belie nature - apparently Loki's already managed to dispatch a pigeon that unwisely landed near his marauding paw. J and J both did likewise when puppies. Hmm - maybe that's pigeons' raison d'etre - as puppy prey.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two for the price of one

My blog has been the subject of much complaint (again) from family and friends because I don't update. Well today you all get a bargain - two together.

Sunday saw me uncharacteristically absent from church - missing our Lambeth bishop. Luckily Mrs Blethers has plenty to say about that so off you go over there and read about it. As for me, I was at my friend Jennifer's daughter's wedding in Carmunnock.

My record at weddings is not great. The last one I went to - my God-daughter's - had me arriving at the wrong church and consequently arriving late at the right one, and driving back to the hotel sitting in a huge puddle (and no, I'm not that incontinent!) because we left the sun-roof open and there was a thunderstorm, then having to sidle into the hotel looking as if I was that incontinent! In view of that, I decided to leave the linen at home and opted for the high heels and chiffon look so beloved of wedding attendees of a certain age. And yes, I know I am that certain age - that's why I wore it! I nearly asked Mrs Blethers for a loan of her black wedding hat, and indeed it wouldn't have gone amiss, for hats and kilts and posh frocks were the order of the day.

But it was lovely to meet up with old friends again. We're still the staffroom babes from Calderwood. I hope you'll agree!

That's the mother of the bride, glowing in azure btw


I love Tuesday mornings. It's not a swimming day so I don't have to rush out with my cozzie and a second cup of tea in one of those mug/flask thingies (most of which leak btw). Taking my 'standing-up' pill (alendronic acid for the bones) means I'm not allowed to do anything that requires bending for at least half an hour after getting up, so the morning chores are put on hold. It sounds like a good time to pray, but my method of praying doesn't always work like that, although it is a good time to think about people who might require my attention. Today it's still raining, but with a promise of it clearing up, so I can put off the garden until later. What bliss - maybe I'll post on my blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Splish splash

Such an unsatisfactory swim this morning. The pool wasn't properly filled to the level of the perimeter at the shallow end, so annoying choppy waves were set up and it was like swimming in the sea in a force three wind. Bang went my attempts at practising the front-crawl - I just kept on breathing in water and having to flip onto my back to recover. I'm a not-bad swimmer but not a natural water-baby. Well, at least it would give those bored-looking pool attendants something to do if I did drown myself.

Yesterday was the Vestry away-day. We went all the way to the Uig Hall. Nice and close to me, anyhow. It turned out better than I thought it would, and if we didn't actually achieve anything, at least we focussed our thoughts. Maureen and Kimberly were a good team.

Paul wants to get a dog. I think a mutt would be best - preferably a born and bred town dog who would enjoy occasional forays into the countryside. There are so many needing good homes - I hate to think of unwanted puppies. I shall tentatively suggest it. My dogs seem to have taken over next-door's land as well as their own patch. The house has been empty for about three years and so I guess my occasional nipping over to plunder the rhubarb has made them think it's just a part of our garden. Oops - your sins will always find you out, Di!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Doggy woes

Jess really knows how to be poorly. She puts herself to bed and looks woebegone, occasionally emitting small groans and whimpers.

On Tuesday she suffered a Terrible Accident as she dashed after her ball in the woods behind the house. She must have run into a sharp stick because she suddenly yowled and came limping back to me in great distress. When I'd checked that the stick hadn't gone into her mouth or pierced her heart, but had made a nasty cut on her chest which was bleeding profusely, I carried her down the hill and prepared to administer first aid.

Unlike Jonny, who refuses to let anyone near any injuries he sustains, preferring to tough it out in stoical fashion, Jess stretched out on her back on my lap and allowed me to clean the wound, then took herself off to bed where she remained for the rest of the day, only rising for a morsel of dinner. Jonny was attentive, sniffing and giving comforting licks. By evening, the wound had begun to heal, closing up amazingly. By the next day, she was still being careful in the morning but by evening was back to normal, even chasing her ball again.

When we passed the Accident Site, both dogs spent a lot of time sniffing and Jonny followed the scent to the offending stick which I removed. It brought home to me the incredible healing powers of dogs. Often they're up and about and ready to go only hours after an operation. Isn't Nature wonderful?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ripping yarn

I wanted to post a picture of Fidelio with her spinnaker close-hauled like a foresail. I took it on Saturday afternoon as we zoomed along at almost 7 knots (I love the new log - it works!) moments before it split asunder. Then it ripped even more as Rob struggled to pull it in, ripping the chute as well in the process. To complete the trio of disasters, Rob's hat blew off into the water and we had to do a nifty manoeuvre to recover it - all of which would have made much more exciting photos, but since the camera to computer lead has disappeared into the impenetrable maw of this house, the moment is lost. update: Mrs Blethers kindly lent me a lead so I have the photo after all.

We got the feeling Fidelio was trying to tell us something and indeed she was. According to the specs, top speed for a Freedom 21 is about 6 knots, but since we've never had a working log before we hadn't a clue that we were pushing her too hard. Poor baby.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This 'n' that

The biology exam was as bad as I feared - three hours in a stuffy room and lots of horribly complicated scientific words to mispronounce. My lovely student kindly corrects me if I get it wrong - I sometimes wonder who's the one with dyslexia! She even anticipates spelling problems such as 'xylem' (my computer doesn't know that either - I'm worried!) by telling me about the 'x'. I hope she passes the exam, bless her.

I'm showing signs of wear and tear after all the gardening, alas. I hate growing older. This time it's 'weeder's wrist' - almost certainly from yanking out huge tufts of grass from the path. I looked up 'wrist pain' on the Interweb, but none of the descriptions matched mine. Maybe I've discovered a new condition, akin to tennis elbow (which can also cause wrist pain apparently). Bah!

I love Facebook. It tells me Paul is in Marrakesh for an academic conference and has even remembered to buy sun-block. I wonder if Facebook was invented with worrying mothers in mind. Now if I don't see any entries I'm going to think his lap-top's been stolen. Worry, fret, panic . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Hooray for a dry May and time to spend it in the garden! I've planted up most of the vegetables and done some tidying up in the front garden, edging the lawn and pulling out a few weeds. I've made a nice sitootery outside the conservatory, surrounding it with potted plants, and I've had fierce words with Mr T over why he shouldn't use that space to mend the car - broken plants, strange substances, aesthetic reasons, that sort of thing. What's so wrong with the garage area I say? My sitootery is for sitting with a cup of tea and a book!

It's just so much more pleasant than sitting in a stuffy cupboard somewhere in the school, scribbling away. Only two more exams to go - Higher biology is one of them, my nightmare exam to scribe because of all the scientific names. There should be a scribes' crib-sheet for that one.

Fidelio's ready to go into the water. We polished her hull this evening and she's looking good. The dogs came too but were disappointed there was no walk involved. They lay sulking in the car while we beavered away.

Mum's been gone fourteen years on Sunday. It's nice to think of her at bluebell time, but I still miss her.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bloggers, Bluebells, Bridget and Bad Max

Kimberly, Queen of bloggers, came up with the idea of 'Bloggers and Bluebells'. It was a brave move, considering she's off to America in two days' time, to have a group of Piskie bloggers let loose around the rectory eating her brownies and drinking her tea, but it was great to connect faces with names and fill in some of the background. Bloggers come in all hues, shapes, sizes and ages but one thing we all seem able to do is talk - and didn't we just? The tea, coffee and conversation flowed steadily until it was bluebell time.

For the bluebells bit we went to Kilmun Arboretum. Not far, but far enough for one car-load to lose the way and find themselves at Loch Fyne Oysters. The Zebadee family finally made it to the car-park in time for lunch, just as Bad Max, on arriving at Puck's Glen, decided he'd had enough and turned tail for home. By the time he (with Rosemary and Kimberly in hot pursuit) arrived at the car-park, the Zebadees had hopped it for home too, back to the rectory. Never mind, Kimberly and Rosemary ate their lunch and plotted the sermon. Rosemary, I never knew St Catan existed but you brought him to life for us all. The midges, who were at the wrong gig - Midgebites and Candlelight doesn't happen till later, chaps - ate them. Good dog Bridget would like to point out here that she didn't think much of the Arboretum either - too many bangs. I didn't let on that it was probably our local stalker getting in the supplies of venison.

The rest of us climbed up the glen. Mrs Blethers led - check out her photos - and I rounded up the other photographers, Piglet and Stewart, who were snapping away obliviously, and otherwise might be there yet, and brought up the rear. We all met up again at the car-park, and finally joined the Zebadees at the rectory, whereupon Kimberly changed from blogger to celebrant and we had a fine eucharist in the church to finish.

Until next year then, dear bloggers?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A listening ear

Yesterday was the SEC's rather last-minute attempt prior to Lambeth to do some active 'listening' to the experiences of GLBT folk within a church context. Sixty attended - the maximum which had been allowed for - and my opinion is it was a Good Thing. As one of the six witnesses, I spoke to two groups about what it was like bringing up a gay son. I consulted with Michael and Charlie about what I was going to say and they were comfortable with it. I also made it clear that the account I gave was from my point of view as a mother, and that if Michael had been telling his own story it might be different.

I found it both a humbling and emotional experience. Emotional because much of what I had to say brought back difficult memories, especially as, given my time over again and the benefit of hindsight, I might have have handled things differently. Humbling because it was obvious from some of the responses I got that some people had not heard much in the way of positive affirmation of their sexuality in a church context. It brought home to me how very difficult it is to be Christian and openly LGBT, let alone be ordained and anything other than celibate.

The main point I wanted to get across was something I've said many times - that I'm proud of my boys, who they are and what they've achieved. It makes me sad when I hear of parents of gay children who are ashamed to acknowledge them for what they are. My advice to anyone who suspects that their child might be gay is to be accepting, be affirming and be happy with them when and if they find the person they want to spend their life with.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I love playing with compost and it's that time of year. I have four compost bins - two of the black plastic 'dalek' variety for kitchen waste and two bigger wooden ones at the far end of the garden for garden waste. Periodically I mix them up and layer them and add a bit of organic accelerator to them. I was doing that on Sunday. What fun.

Jess enjoyed it too - she likes to get her nose into the compost for a rummage around, but I didn't imagine the compost accelerator pellets would be a tasty snack for a small dog. Apparently they are. Now she's making her own compost.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I found another Cursillo blogger and fellow ex-Ninny - it's John Penman, aka Fr Dougal, now in Falkirk. He also seems to be a fellow bird-nerd.

Speaking of birds, I saw three goosanders on the river Echaig - two males chasing the same female who was acting very coy around both. I couldn't help feeling that she didn't really fancy either of them and had her eye on the one that flew off when Jonny leapt joyously into the river a little further upstream (the joy was due to the change in the calendar that dictates that dogs shall now enter all bodies of water at every opportunity. It usually coincides with the first application of the very expensive flea and tick control drops which warn against getting wet for three days after applying. Huh? Have they not heard of Argyll???).

The herons' eggs have hatched - or at least some of them have. I hope the chicks survived all that hail the other day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

All you need is love

That's me back from Cursillo #55 - a little the worse for wear in the body but renewed in spirit and with my Christian love levels well topped up! As usual I feel humbled by the trouble people will go to serving others and the cheerfulness with which they do it. As 'Observing Lay Rector' I didn't actually have much to do other than counting heads and generally getting in the way, which was just as well since the cold I took with me didn't improve and has settled nicely somewhere about mid-lung! But running on paracetamol, cough mixture and adrenaline, I was able to help make a difference in some people's Christian journey and that is just such an amazing privilege. The other amazing privilege was being allowed to administer the Chalice at the closing Eucharist.

Cursillo is such a gift to the church, I wish it was more widely used. The Holy Spirit fairly whistled round settling on everyone there - an eclectic mix of sundry Christians of widely different experience - from a young Malaysian just converted to Christianity to a learned and eminent canon of a cathedral. It's a wonderful way to experience a Christian community in action and makes you determined to bring some of that experience to your own church community. If people once felt the love they would never forget it. Surely that's what Jesus has been saying to us these past two thousand years or so! In the words of St John (or is St Paul?) - all you need is love!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Walk out

Well that was a first! Yesterday I had a student I was scribing for walk out out on me - taking her exam papers with her. I suspect they're in a bin somewhere in the school because they didn't, to my knowledge, arrive at their destination which should have been the school office. The girl was definitely having a bad day and the exam seemed to be entirely beyond her. Previous exams had been a struggle too but at least I'd mostly been able to help her focus long enough to think about the questions and come up with some kind of answer, despite a certain amount of huffing. When I told the teacher what had happened he laughed, as did the office staff who rolled their eyes and said, "Oh her!" I have to say I feel sorry for the lassie and annoyed with myself that I didn't see it coming. I've had kids struggle through papers plenty of times and we've both breathed sighs of relief when we've reached the end, but never a walk out. Oh well, clock another one up to experience and fourteen year old girls I guess, but I still feel I've let her down.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Post Easter Post

I have my usual post-Easter headache. Huh! I can't even say it's due to too much chocolate since I've not even opened my two Easter eggs yet (although chocolate cravings have been satisfied by other means - cake and mini-eggs). Anyway, by the wonders of modern medicine I hope to keep the yukkies at bay.

I watched the last episode of the BBC's version of the Passion last night and found myself wishing for more. I'd like to have followed the disciples a bit further. I thought the post-Easter Jesus was cleverly and interestingly portrayed as someone almost like the actor but not quite until all the disciples believed and then it was Joseph Mawle again. I was unimpressed by the stone they used to seal the grave - it looked like something they bought from B & Q made of concrete. Surely it should have been a bit heftier. There were a lot of good little touches, like the way Mary pressed the shroud to Jesus' face - hints that even if the Turin Shroud is a fake there was a real one with the imprint of his face on it. I liked the fact that they didn't do a John Wayne moment after Jesus died (surely this man was the Son of God) but simply gave us a telling shot of the chief centurian's face later.

All together I thought it did the BBC proud. They tried to give a balanced and realistic view of what might have happened, no sentimentality and although the brutality of the whole crucifixion sequence was shocking, they didn't dwell on it overly. The scenes with Jesus' mother were wonderful and her face will haunt me for a long time. The words of the 'Stabat Mater' ring so true

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Week

The daffodils are out, Rob's working on the boat - it must be spring! Not that you'd know it by the air temperature and it's blowing a gale, but at least it's sunny. Not great for spending lots of time in church though and my feet and bum have been permanently freezing this Holy Week. Christine's written very eloquently about the whole thing in her blog. The wind, the cold, the creaking tree - it all added to the atmosphere, weirdly. So did the vandals, who chose Thursday night to mess up the church porch with inane scribblings and a fire - all very symbolic. Kimberly has pictures here.

I just want to add my take on part of yesterday's Good Friday devotions. As six of us, all women, walked the way of the cross, it occurred to me how fitting that was. Women feature in all but one of the positive roles in that heartbreaking journey: Mary, Jesus' mother, and her companions, St. Veronica, the daughters of Jerusalem. Interestingly, I noticed in last night's BBC version of the Passion that St Veronica's role, wiping the blood and sweat from Jesus' face, was taken by a man.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New trick

I had to try it. My new phone was clearly keen that I should blog this photo of a pirate pooch resting in the newly covered chair. Sadly, I have no idea how to change the orientation of the picture so he'll have to be sideways for now :(

Later: Thank you, clever reader, for re-orientation. Frances, you can put your head upright again now.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Alas for the Heathbank mice, the mouse-cupboard is being mouse-proofed. I don't know what we're going to call it if the repairs work, but unlike the mice, I shall be very happy if it works. Does this mean my packets of tea, flour and other food items will remain pristine and untasted by tiny raiders? I'm keeping my fingers crossed,

Saturday, February 16, 2008


As I made the pew sheet for tomorrow and searched for a picture of Nicodemus, I was reminded of this short piece I wrote last year (I think it was). As usual, contextual bible study has a lot to answer for! Anyway, read on if you dare.

Moshe’s Rock

There. I have to admit it looks impressive, even though I say it myself. Imagine, Nicodemus, six weeks ago this was a mere rock-face – a very picturesque rock-face – but nothing more, nothing less. The sealing stone takes four men to put in place, so you better make sure I’m dead before you put me in it.

No, I’m not ill, but when you get to my age, you have to be circumspect. And these are difficult times with all the unrest – every week we’re called at the Sanhedrin - always some Galilean or other. Deluded mostly. You know my views: there’s only Jesus the Nazarene who has any real clout - he raised Lazarus from the dead, didn’t he? - and he’s too clever for us – baruch Hashem. When the Kingdom of Heaven comes, he’ll be right there, mark my words.

Yes, I know it’s dangerous talk, but there’s no-one near. Just us and a great hole in the rock which cost me more shekels than would feed a family for a year. But what else should I do with my money – it’s not going to bring Moshe – alav ha shalom - back from the dead. Just think – he’d be about the same age as the Nazarene if he’d lived. I wonder what he’d have made of him. Probably given up all this to be one of his followers, impulsive little fool. He was braver than I am – otherwise he’d never have survived in the leper colony so long.

I wish he could lie in there with me instead of in that terrible place outside the city. It’s a sore thing to bury a son, but worse when you can’t even give him the proper rituals.

He used to play on these rocks with his friends – and some of the servants’ brats. They thought we didn’t know. Couldn’t be seen from the house for the olive grove. Not that I minded. I wanted him to be happy, that’s all, and if it meant playing Romans and Jews in and out the boulders, it was fine with me.

That’s why I had the tomb hewn out of this rock. He was happy here. He used to come here when he was older too, to sit and think, he said. If I can’t lie with him, I may as well be where his happy memories are. It’s a good place.

Come and look inside. It’s quite easy – I’ve had a path made, see. I want you to be able to carry me without tripping over stray rocks. There. I had them put the shelf for the body at a convenient height. That way you and the others won’t get back-ache when you’re attending to me. There’s seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes in the store under the house, so that should be enough to make sure all’s as it should be.

Why am I telling you this now? Who else am I to tell but my old friend and colleague? Who else will bury me? Moshe’s gone, Evie’s never recovered, she wouldn’t know if I’m alive or dead.
I’m tired, Nicodemus. Tired of all the hypocrisy. Giving alms with one hand, taking bribes with the other; fleecing the poor folk who’ve trekked miles to the temple every time they change their money to buy a couple of scrawny pigeons. It’s not right. We blame the Romans for all the ills of this world but we’re as much to blame. We don’t help ourselves. I’ve talked to Pilate – he’s not a bad chap, a bit wishy-washy for a governor, but fair enough. He reckons we’ll never get out from under Roman rule because we’re too busy fighting among ourselves. He has a point.

And Jesus the Nazarene, he hobnobs with tax-collectors and Samaritans – even lepers! And gets away with it. When the Kingdom of Heaven comes I shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves rubbing shoulders with them too. If he’s right – and my money says he is – the time is coming when people like you and me are going to be no more or less important than old lame Jacob at the gate. That doesn’t go down well with the others, but I welcome it. It means Moshe and I can be together again in death at least.

Don’t look so shocked, Nicodemus – you must know what I’m saying. Everyone’s talking about the new way. It’s about time we had another prophet to sort out this mess and I believe the Nazarene is it. I’ve heard he’s on his way to Jerusalem for Passover. I’d like to invite him to eat the meal with me, but to tell the truth I get a bit maudlin remembering Moshe asking the four questions and hunting all over for the Afikomen when I’ve hidden it under his little discarded coat, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself. Anyhow, I expect he’ll have made arrangements.

Well, my old friend, much as I’d like to stay in this cool cave all day, you and I have our obligations, don’t we? I’m glad you approve of my choice of resting place. It’s nothing but a hole carved out of rock, but it has an atmosphere and I can feel my boy very close by in the peace of it. Shall we say Mincha in here before we leave? I’m sure it’s allowed. Jesus would tell us to pray in secret, not to make an exhibition of ourselves. Let’s do it here. In Moshe’s rock.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I've written my sermon on sin and temptation - hee! Watch out folks!

February seems to be the month for completions. First Michael completed his nursing studies. Those who know Michael's story will realise what a momentous achievement this is and how he has risen above setback after setback to get to this stage. I'm so proud of him.

Then Paul arrived yesterday having finally finished, bound and handed in his thesis. I had a look at his copy of it, which is about 4cm thick with really small writing. Fortunately for me it also contains lots of pretty pictures so I was able to appreciate at least something. Well done Paul - I'm so proud of you too.

And finally, Walter, a writer who stayed with us a couple of years ago and was inspired to write a new book, 'A Song in Stone', by his visit to Scotland, has told me the book is ready. Apparently, I put in an appearance as the hero's granny who also pops up as la vierge noire as part of the story. I should make the most of it since my chances of being anyone else's granny are somewhat slim at present! Anyhow, I'm flattered and amused to have been an inspiration and have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the process of actually writing a novel from inception to completion (not for the faint-hearted!). I'm also quite astounded at the way Walter manages to keep all the threads and facts of the story together in his head and then weave them into a cohesive whole. Amazing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The pancake party at the rectory was in full swing when I arrived last night. Our rector can certainly toss a mean pancake. I don't know how she does it for so long - American style in one pan, traditional in the other and two more pans on the go as well at peak pancake demand, pretty much non stop all evening, or at least until I had to leave to go to the choir practice at eight.

Michael and Charlie came for a while and someone recognised Michael as my son because he looks so like me! I was amused because I never think of him as remotely like me in looks. There was an irrepressible woman sitting near us who obviously thought both M and C were my sons, despite them having totally different accents. She kept going on about how well I'd brought them up! I didn't know how to tell her otherwise and couldn't get a word (or a pancake) in edgeways anyway.

Michael is now qualified as a nurse! Woopee! And he's unemployed woopee! Howcome there aren't any jobs around for nurses any more? I thought all these hospitals were short staffed. He's looking further afield which means they might have to move, alas. :(

As I write, Paul is (I hope and trust) driving up from Nottingham with his thesis to hand in today - the deadline. He hopes to stay for a few days to recover from a couple of months of intensive thesising and not much sleeping.

It's my turn to preach on Sunday - Lent 1. I have to preach on Sin. Figures *g*

Friday, January 25, 2008

Off to another Cursillo weekend in April - this time as Observing Lay Rector. That means that this time next year I'll be in charge! Eek! Am I ready for this?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Woof no more

One of Jonny-dog's less appealing traits is getting over-excited in the car. The noise he makes is not so much barking as screaming the moment his nose tells him the destination is in smell. Some destinations are more easily recognised than others and the humans in the car have to endure prolonged assault upon the eardrums. He then goes into extreme barking mode the second he's let out the car (of course he knows to go angelically quiet until you let him out) and keeps this up for approximately a minute, until he's a) watered the nearest tree and b) found a stick to carry. Once that's complete, he'll usually dive into the bushes for a crap and then walk placidly just ahead for the rest of the walk.

While I know this is classic dominant behaviour, I find it strange that he really only exhibits it at this time. Otherwise, he's an exemplary dog, but the moment he knows a walk or an outing in the car is in the offing he changes into the Hound of Hell. Rob and I have tried all sorts of ways to control it, but nothing seems to work. He's bitten me on a couple of occasions through being sky-high on adrenaline just before I let him into the car (both times when I was taking something from him) and Jess comes in for a lot of aggression too. At all other times he's the gentlest of dogs and much better mannered than spoiled little Jess!

So I finally capitulated and bought an anti-bark collar. If you follow the link you see that it was quite an expense, so that's how desperate I was (not quite desperate enough to call in the Dog-Whisperer though).

And it works!

No more woofing! We drove all the way to Ardentinny with quiet and it was almost eerie. The first time we tried it - yesterday evening - he nearly jumped out of his skin but got the message so quickly that I removed the collar as soon as the 'barking time' was over. The same today, only he didn't even attempt to bark. Quite amazing and definitely worth the sixty quid. Now if only they made an anti- jumping-up collar for Jess . . .

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nature vs Nurture

Mrs Blethers and I were having a discussion about upbringing as we tramped round the Bishop's Glen, trying to keep ahead of the rain, and yet again it brought home to me how different her home-life was from mine. She had two extremely academic parents and an ethic of study in the house where homework was given precedence over chores (she didn't have chores to do!) and her parents were able and willing to help with the likes of Latin and chemistry.

My parents, on the other hand, were not academic - although my father could well have been had he not been forced through poverty to leave school at fourteen and enter the civil service on the bottom rung. Because, by the time I reached secondary school I had a baby brother as well as a younger brother, there was no quiet, academic atmosphere in our house and I had my share of chores - laying the table and helping with dishes, and later, when said baby was of an age to attend nursery school and my mother returned to work, I was also responsible for peeling potatoes and generally helping with the cooking. Homework was done after teatime, either in my bedroom or in the dining room, away from the family. There was no supervision and I was left to my own devices. I don't remember asking for, or receiving help very often and on the odd occasion I asked my father, who was a whizz with numbers, for help with maths, he would give me the answer but no indication of the means - and that wouldn't fool my maths teacher for a moment. My marks were fairly dismal and I only made an effort in things that interested me. My A-level results were barely sufficient to get me into teaching college, despite having been a promising pupil at primary school and being a keen reader and prolific writer of 'books'. I sometimes wonder why I wasn't more motivated at school, but to be honest, I think I was simply more interested in when I could get out to play.

But here's the thing: I don't regret being an academic failure. I learned enough to get me through college and allow me to follow a career, I've continued with my education informally and used the skills I gained from my parents and grandparents to lead a useful life, I think. I wouldn't have thought for a minute back then that in my sixtieth year I'd be studying theology and enjoying it, or learning to sing properly. And despite being so hopeless at maths all those years ago, I'm a whizz at sudoku. My parents rarely pushed me to do anything I didn't want to do - except tidy my room - but they did encourage me to take an interest in other people and their welfare, to talk about anything and everything, to make myself useful and be content with what I have. I'm not sure if those are fashionable qualities any more but they've helped me keep my head above water.

Most of my friends are far greater academic achievers than I ever was but I feel as if I hold my own with them. Only my younger brother attained anything like academic success in our family and he assures us that it wasn't his fault. My youngest brother was even more hopeless than I was academically but it hasn't stopped him being pretty darn successful.

I wonder how Mrs B and I would have fared if we'd been born into each other's families.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


I received this cartoon in one of those round robin pass-it-on emails. There were several more which all seemed a bit smug, but this one annoyed me particularly. Is it just me and my bee in the bonnet, or would anyone else rather the couple at the door of the church were same-sex?

Monday, January 07, 2008


Back to the swimming today after a couple of weeks off and - miracle - my cozzie still fits despite too many mince pies. Now that the schools are in, the mornings are relatively quiet and it's safe to swim up and down without fear of being jumped on or having to dodge too many flailing thighs and thrashing arms.

We regulars swim decorously, keeping to our lanes. We take care not to engulf one another in bow-waves and pretend not to compete, although we always notice if some expert comes in and swishes two lengths in the time it takes us to turn round. The kids in the swimming club, for instance. There is something demoralising about being lapped in the first minute by a ten-year-old or realising that the whey-faced, stick-thin teenagers who hog the showers are the same ones who streak past you up the pool, just when you thought your breast-stroke was really getting rather better or your back-stroke more graceful. I try to time my arrival just when the swimming club are finishing. That way I only have to compete with the other retirees.

Then up to un-decorate the church. It looks so plain without all the ebullient greenery everywhere, the crib shedding hay and the smug angels with the rolling eyes, holding up their pretty little candles. The Wise Men made it from the pulpit to the crib by way of the font in time for this Sunday, but now they and their camels are tucked away in their big wooden kist, wrapped in bubble-wrap, rubbing shoulders with St Peter, the Risen Christ and the Swooping Ladies who we'll be dusting down before they know it this year, Easter being so early.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


My brother tells me I don't update often enough, so my New Year Resolution is to be more communicative.

Another resolution is to be a more efficient Vestry secretary and therefore be more useful to my rector.

My first piece of efficiency will be to post the minutes of the AGM on the church notice board a week before the EGM, which we're having to hold because Kimberly succumbed to one of the many bugs floating round Dunoon (one of the perils of going into the schools is the number of ways you can catch the latest scourge).

My second piece of efficiency will be to consult my diary more often (ie sometimes).

I think two resolutions are ample. I'd much rather make resolutions such as to read more books, do more sudoku, play with the dogs more often and to write more fanfiction, but I doubt if any of those will make me into a better person and I'll be doing them anyway so they're a cop-out. However, I've probably got a better chance of keeping them beyond January . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Text from Paul who's in Norway for New Year:

"Happy new year. Just sledged down a ski slope naked but for a pair of gloves. Having a load of fun . . ."

Oh to be young and crazy again.