Daybook Entry – 3rd May 2015


e99db-simple-woman-daybook-largeFOR TODAY 3rd May 2015

Outside my window… it is dark and very very quiet. Not even any traffic noise tonight either from the main road or the motorway. Unusual. Usually at this time of night there is at least the sound of a siren or two. Still, mustn’t complain. Summer’s round the corner and things will get lively enough then.

I am thinking… about the amount of work I have got to get through in the next three weeks. Daunting isn’t the word.

I am thankful… for my family.

In the kitchen… we had a jointed chicken, roast potatoes and veg for tea. Nobody was in the mood for anything else so the jam roly poly is still in the freezer. For now.

I am wearing… a big smile because Emma is home overnight tonight.

I am creating… lots of notes for my end of module assessment for Creative Writing, and lots of other types of notes for my last assignment and my end of module assessment for Inside Music. And a blanket (which has been on the go for too long now and I want to see the back of!)

I am going… to visit my father in law tomorrow. He’s in an “assessment centre” at the minute having been placed there just before my mother in law died because he was not safe to live at home any longer. He still hasn’t had a formal assessment yet but it is more than obvious that he is suffering from dementia. The trouble is that either it has been hidden for a very long time or is progressing rapidly because he seems to have hit milestone after milestone in the six weeks he’s been there which we would have expected years in between. He also has a chest infection as of yesterday and is quite poorly in himself so we’re going to go and see him tomorrow to see how he is. Things don’t feel too good though and personally I think he’s had another TIA. We’ll see tomorrow.

I am praying… for my father in law Arthur; my husband Kevin who has “lost” both parents in the space of a few weeks recently (his mum died and his dad as you have read above is not with us any longer)

I am wondering… what all that thumping and banging was yesterday in the bungalow when we were clearing out my parents in law’s loft…

I am reading… “22 Dead Little Bodies” by Stuart MacBride (it’s not as grim as it sounds, I promise!)

I am hoping… to get my next sermon written tomorrow so I have a few days for it to ‘stew’. I’m preaching again next Sunday – excited much!)

I am looking forward to… finishing my studies at the end of June. Whilst I have loved both modules and I have learned a lot, it has been very difficult to manage them both recently especially with the family upheaval we have experienced. I have had to put lots of things off because my time has been tied up trying to catch up since Easter and I’m looking forward to things like being able to crochet without feeling guilty that I’ve not got my nose in a book. I have an urge to paint too, but because that’s a time-consuming activity I can’t justify the time out from studying at the minute and I’m looking forward to cracking on with that soon.

I am learning… more about the law than I thought I would ever need to! I have proofread two (yes TWO) dissertations on European law recently and have been getting to grips with the legalities of wills, living wills, powers of attorney and all that goes on when someone dies and leaves things to people who have no mental capacity.

Around the house… there are boxes and boxes of STUFF that we have rescued from the bungalow and that Kevin wants to sort/keep/store/sell/give away from his parents. Scrap books, photo albums, ornaments etc. You know the kind of thing – other people’s memories which feel wrong to destroy.

I am pondering… about buying a dress for my daughter’s graduation at the end of July. Me in a frock?? Yes, that’s right!

A favourite quote for today… from David’s sermon this morning: “A gardener must prune back his roses to stop them growing in their own light. A pruned rose is the flower it is meant to be.”

One of my favourite things… is having both my children under my roof.

A few plans for the rest of the week: visiting my father in law tomorrow, study group at church on Thursday, band on Friday. Other than that it will be studying, studying, writing, more studying, a bit more writing and a large dollop of “who knows?!”

A peek into my day…

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This is our church front door, showing the brand-new welcome sign. The symbol in the centre of the “welcome” roundel is for St Paul – the dagger and the book signify his life – and the one on the right is the Church of England symbol. The etching has a double purpose; first of all it is to commemorate the life of one of our elder statesmen who died last year. Arthur Turley was one of the first babies to be baptised at St Paul’s in the 1930s, and he has served all his church life here. His family have paid for the welcome sign in his memory. The second purpose is because having an all-glass door is great for welcoming people in, but not so great to see if it is open or closed! It is my “photo of the day” because I designed it and it was installed last Monday.

The reflection in the glass you can see are the gardens between our church building and the church hall. It makes a lovely photo doesn’t it.

Z is for Zacchaeus


Made it! The end of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge for 2015 has dawned and I’m going to leave this challenge with a story about Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector who lived in Jericho. He was despised and mistrusted by his own people because his job meant that he was working for the Roman Empire not the local people, and tax collectors had a reputation – probably well deserved – for swindling people, short-changing them and charging unfair taxes. At the time, Jericho was the trade centre for balsam which was a very lucrative commodity and attracted high revenues in taxes; Zacchaeus’ wealth was built on his involvement with it.

Zacchaeus’ story appears in only one of the Gospels in the Bible, and it is told in only a few short sentences by Luke. The story is that when Jesus and his Disciples were travelling to Jerusalem they passed through Jericho on their way. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but being a bit short, he climbed a sycamore tree in order to see over the crowds who had gathered. Jesus stopped under the tree and called out to him, addressing him by name. He asked Zacchaeus to take him back to his house and the crowd were astonished that someone like Jesus would not only speak to someone like Zacchaeus, but would visit him in his house too. It was unthinkable!

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Zacchaeus in the tree being called by Jesus

 

In his home, Zacchaeus’ response was to immediately give away half of his wealth to the poor, and he made a promise to repay those whom he had short-changed in the past four-fold the amount.

This story is important to Christians because it shows us that with the salvation of Jesus, repentance and transformation can be achieved even by those where there is seemingly no hope.

Personally, the thing that stands out for me is that at the start of the encounter Jesus called out to Zacchaeus by name, and Zacchaeus responded to that call by inviting Jesus into his home. That was all it took – a personal call from Jesus and a personal invitation by Zacchaeus for his life to be turned around.

The name ‘Zacchaeus’ means ‘pure’, and some Christian teachers use his story to illustrate the saying of Jesus:

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew, 5:8)

On first reading, this saying is a bit daunting. Who can honestly say they are pure of heart? Certainly not me, but when we look at the story of Zacchaeus it offers us hope that even the unpure heart can be cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Y is for Ynys Mon


Nearly there now, just one more day and we have completed the whole month of Blogging from A-Z. But first, we must visit the letter Y.

Ynys Mon is the Welsh name for the isle of Anglesey, the 276 square mile island off the North West coast of Wales. It is a place saturated in myth and legend is said to be the birthplace of Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian tales. There is a long history of druids living on the island and it was one of the last places in Britain to be brought under the Roman occupation in AD60.

It is a beautiful part of the world and being so small, wherever you are on the island you are never very far away from a beautiful sandy beach or a stunning cliff-top view of the sea. We have spent lots of time there on family holidays in our caravan and have found our way round the island by bike and on foot. One of my favourite places is Benllech beach on the east coast. It is on one side of Red Wharf Bay and has a huge empty beach where the children can run about with kites or footballs to their hearts content. There is a lovely little cafe too which we have sheltered in on the odd occasion when we have been caught out by the rain.

Anglesey boasts a lot of quirky places too – did you know there was a vineyard there? There is an RAF training centre at Valley which is where Prince William served out of when he was a helicopter pilot for the Search and Rescue Service, and in the daytime, trainee pilots fly sorties over the island in pairs all the year round. Anglesey is also home to the world’s longest railway station name-sign, as it is located in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – yes, that is a real place! The name is in Welsh and translated into English it means: Parish [church] of [St.] Mary (Llanfair) [in] Hollow (pwll) of the White Hazel [township] (gwyn gyll) near (go ger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrn drobwll) [and] the parish [church] of [St.] Tysilio (Llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]g ogo[f] goch). As impressive as it sounds, the name is actually a mid-19th Century invention based on the original name of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll and was extended to the impressive 58 letter name to promote the town when the railways were beginning to boom.

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My favourite place on the whole island is the lighthouse at Penmon on the east side. It overlooks the tiny Puffin Island which is uninhabited by humans and is home to colonies of sea birds. The lighthouse itself stands away from the coastline and is a popular attraction for photographers and artists alike.

Penmon Lighthouse
Penmon Lighthouse

If ever you get the chance, please go and visit Ynys Mon. It is beautiful, wild, steeped in history, picturesque, modern, and home to some of the nicest people you could hope to meet.

 

 

X is for Xerxes


Yes, we made it to X! Just two more letters to go and then dear reader, I will give you a little break from my mumblings and ramblings on this here blog thing. Today’s entry for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge is about “Xerxes”.

Xerxes is an 18th Century opera seria in three acts composed by George Frederic Handel (music) and Silvio Stampiglia (libretto) based on a previous work by Giovanni Bononcini and Nicolo Minato. It is a complicated love story – aren’t they all? – set in Persia and is loosely based on the life of Xerxes I who lived about 500 years before the birth of Christ.

What makes Handel’s work interesting for me is that the role of Xerxes was originally written for and sung by a castrato, a man so dedicated to his singing life that he would have volunteered to be castrated as a pre-teen to preserve his treble voice as an adult. The resulting sound of the castrato voice was breathtakingly ethereal and it was highly valued. The purity of a boy-treble combined with the musicality and expression of an adult musician was astonishing, but it was a massive sacrifice to make and the practice eventually died out, leaving the part now sung by either a counter-tenor, a contralto or a mezzo-soprano singer.

The storyline is roughly along the line that the King, Xerxes, is in love with the daughter of one of his servants and wants to marry her but she is already in love with his brother. From that tangled starting point the story weaves through lies, betrayals, misunderstandings, impersonations and outright villainy until in the end nobody ends up with who they want to and they all die miserable and alone.

They don’t really die alone and miserable, but they may as well do! At least in this opera there was originally some light relief with the inclusion of a comedy role (buffa) created by Handel but the audience at the first showing did not understand it. As this opera was billed as an “opera seria”, which means a serious opera, a melodrama, they didn’t expect a comic aspect to it and so reacted badly at the premiere in the King’s Theatre, Haymarket in London. They also did not like the way Handel had played around the genre of opera seria by writing shorter but more numerous arias than was expected. Critics panned it and the work was shelved for nearly 200 years until it was revived in 1924 and performed in Göttingen. Modern audiences liked the mix of tragedy and comedy, and the shorter arias that the original audience hated so much and it has gone on to be performed many more times around Europe.

The most well-known music from the opera is the “Largo”. The following video is the London Symphony Orchestra playing it and even though you may not recognise the title, I am certain you will recognise the music when it plays.

So there we have it. X is for Xerxes. Thank you Mr Handel for helping me out today!

 

 

W is for Weather


It’s day “W” on the Blogging from A-Z challenge, and we have arrived at the biggest obsession my country has and that is the WEATHER.

If you saw my blog yesterday you will have seen the photographs I took in Blackley yesterday morning. You will have noticed how beautiful and blue the sky was and what a stunning Spring day we enjoyed yesterday.

This morning began in pretty much the same way: clear blue skies, bright sunshine, cold air and a little bit of a frost early on. Gorgeous, my favourite type of weather.

It stayed like this most of the day until about tea-time and then we were hit with Armageddon-like rain and wind. At one point, the rain was so severe the wipers couldn’t keep up on the car and I could see sleet in it.

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On the way back home, the rain stopped but the sky was giving us a demonstration of its awesome power with huge, towering clouds playing tag with sunbeams. I tried to take some photos to show you the contrast and this is one of the better ones I achieved:

 

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What it lacks in detail it makes up for in contrast, don’t you think?

Not long afterwards, they sky yet again gave us one more treat and this is a shot from my upstairs window:

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I don’t know if it’s because we are an island nation and we are the first port of call for any travelling Atlantic storms that we get such variances in our weather, but from the rapid changes I saw tonight and tried to capture for you, you can see why it is endlessly fascinating!

 

V is for V-shapes


Wow, nearly through the Blogging from A-Z challenge this year and thank you to those who have stayed with me so far. We have arrived at our next tricky letter and I decided to show you a couple of photos I took today to show you a little of my day.

One of the ways I serve my church is to provide the audio-visuals for worship, both at Sunday services and study groups, as well as at other times too. I absolutely love doing it and the longer I have been serving in this way, the more I have learned – both in terms of how to operate the software and the creativity needed with which to use it properly and, (no small matter), my abilities to cope with stress.

Today was a first for me though and I did the music for both St Peter’s and St Paul’s. That was a service at 9.30am at St Peter’s and then a quick scoot up the road for the 11am service at St Paul’s (my home church). All the while, I was on the lookout for things that are V-shaped to complete today’s blog post.

I arrived at St Peter’s early and the second I stepped out of the car I was met with this stunning view:

St Peter's Church, Blackley
St Peter’s Church, Blackley

You can see the V-shapes on the gate posts, but have a look at the windows too. And over the doorway, and on the turrets. Lots of V’s!

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Clock tower at St Peter’s Blackley. Lots more V’s here on the corners and the angle of the roof.

 

And just to prove that these photos are mine, here’s me in front of the tower in probably my first ever selfie.

Sunday Selfie at St Peter's
Sunday Selfie at St Peter’s

In keeping with the theme, I even have a V-necked teeshirt on today…totally unintentionally I promise!

After the service at St Peter’s I made my way up the hill to St Paul’s, where we had a guest preacher today. Ray Cooke is a well known local priest who is retired now but who still presides at communion now and again, and also delivers very interesting sermons on early Christianity and the origins of the Bible.

Today, Ray preached on St Mark as it was the feast day of St Mark yesterday, and as always Ray gave one of the best History lessons I have ever had. While he was preaching I noticed his scarf and it featured the crossed keys of St Peter’s, which – conveniently for me today – give a great V-shape in their centre.

Ray Cooke's priest scarf showing the crossed keys of St Peter
Ray Cooke’s priest scarf showing the crossed keys of St Peter

I was touched when Ray told me that the motifs on his scarf were hand stitched by his wife Elizabeth before she became ill with dementia. He looks after her at home still and whenever he joins us for worship at St Paul’s he always brings her with him. She cannot communicate any more and she needs help to have a cup of tea afterwards, but she loves the old hymns that she remembers from her younger days by smiling broadly and trying to hum along to them.

Back at home after church I was craving something cold and crunchy, such as lettuce or cucumber, and this is my lunch. Another couple of V-shapes there – the quiche and the tomatoes are both shaped like little V’s and totally in keeping with today’s theme.

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V-shaped tomatoes anyone?!

 

 

My final example of V shapes today are these two beautiful tulips in my front garden. I took several photos of these flowers today to try and capture their true beauty and the depth of their colour and as you can see, I didn’t quite achieve it. I did manage to capture their inner V-shapes though.

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Beautiful V-shapes on my tulips

 

 

So there you have it, my interpretation of “V is for….”. I hope you can forgive me the stretching of the brief today and that you have enjoyed a little insight into my day.

Thank you for joining me on my A-Z challenge.

 

 

 

U is for Underdog


We’re in the closing stages of this year’s Blogging from A-Z challenge, and we have arrived at the letter “U”.

Us Brits are a funny lot. We know this because we get frequently told by our cousins across the pond and by our next-door neighbours in Europe. Everyone knows about the quintessential British qualities that mark out that “funny-ness” (or downright peculiarities, whichever way you look at it!), such as our love of a proper cup of tea, our fondness for queuing, our preoccupation with the weather and so on.

But there is one trait that we Brits share that is perhaps not really noted abroad, and that is our collective championing of the underdog. In sporting events, in education, in musical events, politics…whatever the field, we Brits love to cheer on the one who is least likely to win. We have even been known to cheer on the opponents of our national heroes if they present themselves as a plucky challenger. Strange eh?

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I wonder why that is. It’s not that we don’t value winning, because we do – just ask any football fan about 1966. It’s not that we don’t have any national pride, because we do – just look at our turnouts for things like Trooping the Colour, or Remembrance Sunday events. It’s not even that we don’t value our champions, because we DO! Just look at our celebrations when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013. I think there’s something intrinsically supportive in our national psyche, and being a little island in a very big ocean on the world stage, we do recognise the efforts of those who take on the big guns armed with little more than pea-shooters.

We don’t want to see mighty Titans brought crashing down, not at all, but we do like to lend our support for the little man, or woman. The David rather than the Goliath if you like.

london marathonA prime example of how we support the underdog is going to be demonstrated tomorrow at the London Marathon. Yes, there are elite athletes from around the world competing and will by aiming to get round the course in as quick a time as they can, and yes, there are always surprises in their results. But what really REALLY gets the crowds going are the thousands and thousands of fun-runners who are doing it for charity. Those dressed in gorilla costumes, or dressed up as telephone boxes. The teams of soldiers who will be running in squad-shaped blocks with their kit bags on their backs. The elderly runners who will take twice as long as others to complete it, and the people such as Michael Watson who took six days to complete it because of his level of mobility after brain injury.

It’s not just the London Marathon though. Just this week, I have been watching the Snooker on the BBC and there is a new chap who looks for all the world like Steve Davis’ love-child. He is called Anthony McGill and he had to qualify to play in the tournament (not invited as the elite players are) and he played Mark Selby, the defending champion, inthe second round. He was cheered along and the crowd were rooting for him throughout his match, and he – very surprisingly – won it. He wasn’t expected to win it, in fact he wasn’t really expected to get to round 2 in the first place, but nevertheless, the crowd and the commentators were behind him every step of the way. Not to take anything away from Mark Selby’s achievements, but all interest and support was with the newbie. The qualifier, the underdog.

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I rather like that trait that comes with being British. It shows that we value people for their efforts as much as their achievements, and it shows that we all have a chance at whatever we do because our fellow Brits will be cheering us on. Let’s face it, we’re all underdogs really aren’t we?