Daybook Entry – 11th November

poppy daybookFor Today… 11th November, Armistice Day

Outside my window… we are starting to hear the start of the storm which has made its way across the Atlantic. The wind is blowing a hoolie and rain is lashing the windows.

I am thinking… about those in Manchester city centre tonight who don’t have a safe place to sleep.

I am thankful… that I have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in tonight.

I am praying for… guidance and calm for someone close to me; for my Mum and Dad; for Eddie.

I am wearing… a fixed expression.

I am creating… a screenplay adaptation of a writing assignment I wrote for my OU module. I’m finding it tough going because I’m rewriting a series of diary entries (no dialogue, no action but plenty of internal thinking) into drama which is to be seen on TV or the stage which is all dialogue, not much “action” and no internal thinking at all. Tall order!

I am going… to pin down our band Christmas programme tomorrow, I really am.

I am wondering… which balls are rolling in which direction.

I am reading… still trying to get through Little Women and the end of Treasure Island (coursework) and Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs for fun.

I am hoping… that I can concentrate long enough tomorrow to write notes on a long academic essay about one particular aspect of children’s literature.

I am learning… that there is more to children’s literature than I thought.

In my garden… we have had lots of small birds visiting recently – blue tits, great tits, sparrows, robins – and I think that the bounteous berry harvest in my borders has attracted them. I think it won’t be long before I can start putting out nuts and seeds on the bird feeder to get them through the winter.

In my kitchen… I made a fish pie using frozen fish pieces from Aldi (budget supermarket), a handful of frozen prawns, some peas, a homemade white sauce (butter, flour, milk, seasoning) and a sliced potato top (par-boiled for ease of cooking) and it was absolutely gorgeous. We fought over the left overs it was that tasty.

A favourite quote for today…

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

(Northumbrian Community prayer)

A peek into one of my days…


This is Terry, our terrapin. He’s asleep in this picture – yes, eyes closed and snoring! How cute is he?!

One of my favourite things… is reading my book last thing before bedtime.

From the board room… Christmas is coming!

santa mug cosy

Post Script:

Today is Armistice Day in Britain, which is a commemoration day marking the Armistice of the First World War, or when ceasefire was called. It was declared at 11am on the 11th November 1918, and so today the nation stopped at 11am to mark that moment.  We marked Remembrance Sunday a couple of days ago which is slightly different but essentially both occasions remember those who have fallen defending our freedom.

In the lead up to Armistice Day, people show their support by wearing a red poppy which was chosen as the flower of remembrance in 1921 after John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” mentioned it. Silk flowers were originally sold for charity by the British Legion (later the “Royal” British Legion) that year, and have been the central symbol of remembrance ever since although today the RBL poppies are made from paper and there are countless other versions available, such as small enamel ones and large jewelled ones. Not all of the “alternative” poppies are sold for charity, which makes me sad because there seems to have been a rise in public condemnations for people who don’t wear a poppy – particularly if they are on TV – but nothing is said about the potential funding that the RBL loses out on because of the non-paper ones.

There are growing numbers of people who choose not to wear a red poppy, but opt to wear a white one instead which signals their wish for peace and pacifism.  As a Christian, my prayers are always for peace and for peaceful solutions to world issues but I’m not sure I would personally wear a white poppy. I do support those who do, same as I support those who wear red ones, or none at all.


After all, the people we thank on days like today died so that we could exercise our right to support whatever cause we wish to, donate to whichever charity we wish to, buy as much jewellery as we want to, say the prayers that we want to, stand still in the middle of the street on a rainy Wednesday morning in November if we wish to. There are places in the world where such freedoms are not enjoyed, or not enjoyed by all sectors of society.




The Law and Soup


This is an adapted transcript of the sermon I delivered this morning at St Peter’s Church in Blackley. I used a basket full of vegetables, a stock pot and a jug of water as props to help tell it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you would like to leave a comment. Thank you.

soupWe all know that in order to live and be nourished, we have to eat food. It’s obvious really! The biological law of our humanness is dictates that without food, we will die a bodily death. And the spiritual law of our humanness dictates that without sustenance from God, we will die a spiritual death.

Take soup as an example. To make a pan of soup you need some ingredients – an onion, a couple of carrots maybe, possible a stick or two of celery for the base and then maybe some chicken or whatever.

mosesWhen the law was given to Moses, he had a list of 10 laws, 10 instructions, or if we keep with the picture of soup, he was given a list of 10 ingredients. The laws (or ingredients) were there to help the Israelites live a full and meaningful life, being connected to God and to each other with rules about how they should manage their behaviour and so on. In Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 6: 1 – 9), Moses reiterates those laws. He was drawing close the end of his life at that time, and he was literally laying down the law again because it had gone a bit awry in the hands of the Israelites. By his assertion “Hear O Israel,” we can almost hear his desperation at their inability to keep it simple and stick to the basic law, the 10 commandments given to him many years earlier.

If we keep thinking of the soup analogy, they had taken the simple ingredients for a hearty and healthy soup, and in the manner of a Michelin-starred chef, began adding things that didn’t really make it a better soup, or a healthier or tastier soup, but added and added to the list of ingredients until there were more than 600 individual laws by which the people had to live.

Six hundred? Hang on a minute! From these couple of things (onion, celery, carrot, chicken) there came a whole host of extras – herbs, tomatoes, barley, lentils, garlic, seasoning, peas….

I don’t know about you but if you’re like me you have some worries about what you’re feeding your family and I do like to check what other people are cooking. Maybe online or in a celebrity recipe book  to see what the latest way is to do things. My Gran has her own recipe for pea and ham soup, but I can’t imagine me ever cooking it her way, I would probably substitute the ham shank for a gammon joint, or the peas that need to be in soaking on a Friday for cooking on a Saturday would be replaced with something else. I might add different herbs – or extra herbs and on it goes. My soup wouldn’t be the same as hers and I would probably end up adding too many things that don’t need to be there.

Personally, I don’t actually like pea and ham soup so I’d definitely make something different, probably vegetable or chicken or something, and you will have your own ways of cooking it too. But the point is that it would still be soup. Still food to feed my family with to nourish them and in the case of my children, to see them grow up healthily. I could ask you all who read this about your own choices for including in soup and we could go on and on discussing about what should be in and what shouldn’t be in – garlic for tomato soup, yes or no?

Whatever decisions we come to, it is still soup.

But can you imagine what would happen if we ask Nigella, Ainsley Harriott and James Martin what they would put in their soup and tried to copy them. Can you imagine the confusion and the clash of flavours if we try to put in everything they said we should? All the things that we are told that are good for us in one pot? You’re only trying to follow the law, but how confusing!

Let’s just pause a moment here to think about what the law was for, and why they were handed down in the first place. God’s law was there so that people could be close to him, and to live their lives in fullness with him.

Spare a thought for the Israelites then, who only wanted to be obedient to God and be drawn closer to him. They ended up with so many laws that they lost what it was all about, they lost focus and they lost track of the very thing they were supposed to be doing, simply by overdoing it so much. It sounds odd to us, but can you imagine their confusion? “Do this, but do it then, not then. Do that, but not in that way, do it like this but only on a day when…” and so on. We see remnants today of those ancient additional laws. So, from the original commandment that we should observe the Sabbath, we have some people who are so keen not to do anything that resembles work from sundown on a Friday to a Saturday, even though it may cause them more hassle than by not doing it. From driving a car to tearing off a piece of kitchen roll, how are we brought closer to God by not doing these things? Yes, it is important to rest and to pray etc, but not to the point where you make life more difficult for yourself.

Mark tells us that Jesus came and took away all that confusion, that clash of laws, that stopped people living their lives as God wanted them to. (Mark 12: 28 – 34)

He made it perfectly clear to that scribe who questioned him about which is the most important law. Jesus didn’t choose a carrot, or an onion. He didn’t even choose the protein-rich chicken. He chose this – water.


Water is the thing that keeps all those ingredients together and defines a pile of diced veg as a soup – water. Simple, humble, everyday, water. Living, loving water from God our Father.

My soup analogy and the water is my way of drawing a parallel to the way Jesus explained the law. He explained that overriding all of the laws was the one about love. Love for God and love for each other. He couldn’t make it any more straightforward really.

All the rest of the laws, commandments, rest on those two things – Love God, love each other. If any other law were invoked, then we should look first of all at whether it stopped us doing either of those two.

Take jealousy for example. If we put love before jealousy it would put a different light on a situation say where the next door neighbour has a new car, and you were envious of him for it. By putting love first, we would be happy for him that he was in a position to enjoy a new car. But that’s not easy is it? We have all felt those pangs haven’t we? Sometimes mild, sometimes downright painful!

What about honouring our parents? Not so easy in some families, where family honour is the single most important thing in their lives. How does it work when putting parental honour first puts a barrier up between us and God? The teenager who has heard God’s call and wants to go to church, but the family honour, and the parental instruction is that we don’t go to church in this family. They’re all nutters who go there.

Jesus has the answer, and that is by putting love for God before everything else the solution is easier to find.

But we live in a world where it just isn’t quite that straightforward. There are very real dangers out there for young people who don’t or can’t live up to parental expectations. But we have to trust God. He is with us in all things, and he is faithful to us through every single moment of our being, and he will see us safe through to the other side.

If we love him, we trust him.

LOVE is the law that we need to live by most of all. It is LOVE that keeps us all nourished. LOVE is the commandment, the law that Jesus tells us is the one that holds it all together. Without love, we are nothing. Our love FOR God, our love IN God for each other.

To go back to the analogy I painted earlier, like a soup without water, if we don’t have love for God and for each other, we are nothing but a collection of dry ingredients. With our protective skins and outer shells intact, we are not actually joining in with this thing called life. We must be cut up and diced – maybe with a bit of seasoning – and totally immersed in the living waters, the love of God, for us to fully embrace his nourishing and life giving force.

It’s hard though isn’t it? We all know people and situations where it is difficult to see love, or show love. But we have to. It’s the one thing that God says we have to do. If we are not loving him and we are not loving others then we are not doing very much of anything at all. We stay in our little plastic bags at the bottom of the fridge and we don’t get transformed into something glorious as he wants us to be.

It’s difficult to burn soup – it can get a bit thick and claggy at the bottom of the pan sometimes, especially if we don’t keep it stirred, but if there’s too much going on, too many lentils, too much salt perhaps, how best to rescue it? We would add more water wouldn’t we? It’s the same with us and our lives. When we feel like we’re getting a bit claggy and overwhelmed with lots of unpalatable things going on, what do we need to do? More water, more love. More God, more love.

It doesn’t end with us simply being immersed in God’s love and being nourished by him. We have to show others what a joy it is to be a part of him, a part of his glorious creation and how our lives are blessed by him every day.

And how do we do that?

By love of course.





Wednesday Hodgepodge – 28th October

I’m taking part in the Wednesday Hodgepodge this week and urge you to have a go too if you enjoy my answers. Click the picture below and follow Joyce’s instructions if you want to join in.

1. Are you comfortable with silence? If you’re home alone, do you like silence or do you need regular background noise? Do you seek out times and places to be silent? What’s your favourite place to find silence/be silent?

I am comfortable with silence and sometimes I actively seek it out, but most of the time such as when I’m studying during the day, I like to have the radio on low beside me so that I have some background sounds going on. I like to tune to a classical music station mostly, but I like having Radio 4 sometimes too because it is all voices. I don’t necessarily listen to what they are saying, but the low murmur of voices is soothing. I am extremely lucky to have a little room which I like to call my “Pam Cave” where I study and work through the day and the silence there is different to the silence of my bedroom.

My favourite time for silence is late at night, so the hours between end of TV/laptop screen and sleep. There is a certain quality to the sounds of late night silence which I am extremely comfortable with, and it is not the same as daytime silence somehow.

2. October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Can’t let that go by without a mention now, can we? Will you celebrate? How? Let’s say you can have one of the following right this very minute…a cup of hot chocolate, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, a bowl of plain chocolate ice cream, or a slice of chocolate pie…what’s  your pleasure?

Oooh, now then. Chocolate and I are not the bestest of best friends usually and I can’t see me ever celebrating a whole day of it. We get on in very small doses, so a cup of hot chocolate now and then in winter is ok but anything like a slice of chocolate cake or chocolate ice cream would leave us bitter enemies.

3. How do you feel about blue jeans? Favourite thing in the world to wear or nope, don’t own a single pair? How often do you wear blue jeans in a typical week? Do you own a blue jean jacket?

I have two pairs of jeans which I regularly wear when I’m out doing church and band stuff but they’re too restrictive to wear when I’m studying or working at home. I have one pair that are slightly “tidier” than the other, and one which are less so and look more like denim-coloured cloth than actual jeans. Other than that I have jeans that come out of the wardrobe now and again but by and large, whenever I am out, I’m usually in some jeans or another. Very rare I wear anything else to be honest!

4. Are you superstitious? If so, in what way?

No, not really. I have nothing against people who are superstitious, but to live life thinking that any outcome depends on whether you’ve crossed a pair of knives on the table, or put new shoes on the bed, or whether a black cat has crossed your path or whatever just seems like too much hard work! I do tend to say “good luck” to people a lot, and I do end some emails with “best wishes”, which I think are a form of superstition are they not?

5. If you had to come up with a costume using only things you have on hand right now, what could you come up with?

I could throw clothes together and make a cowgirl costume I guess. I have a couple of check shirts and coupled with my several pairs of jeans I could pass as a sort of cowgirl? Short of a hat, but I could get away with that in the right company.

6. What scares you a little? What do you do when you feel scared?

Good question! The thing that is making me think closely is the “little”. I have big fears – dying a painful death, my children being hurt etc – but small ones? Crikey! I guess something that scares me a little, is being successful.

Let me explain.

Failure and disappointment are so much part of our everyday life that we learn from an early age how to cope with them. I don’t mean big things necessarily, but let’s be honest, life is not easy and we learn how to deal with things going wrong or going against us from the off. We learn to share with siblings (if we have them) – we can’t have things all to ourselves; we learn in the classroom that not all of us can come top in tests and exams – in a class of 28 children, 27 of us are going to be disappointed, and so on. But success is a different thing and if you look at it, it comes along in such short bursts or so infrequently that when we do earn a win, or a gain, that we don’t always know how to respond to it. And I’m no exception! I can cope when things go wrong because that’s the way my life has always played out, but things going well? Being successful? Having something go totally my way? Seriously, that scares me a little.

I think subconsciously when it looks like things are going to go all my way and that I might be in danger of triumph, I tend to scupper myself just so I don’t have to cope with winning. As I am getting older I am learning to get over that and I am learning how to go after things that will be good or nice for me, such as pursuing the chance to play at the Royal Albert Hall last month. A couple of years ago I might have found a way of making sure that didn’t happen. Strange eh?!

On a slightly different line, when I get scared I cope in different ways depending on what it is that’s affecting me. My go-to response is prayer.

7. Perhaps today will be the day I _____________________cook my first dish using pumpkin.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It was my Mum and Dad’s 47th wedding anniversary the day before yesterday. I don’t know how they have managed to stay together so long, especially through the bad times and the lean times. I think one of their secrets of their long marriage is that they don’t let the odd argument spoil things. They are constantly bickering with each other (few out and out rows!) but underneath there must be a core of steel in both of them. It’s definitely and example to us all, especially in these days of throwaway materialism where if something isn’t to our exacting standards we just walk away, or get rid of it, or plaster it all over Facebook and let the world see our problems. Happy anniversary Mum and Dad!


A Bit of Sunday Stealing

I stole this from who in turn stole it from somewhere else, but here’s a bit of nonsense for a Sunday evening. Feel free to follow the link above and do a bit of your own thievery and join in.

1.If you were trapped in a room with the person who asked this for 24 hours, what would you do? The answer cannot be romantic or sexual.

If someone asked me to watch back to back episodes of “Frasier” I would do it. So long as there was also an endless supply of tea and custard creams.

2. If you could learn any language instantly, what would it be?

I would love to be able to speak Russian.

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Apart from the Bible (obviously), if I only had one book to read it would be a poetry anthology so something like “Poetry Please”, as compiled by Roger McGough for Radio 4.

poetry please

4. Favourite song lyric?

“No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand:

Till He returns or calls me home,

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand”. 

From “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend. It says it all really.

5. Favourite album?

“Love Over Gold” by Dire Straits. Favourite track on this album has got to be Telegraph Road.

love over gold
6. Which time of day would you say is best for you work-wise?

Late afternoon to late at night. My work rate in the morning and early afternoon is usually centred around faffing about and distracting myself with nonsense before I can settle down to actual work.

7. Favourite city that you’ve visited?


8. Favourite city that you haven’t visited?

Chicago! Would love to go some day.

9. If you could donate £10,000 to charity, what charity would you pick?

Any charity that supports homeless people.

10. What is one book you wish you could get all your friends to read?

Apart from the Bible? Um… tricky. I would get them to read some poetry (like the one mentioned above), or something thought provoking, like “The Shack” by William Paul Young.

11. What is one movie you wish you could get all your friends to watch?

Might sound a bit cheesy, but “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart. It’s a nice feel-good film but also it has a very clear lesson for us all, and that is not to underestimate ourselves and the power we have to affect other people’s lives even without realising it.

12. What do you think people assume about you from first glance?

Because of my size, I think I might appear to be a bit of a jolly character but it would take you only a split second to realise that any confidence and jollity you might see initially is a very thin veneer covering insecurity and a sense of failure underneath. Including the failures and insecurities about my size.

13. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be?

Well, I can play musical instruments generally (some are VERY generally!) but I would love to be able to play the piano properly. I can tinkle out a tune and I can play a couple of little snippets with both hands, but I would love to be able to play it properly. How lovely would it be to turn up to a bar or restaurant where there was a piano sitting there and I could just sit down and start playing to entertain people?

14. What is your favourite item of clothing?

I have a grey fleece-lined hoody that is like a wearable comfort blanket to me. I got it last summer to go camping with, and it was nice to wear round the fire at the beach at night but was a bit too warm all the other times. It has been washed a fair few times now because through the winter when we didn’t (couldn’t) have the heating on in the house during the day, I wore it day in and day out. It kept my sanity as well as keeping me nice and warm. Recently, I was getting a cold and my ears were hurting – you know how the first stages of being ill feel? – and I couldn’t get warm enough while I was studying, so out came the hoody. Mighty fine feeling it was too!

15. Who was your first follower on your blog? Do they still follow you?

I can’t remember to be honest. I have had a blog for quite a long time now and I migrated from the original Microsoft/Hotmail one when it was closing and took up with WordPress. That was about six years ago now. Wow how time flies!

16. If you could create one thing, what would it be?

I would create the solution to world peace. Seriously. I am guessing it lies somewhere in the depths of a) having enough fuel around the world so we don’t have to fight over oil supplies and b) having totally different religions about the same God and yes, fighting over who’s right. If only we could calm down and behave, world peace isn’t such a far-off dream is it?

17. Favourite superhero?


18. If you were to write an autobiography, what would you title it?

“C-, See Me”. I always manage to achieve a grade of about C minus in everything I do (EVERYTHING) and ‘see me’ was something frequently written on my school work as a kid by the teacher because I’d either misunderstood something and got hold of the wrong end of the stick, or I just leapt off in a little world of my own. It’s a pattern that has stuck with me through to the tender age of 44 (and a half).

19. If you were to have a band, what would you call it?

I do have a band, and it is called Todmorden Community Brass Band. And yes, we rock!

20. What is your favourite card/board game?

I love playing Cluedo, and would play it all the time if someone would play with me. Card games? Not a huge fan, but we have a game called Domino which has become a camp favourite when we are away in the caravan. Great fun and a masterclass in poker faces…not!

21. What was the first IM service you used? Who was the first person you talked to on it?

The Microsoft/Hotmail one. I can’t even remember what it is called let alone who I talked to on it.

22. If you could give a friendly hug to any one person, who would it be? Cannot be your romantic/sexual partner if you have one.

Today, I would hug Eddie and Phil. For very different reasons, and they both know why.

23. Have you ever won any sort of contests? What kind?

As a competing bandsman since about the age of 10, I have had my fair share of wins at contests but the biggest one so far has been when I played principal cornet for Middleton Band and we won the National Finals in 2007. Big achievement, and one that I am still incredibly proud of.

24. Who was the last person you hugged? Cannot be your romantic/sexual partner if you have one.

Ethan my son.

25. If you could be skilled in any one activity, what would it be? Cannot be romantic or sexual.

I would be a skilled writer. I consider myself a writer already but a skilled one is some way off yet. I would like to be able to be good enough to earn a living from it, whether that is through journalism or blogging, or copy writing etc. Of course, like any writer, I harbour that dream of being the next J K Rowling but I am a realist, and know that even if I could finish a novel that connected to the literati just at the right moment, I doubt that I would have the sass to carry it off. I’d be happy to be able to earn enough to clothe and feed myself from skilled writing. That would be nice.


Daybook – 22nd October

8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 22nd October 2015

Outside my window… clear skies, stars shining like rock hard chips of diamonds. Dampness in the air will mean a frosty morning tomorrow.

I am thinking… about how complicated life can be sometimes.

I am thankful… that when I fell yesterday I didn’t break any bones.

I am wearing… a tie-dyed t-shirt that I did as part of a camp activity with Brigade about 15 years ago. It’s still doing well and doesn’t look that old really!

I am creating… some hats for Christmas presents. Ssshhhh can’t tell you anything else just yet *wink wink*

I am going… to change around the living room over the weekend. We need to move the two seater settee away from the radiator as the room doesn’t really get very warm and we need to sort that out before winter sets in, and I want the TV to go in another corner of the room so we will be swapping that for Terry’s tank. Big job which will involve emptying, cleaning and refilling the aquarium, drilling holes in the wall for the TV brackets, moving two settees, hiding my yarn stash (haha good luck with that…) and moving two Ikea storage units. When I say “we” I mean “Kevin”, naturally.

I am wondering… which assignment to tackle first. I have got one for each module due in next Thursday and I don’t know which one to do tomorrow, and which one to leave until the start of next week. I have a feeling the creative writing one is going to need more revision so I might do that tomorrow and leave it to stew for a bit while I do the children’s literature one. Decisions, decisions…

I am reading… “Flash and Bones” by Kathy Reichs. It’s the 14th book in the Temperance Brennan (Bones) series, and is a nice distracting read away from the essays and critical analyses of children’s literature I’ve been doing this week.

I am hoping… we get a full turn out at band tomorrow night. We have got a few things to rehearse for Remembrance Sunday and then it’s full steam ahead for Christmas.

I am praying… for my son who is having a little difficulty with the transition from secondary school to college; my friend who is worried about his family breaking apart; a friend who is having professional difficulties at work; my church family who are about to start a very busy period of ministry leading up to and beyond Christmas.

I am learning… more about fairy tales than I thought was possible. And I’m loving it!

In my garden… I have had a lot of activity around my bird table this week. Blue tits and Great tits mainly, but the occasional squirrel and robin too. I haven’t been able to take a photo yet, but I will do if I can.

In my kitchen… I want to try some of the delicious recipes I keep seeing on my newsfeed on Facebook, and the one that is top of my list (when I’m brave enough) is the one for “breakfast eggs” which are done in a muffin tin and use bits of bacon and/or spring onions and other bits and pieces. They look gorgeous and I want to have a go.

Breakfast eggs


A favourite quote for today…




A peek into one of my days… 

all who are thirsty

This is a slide from a slide show I produced for tonight’s Praise and Pizza session at church. I did three like this, and it’s our version of the old bouncing ball, and it’s how we learn new songs. I love doing these and it’s a great way to have some fun with people because not everyone can read music, but most people can follow the ups and downs of music presented like this.

One of my favourite things… is settling down with a good book and enjoying a bit of escapism for a little while.

From the board room…

I love these! Can’t wait to make one. I bought the pattern last week and they are so cute.

Post Script… I had a disastrous day yesterday – couldn’t settle down to study, managed to give myself an electric shock unplugging my laptop, somehow fell of my chair at my desk (it moved from under me on its own, I swear), developed a big white spot on a very sore tonsil in the middle of a very sore throat – but today has been MUCH better. I managed to get down my “to do” list, I really got to grips with my studies this afternoon, my sore throat has settled down to a dull roar now, and I managed to get through the day without injuring either myself or anyone else. Result!!


The Immortal Memory

lord nelsonToday, 21st October 2015, marks the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar which was the most decisive battle in British Naval history. Sadly, it also marks the 210th anniversary of the death of our greatest Admiral, Lord Nelson.

The battle itself was part of the Napoleonic wars, which raged in the early part of the 19th Century, from 1803 – 1815. The British fleet was outnumbered by the combined forces of the Spanish and the French navies, who had 33 ships to the British 27. By the end of the battle, which lasted a matter of hours, not a single British ship had been lost, whilst the French and Spanish had lost 22 of theirs.

Sadly, the British did not get away without any losses, and alongside the loss of Nelson, many sailors were either killed outright during the battle or died shortly afterwards from wounds received.

It proved to be a turning point in the war, and it also proved that the British were supreme when it came to naval warfare and defence. People still sing about Britain ruling the waves in the song “Rule Britannia”, and it still stirs the hearts of patriots up and down our fair isle.

You may know that my family has a strong naval and boat-making history. My great-grandfather, Percy Swain, is descended from a long line of boat builders, and I have traced my family tree back to the 1600’s which shows boat making and sailing has been thriving in the family since then. There are a couple of men called Swain on the ships at Trafalgar, but it’s unclear whether those are family names, or the name of the position they held, for instance “boatswain”. It would be nice to think that they were part of my family, but I doubt we would ever find that out for certain now. It would be extra special if they were part of my family, especially as my daughter has served with the Royal Naval University cadets for three years and wants to enlist in the regular Royal Navy if she passes the interview with the Admiralty Board at their next sitting.

royal navy logoIn honour of all things naval, and because it is Wednesday, and because it was blowing a bit of a stormy gale out there tonight, we toasted Lord Nelson tonight with a tot of rum each.

So, if you would like to join us, raise a glass (but stay seated) yourself and say with us:

“To the immortal memory”, and “To ourselves”.


(In case you are wondering why the Royal Navy stay seated, it’s because of the danger that could be encountered on the high seas by either tall waves or low ceilings!)



Share Your World

I am taking part in Cee’s “Share Your World” meme this week, and you’ll find my answers below. If you would like to join in too, click the picture and you will be taken to Cee’s host site. Welcome aboard!

Are you usually late, early, or right on time? 

I’m usually early but for some reason today I have been late for both things I had a meet time. I don’t know why! It was as if my clock was conspiring against me today and was thieving time from me in 5 minute slots. One minute I had 15 minutes until I needed to leave the house and the next I was 5 minutes after that time. How? HOW?! I hate being late. I think being late for something is the height of rudeness so to be late – twice – in one day today is something unusual and something of which I’m not particularly proud.

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels?

Well, I am a writer, and I prefer to write short stories but I have a dream one day of having the discipline to write a novel-length piece. I know it’s a simple matter of discipline because I have got notebooks and files and folders full of scraps of paper with notes for characters, plots, plot twists, story frameworks, little snippets of conversation and observation etc, but it all needs writing up, and that takes discipline. Which I lack.

I have written some poetry but it’s not very good. Or very poetic for that matter. I tend to write comic verse, or really predictable rhyme schemes that are not at all sophisticated but they entertain and challenge me so I will probably keep that up. Nothing worth sharing though!

Where did you live at age ten?  Is it the same place or town you live now?

I live in a lovely part of Manchester called Blackley. I was born here and moved away briefly when I first got married but I have lived here for the past 17 years and can’t ever see myself leaving it. I love this place and I love the people here. I wrote about my home town on this page if you want to read more about where I live.

Would you rather be able to fly or breathe under water?

Hmmmm tough question! I have a recurring dream where I am under water, but by getting my mouth up close to the underside of the surface of the water I can breathe quite easily. For some reason, in this dream, it’s important that I can breathe under water and it never occurs to me to put my lips up a bit further so I can breathe the air above. That’s the nature of dreams I guess. But, if had to make a choice of that or flying, I would have to choose flying. I’d quite like to be a bird, preferably one that flies long distances at higher altitudes, so not a sparrow or something. I’m more of an eagle or red kite kinda bird.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for the safe delivery of my cousin’s baby William last Tuesday. He’s the first baby to be born on that side of my family for a long time and he is a little cutie pie.

This week, I’m looking forward to the clocks going back on Saturday. I love that “different” feeling on the day after the clocks have changed, especially when they have gone backwards in October. There is a different quality to the light during the day, and there is a different sense of settling down and being home-y as dusk falls a bit earlier. I think I ought to have been born as a grizzly bear because I would love to start hibernating at this time of the year. Just imagine what it would be like to close the door on winter, settle down with a cupboard full of food and lots of loving friends and family around you to share stories, play games, sleep and generally resting and restoring yourself for a little while.