I had a lovely time yesterday playing with the Littleborough Band at the annual Rushcart Festival. Yes, that’s right, I had a lovely time PLAYING. I thoroughly enjoyed putting my musical head on for an hour or so and exercising my cornet blowing muscles for a change. The music was great fun to play and I enjoyed sitting second man down to an old friend of mine called Steve who I haven’t seen for quite some time. In fact the last time I saw him was a couple of years before I got ill so as well as playing alongside him, it was nice to catch up with him in between pieces too.
But what about the Rushcart bit, I hear you ask.
Well, seeing as though you did ask me, let me tell you what the Rushcart festival is all about.
Traditionally, church floors were covered with rushes to help keep the dust down and to provide some sort of warmth in the winter and they were replaced every twelve months. Most churches would make the annual clear out and re-rushing into some sort of a festival and all the local people would get involved in some way or another. In northern England, particularly Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire, this coincided with the annual Wakes Week which was when the local mill would close down for a week to enable essential repairs and cleaning etc, and the workforce could enjoy a week of leisure time. As they had no work to do for the mill owner, they were available to help out at the church.
The process of recovering the floors was broken down into stages, beginning with the gathering of rushes from the river banks and ponds. The cut rushes were then loaded onto a cart. It was a skilled job to properly load a cart so that the rushes didn’t fall all over the place and it became a very competitive business between neighbouring towns and villages to see who could build theirs the biggest and the highest, or the most elaborate and highly decorated.
The loaded cart was then paraded to the church and lots of activities sprang up around the parade which turned the rushbearing into a festival over the years. As with most traditions, it died out with the advent of modern flooring for one thing and for the changes in mechanisation in the mills meaning that Wakes Weeks also died out. But luckily, there are pockets of people who work hard to keep the tradition alive and one of those groups keep the rushcart festival going in Littleborough on the outskirts of Rochdale.
It is a two-day festival held over the weekend and the band were invited to play on the bandstand in Hare Hill Park to welcome the rushcart as it arrived from the town centre, having been pulled by the local rugby team. There were lots of other things going on yesterday: a Viking re-enactment group, lots of food stalls, local produce, several rings of Morris men dancing as well stalls for children, face-painting and so on. The weather was kind too as the sun shone all day. Ideal festival weather.
Here are some photos of the rushcart and the Vikings in action.
When I first held that baby in my arms nearly 22 years ago, never in a million years could I have imagined the pride I felt today when I saw her in her cap and gown as she graduated from the Manchester Law School.
They tell you that motherhood is a series of “firsts” – the first time you perhaps change a nappy or bath a newborn, the first time your child cuts a tooth, or walks or crawls. Their first words, their first day at school. Their first skinned knee, or first fall-out with friends. The first time they stand up for themselves in front of bullies. Their first tests or exams. Their first time on holiday without you, their first hangover. Their first driving lesson, and the first time you realise that they have crossed a particular finishing line.
That finishing line for Emma was today when she became entitled to use the letters LLB after her name. When I first saw her in her robes today, I admit I cried. It didn’t seem like five minutes ago when my first burst of love for this child flowered in my heart, and the intervening years have seen that love – and yes I admit, pride – have blossomed and grown to the extent that I was overwhelmed by it today.
Like most young people, she has faced difficulties and hardships during the last five years of her education. Her health has had a bit of a battering and she has had to have four operations, meaning she has missed quite a bit of her A levels and her degree course. She has moved house three times in two years (not something I would have recommended if I had a choice!) and she has held down not only a part-time job at McDonald’s, but has progressed through the URNU to become a senior midshipman in the Royal Naval cadets too.
She has at times struggled with the workload at uni (who hasn’t?!) but she has always come through it with a smile on her face and a cheerful shrug of her shoulders.
So forgive me today for being ever so proud of her achievement. May I present to you my daughter, Emma Smith LLB.
She graduated today with her boyfriend Simon and her friend Gemma and I am proud of them also for their achievements today. I haven’t got any photos of Simon and Emma together just yet, but here’s my favourite one of Emma and Gemma together.
And so for the last “first” of this post. My baby girl will be waking up tomorrow on the first day of the rest of her life. And this proud Mama can’t wait to see what she makes of it.
1. Is your home air conditioned? If it’s not air conditioned, is that by choice? Did you grow up with air conditioning? If not how did you cope with the heat? Share about a time or place you remember as being too hot-the temperature kind of hot, lest anyone be confused.
No, we don’t tend to need air conditioning here in Manchester because it’s usually too damp and cold to warrant it. We had two very hot days a couple of weeks ago and I managed to keep the house cool by opening the french door onto the garden.
Generally speaking, I don’t do heat. I hate the suffocating feeling when you can’t sleep at night because of it and I don’t like the sluggish feeling it gives me when I’m doing stuff. Nope. Thank you very much, but you can keep your heat! 2. What’s something in your life right now that falls under the heading ‘up in the air’?
In short, my ministry within the church. I am in the very early stages of discernment and decision making about answering the call I am hearing and things are a bit up in the air as to what it is I’m being called to – priesthood or remaining in lay ministry? I have some things to work through and lots of praying to do before the pathway becomes a little clearer.
3. Your favourite light and airy dessert?
I love anything meringue-based, so Pavlova or Eton Mess will do for me. Failing that I’d usually snap your hand off if you offered me Tiramisu! 4. When did you last feel like you were ‘floating on air’?
I was incredibly proud of my son a couple of weeks ago when he played at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester for the first time. He played in the Greater Manchester Hub Brass Band which is a band made up of the best young brass players from the Greater Manchester area. I was so proud I didn’t feel the seat beneath me, especially when I could hear his beautiful tone colouring the bass sound at just the right moments. I will have to revise the answer to this question on Friday when my daughter receives her Law degree from university. Oh boy, definitely proud mama walking on air time at the moment! 5. Airport, airmail, airtight, airhead…which have you most recently encountered? Explain.
Airtight. Well, almost. I think I’ve described to you my recently discovered method of cooking biryani, but in case you missed it, it involves bringing flavoured/spiced rice and chicken to the boil and sealing the lid on the pan to make it airtight before letting it simmer and then stand without stirring. The airtight lid forces the steam into the rice and cooks it beautifully without any interference from me and we had it on Sunday when we had little time to cook a meal before my son was off out to band practice. 6. Have you ever been to the Alps? If so where did you go? If not, is this a destination on your must-see list? If you were headed that direction this summer, which of the following would be your preferred activity…a gentle walk, a serious walk, a bike ride, a boat ride around one of the lakes, or summer snow skiing?
I would LOVE to visit the Alps someday. If I could go anytime soon I would go for a bike ride and a boat ride round the lakes, but skiing in the Spring would be equally fantastic. Sadly, the closest I’m ever likely to get is eating Toblerone. 7. What is one saying or phrase that was considered ‘cool’ when you were growing up?
I grew up in the 70s and early 80s and the definition of “cool” definitely changed during that time. I can’t think of an particular saying that was cool, but the coolest people on TV were The Professionals. Anyone remember them? Bodie and Doyle under the management of Cowley. I was definitely a Lewis Collins fan. 8. Insert your own random thought here.
I’m on holiday countdown now. We are off in our caravan soon and will be heading to the Northeast again. Northumberland, Lindisfarne, Seahouses, Bamburgh… I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!
When things are going well for us, it’s easy isn’t it? We pray for our friends who are a bit sad, or for our family who might be going through a bit of a “bad patch”.
When things are terrible and you feel weighed down by the world, that’s easy too isn’t it? We ask God to guide us through our troubles, we ask for strength to endure them and we ask for him to release us from our pain.
But what about when there is no easy thing to ask for? Two things are very much on my mind today and I’m struggling to know how to ask God for help. What do I ask him to do? Where do I ask him to be? How do I ask him to fix something that can’t be fixed?
Let me explain.
I heard tonight about a friend who has received the results from the doctor who has confirmed that her cancer has returned. She almost died about two years ago, first of all from the cancer and second of all from the treatment and surgery she received to take it away. Our church rallied round her and our prayers were for her to recover and to be returned to us. God answered our prayers and made her well again, but the devastating news that the cancer was back has been delivered today and it is difficult to know what to ask God to do. She feels that she is not strong enough to withstand the treatment again, so our prayers obviously are to ask God to help her with that. But what if by giving her strength to endure the treatment we are asking God to cause her to suffer longer? I know that God will do what he knows is best rather than what we think is best, but nevertheless, it is difficult for us to condemn her to pain and sickness and fear and worry by asking him to take her through it.
Something else that I’m struggling with is my daughter who is still waiting for the results of her medical to join the armed forces. She doesn’t have a plan B – all she wants to do is to serve her country in the way she wants to. She has passed her Law degree (graduating in a fortnight) but doesn’t want a career in Law at all. She has no other passion other than the one for the armed forces, but what do I ask God to do? Do I ask him to give her her heart’s desire and enlist, knowing full well that she will face dangers in her life that I can’t comprehend but that still will give me nightmares? Or do I ask him to keep her on land, with me, in civvy street. Safe and sound, but with no passion for life, no job, no career, no purpose?
I think both these situations, as disparate as they are, can both be handled the same way. My prayer for both of them is for God to keep them in his hands; for me to allow him to do what he knows is best; for me to accept that whatever happens to both of them, neither of them will ever be abandoned by the God who knows them and loves them and who wants the best for them.
It can be summed up in the words from Romans 8: 38-39:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So to answer my question above, my prayer tonight for both Gwen and Emma to know that they are held tightly in God’s hands, that they feel his love and his guidance in their coming days and weeks ahead, that they know that whatever trials and tribulations they are facing God is with them and holding them close. Amen.
I’ve had a great day today drawing these Celtic designs. You may have seen my earlier work from a few weeks ago, and these pictures represent my improved skills since then. Still a bit wobbly, but it has been a lovely challenge getting my head around the “under – over ” process to make these designs.
My favourite is the snakes but you can see the places where I got carried away and did too many cross overs. Oops here comes the liquid paper to correct my mistakes!
If ever you fancy having a go at these I urge you to do so. I have found them very relaxing to do and in a way they are a form of prayer and meditation, especially the colouring on part.
Outside my window… storm clouds are gathering and it looks like we could be in for some rain and possibly thunder overnight.
I am thinking… about my daughter who is away sailing the high seas for the next three weeks.
I am thankful… she knows how to pilot a Royal Navy boat!
I am wearing… my reading glasses to do this. Yes, it’s finally caught up with me, sigh!
I am creating… lots of notes for my next OU modules. I am taking two level three modules in September, which, if I pass them both I will be able to claim my honours degree this time next year. I am going to be studying Children’s Literature in one (the reading list is AMAZING!), and I will be taking my creative writing to the next level in the other. I have already begun the reading for the Children’s Lit module and I am making copious notes as I go. Noting things like themes, overarching moral strings, character interaction, whether the stories are there for education or entertainment etc. So far, it’s great fun and I’m getting a lot out of the leisurely pace but I can see it’s going to get busy really quickly in September! And I have a couple of ideas on the go for the Advanced Creative Writing module as well as a couple of other projects I want to work up for my own pleasure. I’ll keep you up to date with developments as we go.
I am going… I don’t really have any plans to go anywhere at the minute. Except for our camping holiday in August there is nothing else on the cards just now.
I am wondering… if we will get thunder overnight. The atmosphere is a little oppressive and my pressure headache is telling me that it might just.
I am reading… oh wow, what am I reading? Well, I am nearly through Swallows and Amazons and I have just started Coram Boy for my OU module, and for pleasure I am reading Twilight (for the fourth or fifth time). I have got another 15 books to get through over the summer so it’s a good job I like reading!
I am hoping… I can cool off during the night. My internal thermostat setting is definitely on “tropical” tonight.
I am praying… for Jeff, who has lost his wife Sheila suddenly today. Sheila had motor neurone disease but was still active and fairly mobile, and sadly her heart failed today and she died this evening. She is at rest and peace now, but her husband Jeff will be still in shock at the suddenness of her death and will need prayers of support in the coming days and weeks. I am also praying for Arthur, my father in law. He has been moved into his permanent care home now but the move has disturbed him a lot and he seems to have deteriorated even more since then. Whereas he could hold a conversation with us before – albeit about things in the past and very muddled up – now, his conversation is random and disjointed, with rambling and mumbling to cover up where he has forgotten what he is saying. My prayer is that he is at peace inside himself even though he appears not to be to the outside world.
I am learning… that it is possible to not react when people upset me. Maybe it’s an age thing, maybe it’s a faith thing but something has changed for me and I have learned to just let hurts and upsets roll off me.
In my house…
In my kitchen… we are having to be a bit creative because we have no money for food shopping until payday, three weeks from now. We have had a couple of big bills this month trying to keep the car on the road which has had a big impact on our budgeting. It means that what we have in the cupboards has got to last us til the 15th July so meal times are a matter of planning, eking it out and plain old making do. It’ll pass soon enough – it always has done in the past!
A few plans for the rest of the week: I am working on an arrangement of Sweet Caroline for the band to have a go at, so if that’s ready I’ll be taking that to rehearsal on Friday night, Ethan is out all weekend at the Greater Manchester Youth Brass Band gathering, we have Bible study tomorrow night and that’s about it really. A quiet time for a change.
A favourite quote for today…
A peek into one of my days…
One of my favourite things… apart from seeing my son perform? The smell of new books, without doubt.
I have had a little bit of time out from my blog recently, and I feel like I have missed out on such a lot from my bloggy friends across the world. Things have been busy here for me – first of all finishing off my modules for the Open University and then because I was working as an exam invigilator during the GCSEs at my husband’s school. On top of that I haven’t been very well and have been in a tremendous amount of pain each day. Possibly because of standing up for long periods of time, possibly because of renal colic and biliary colic (which I do suffer from but not usually together like now). It could be something else, but you know what it’s like when you have unexplained pain and that little niggly voice tells you it’s something dramatic/terrible/irreversible/catastrophic/fatal?
All this has been going on at a time when my son has needed me to help support him through his exams and to be his taxi driver for his various rehearsals, engagements, concerts, trips out etc with the different bands he is in. By the end of each day I have been too tired to think about putting together a proper blog post and I didn’t want to fob you off with something trivial, so I have taken a bit of a break.
Things are a little less fraught now, because the exams are over and I’m not out at work, and so I have some more brain-space to think about creating blog posts again. The only trouble I have now is that because of my pain levels I am having to take more tramadol doses than usual which plays havoc with my thought processes and my ability to form coherent sentences. It’s a good job this is typed and not spoken or else we would still going round the houses with what day it is!