Daybook Entry – 18th February 2017


For Today 18th February 2017

Looking out my window… I am looking at a garden that is in serious need of some TLC

I am thinking… about how busy I am going to be for the next 8 days. I am going to be taking part in my first brass band contest for a very long time, and in the first section which I have not played in for even longer than that. The busyness comes from the amount of rehearsal I have to do between now and then, not just the 2 hours each night with the rest of the band but the couple of hours each day on my own practice at home too to make sure I am in tip top condition to the band and the performance justice. I am looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measure to be honest.

I am thankful… for the gift of music.

One of my favourite things… is sharing food on a Saturday with my family and having some good ol’ quality time together.

I am wearing… post-shower comfies.

I am creating… a crocheted blanket for my son’s girlfriend Megan.

I am watching… as I type this, “Despicable Me” is on TV in the background, but something that I have been going out of my way to watch is “No Offence” on Channel 4. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

I am reading… “The Ghosts of Idlewood” by M L Bullock for a bit of light fiction reading, but I am also working my way through Richard Coles’ “Bringing In The Sheaves” and “Being a Priest Today” by Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown.

 

I am listening to… Meatloaf a lot at the minute. I was at my cousin’s partner’s funeral last week and we listened to “Paradise in the Dashboard Light” as part of the service. It spurred me on to revisiting some of the tracks I used to listen to a while back and that I’d not realised I hadn’t listened to for a while.

I am hoping… to hear from the bank soon about a proposal we made to them about our future finances. If they don’t agree in writing then we are going to be seriously up against the wall and will more than likely lose our home. It is a tense time.

I am learning… that even when you do things right, and that you obey the rules, when you’re at the mercy of big corporations who can change the goalposts on a whim then it doesn’t matter how much you comply, you will still lose.

In the kitchen… we are having burritos for tea tonight. Probably not too authentic but tasty and a great way to share food with the family regardless of accuracy!

Board Room… I so need this! Time management skills from Joanna Kay

Shared Quote…

I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home in his nest at even;–
He sings the song, but it pleases not now;
For I did not bring home the river and sky;
He sang to my ear; they sang to my eye.

From “Each and All” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
A moment from my week…

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View from the PamCam at rehearsal one night this week. Contest next Sunday in Blackpool …. gulp!

Post Script…

I was caught up in the aftermath of a crash on the M60  on Tuesday this week (video link below – apologies for the advert beforehand, I can’t control that). I had dropped my husband off at work so I could have use of the car to get me to an important meeting about my future training in the church. Fortunately for all concerned in the incident there were no serious injuries or fatalities, but unfortunately for me, I was sat in the car for about half an hour and very nearly had to visit the Bishop’s office still dressed in my pyjamas!

It’s funny how one careless action by one person could have so many consequences that cannot be foreseen or even dreamt of when they do it.

http://players.brightcove.net/2540076170001/Ey9zhZNae_default/index.html?videoId=5326870000001

 

Greater Manchester Police Museum


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I have been promising myself a visit to the Greater Manchester Police Museum for some time now, and today I finally made it. It was a fascinating trip and well worth a go if you are into your history, or police history, or are just plain nosey about how our Mancunian ancestors broke the law back in their day.

It is a museum set up in the building of a Victorian police station on Faraday Street/Newton Street in Manchester, and has been a museum since 1981.

I went with my friend Phil, and we spent a good two hours there poking around in the exhibits, the mocked-up offices and police rooms and the original cells at Faraday Street in Manchester. My particular interest was policing in the 1940s (research for a story I’m writing) but the whole lot was a fascinating journey into the past.

There were lots of volunteers on hand to talk to, and I had a great chat with a man called Ron Flowers who was dressed in vintage police uniform. We talked about my Grandad who served the Manchester City Police and we discovered that Ron could have possibly crossed over with him, starting his service just around the time my Grandad was coming up to retirement at the same station. Coincidence!

I took copious notes about what I needed for my story, and I learned a lot more besides. Such as, did you know that handwritten reports were copied in a “copy press” from the start of the police service right through to the 1960s? I had never really paid attention to what a copy press was, but today I learned that they were commonly used to copy documents long before photocopying or duplicators with their smelly purple ink were invented.

I also learned about the changes in the police uniform and equipment over the years, from why they original Bow Street Runners were given tunics that looked like frock coats to why they wore a leather stock underneath their collars. And did you know that the top hats they used to wear were reinforced with bamboo so that if they needed a leg-up over a wall for example they would put their hat on the floor and use it as a footstool. The original Bow Street Runners would carry a hollow cylinder with a screw-top as a baton (or “staff” as they are known in the GM Police) and they would roll up the warrants for the people they were sent out to arrest and carry them inside. As the years progressed, the staffs were more and more used for defence and became solid. And did you know that originally, the only way a police man could shout for help was by deploying a rattle? Very loud and distinct in sound, it was some time before it was replaced by a whistle, which could be heard up to about a mile and a half away.

rattle

I also got an insight into the types of crimes that were being committed through the years – and the weapons used in them (shudder). It has given me a couple of ideas for my story, and until I’ve written it I would rather not share them here, but let’s just say that there were plenty of reasons to kill back in the 1940s that I would never have thought of if I hadn’t visited the museum today.

At the back of the museum are the yard where criminals were brought in, and the original cells from when the building was a working police station. The charge office was set up to receive people to be charged and the cells were in a chilly corridor leading off it.

A cell at the Police Museum. Note that there are two wooden beds? These cells would often hold up to 12 men at a time!
A cell at the Police Museum. Note that there are two wooden beds? These cells would often hold up to 12 men at a time!

Upstairs is a room that was used a magistrate’s court, which was something else I learned today. I hadn’t realised that in the early days of policing, minor crimes were judged by magistrates in a court room on site rather than transporting criminals to a courthouse elsewhere. The furniture in the museum came from a police station in Denton that was demolished in the early 2000s, and has been restored beautifully as can be seen in my photograph of Phil in the dock. (He can’t have committed too serious a crime, not with that big grin on show!)

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Back downstairs and on the way out we stopped in the small gift shop, where I learned I could ask for any information held in the archives on my Grandad’s service record. I filled in the forms and will hopefully hear in a week or so if there is any information they can share with me.

A very interesting and fruitful visit, and well worth going again. It is open for visitors in a Tuesday from 10.30 – 3.30pm (free entry), and is available for group visits on the other days if you book in advance. It is a popular destination for school visits, although they probably wouldn’t see any of the more gruesome exhibits on show such as the cricket bat studded with six-inch nails used in a gang fight in the 1980s. Painful!

If you can’t get to visit the museum yourself in person, please do go and have a look at their website where you will find more information about both the museum and the history of policing in Manchester. 

 

 

Blessings


Transcript of my sermon delivered on Sunday 29th January 2017

This sermon uses two passages from the Bible, and questions what are blessings, and how do we recognise blessings in our lives. The passages are Micah 6: 1 – 8  and Matthew 5: 1 – 12and I began my talk by showing this piece of video from “The Life of Brian” – the Sermon on the Mount

It might seem a bit surprising that a clip from an anarchic film such as The Life of Brian could be used in a sermon in church, but I like this clip because it shows us so much about human nature, and the very real way that we can not only fall out over insignificant things, but also how if we’re not careful the Word of God can be misheard and mis-translated. It also ties in with our gospel reading today, where Matthew writes about Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If you know the film, or if you are familiar with parts of it, you will also know that later on, there’s a scene where the elders are all sat round and the conversation goes something like “pah, what have the Romans ever done for us?”. (Aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public order, health, peace etc)

The scene that Micah writes about in our first reading is not dissimilar: he speaks of the Israelites who are complaining about “what has the Lord ever done for us”, and Micah points out that God led them out of slavery, he sent great leaders in the shape of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and he saved them from Balak’s plans to have them cursed by the magician Balaam in Moab. Not only that but when they were stuck in the sinful city of Shittim, God led them to safety by crossing them over the river Jordan to the safety of Gilgal. You can almost hear the answer “yeah, well, apart from all that, what has God ever done for us?!”.

How many of us can say, hand on hearts, that we have never said something similar? How many of us have felt that we are hard done-to, or downtrodden, or that we deserve all the misery that is in our lives at the minute? I think it’s fair to say that at some time or another – some probably more than most – we have all failed to see what God has done for us, and we have simply not acknowledged his presence in our lives. Through Micah we are reminded that the Lord has done, and continues to do great things for us.

It’s the same message that we hear from Matthew too. The Beatitudes – a collection of blessings that Jesus is reported as saying in his oft referred to “sermon on the mount”. Scholars now argue that what Matthew wrote here is more of a series of headlines or soundbites rather than a word for word account of a single address given by Jesus on a hillside. I don’t know either way – I’m not a Biblical scholar and I have still got a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus – but if these are really just headlines, then I feel it’s up to us to put the meat on the story, so to speak.

So what is a blessing then? What does it mean to be blessed? 

It’s perhaps easier to think about what a blessing isn’t. It isn’t the same as being happy, for example. If that were the case, then most of the beatitudes are nonsense. Can you imagine saying “happy are those who mourn?”. Nope, that doesn’t work for me.

Tom Wright says we can understand “blessed” to mean “good news”. That works a little bit better for me – “good news for the poor in spirit…” does feel a little closer, but it’s still not quite right.

We drop the words “blessing” and “bless” into our everyday language and conversations with each other. If I were to sneeze now, how many of you would respond by saying “bless you”? How many times have you heard or said “aw, bless him”, or “that’s a blessing in disguise”? In the words of the Johnson Oatman hymn “Count Your Blessings”, we are encouraged to think about our blessings in terms of what the Lord has done for us and to acknowledge his touch on our lives. For me, this is getting a bit closer to the real meaning of blessing, that when we are blessed, we have received the touch of God.

For those who mourn – the touch of God will comfort them; for the meek, the touch of God means that they will inherit the earth.

You see where I’m going with this?

It doesn’t quite go all the way, and it starts to go awry for me when we hear about those who are merciful, or those who are peacemakers and the righteous because the point is that we can only ever be these things by God’s touch in the first place. Peace-making, showing mercy, righteousness – without the touch of God we cannot be any of those things. We need God’s touch, his presence, throughout all aspect of our lives so we can be those things in his name. It doesn’t come naturally to us to be merciful or righteous – those are gifts from God and we must acknowledge that. We must be honest with ourselves when we claim to be righteous, or humble or any of the things we are called to be, because no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are only ever at the beginning of a long pathway, and even then, it is only with God’s grace and touch that we can even begin to see the first bend in that pathway that leads to him.

I feel that even though it has a flaw, my interpretation of what it means to be blessed is close enough for us to understand what a blessing is, and in such a way that enables us to be able to share with others the gospel message.

Because after all, what are we doing as Christians if we don’t share the good news with other people? How do we let the meek, the persecuted, the bereaved, those who are poor in spirit know that there is good news for them? How else do we let them know that Jesus Christ lived and died and lives again so that we can be part of God’s kingdom, that we can enjoy fruitful and meaningful lives here and now even though life feels hard and bleak sometimes. That with the touch of God and the blessings of God, even the most dismal and heart-breaking of situations are transformed, if only we take the time and trouble to acknowledge them.

Too often we find comfort in being down, and miserable. Sounds daft, but we do. We would rather put up with a poor situation, or a hurtful relationship, or stick with the old, destructive patterns of thinking because we take comfort from their familiarity. We know where we’re up to with that friend who always puts us down, and we know that if we always have the same reaction to situations in the news – immigration, poverty, injustice for persecuted groups – we don’t have to think too hard or put too much effort in to speaking out against them and those who inflict them.

I’m not just talking about straightforward pessimism and optimism here; people are far more complicated to be labelled either a pessimist or an optimist.

[Hold up glass half filled with water]

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Your answer shows if you have a pessimistic view of life, or an optimistic one depending on whether you see the glass as being filled or emptied; but as a Christian, you should have a third answer up your sleeve; that with God’s touch on your life, with his grace, his love and with his blessings, this glass is infinitely refillable.

Are you in mourning? Do you grieve for someone, or something you have lost? You are blessed by God! [Fill up the glass to the brim/overflowing]

Do you show mercy to others? Do you let compassion and love for others flow out of you? [Emptying glass part way]

You are blessed by God – Jesus told us so! – and you will receive more mercy than you will ever need [fill glass to overflowing].

Do you feel pure in heart? [hold up full glass]. With God’s touch you will see him in everything you do! And if you see him in everything you do, then others will see it in everything you do too.

And for this grace, these blessings, this full glass, these touches of God which transform our lives, what does God ask of us in return? How on earth can we ever say thank you enough to him for his blessings? How can we ever repay him?

As Micah says, it won’t take the sacrifice of your first-born, nor ten thousand rivers of oil, nor the masses of calves and rams as burnt offerings, nothing like that. All God asks of us in return is that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

So as we go from here today, let’s think about what it means to be blessed by God, to have his touch on our lives in the darkest and bleakest places as well as in the joyful and bright ones. Think about how your lives are blessed by him every step of the way, and how those headlines on that mountainside are as alive and meaningful to us today as they were to those who heard them two thousand years ago. But more to the point, think about what God asks in return from us; not a lot really – simply that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

Amen

Happy 18th Birthday


Happy 18th birthday Ethan!!

ethan-18th

Here’s my son on his 18th birthday today, but I couldn’t resist looking up some old photographs to share with you from when he was a little tiddler. Sorry son!

 

Both me and his dad are very proud of the young man he is turning into, and we are both extremely proud to be called his parents.

 

Cannibal Glasses


I broke my glasses on Remembrance Sunday and as they are the ones I wear most often I was pretty distraught and had to get them fixed immediately or else I wouldn’t have been able to see to drive, or cook, or watch TV or anything. The opticians I originally bought them from was closed on the day, so I asked the chap in SpecSavers if he could help. He was very kind and managed to glue the arm back on somehow, and I’ve been very lucky to have had good use of them since then.

However, yesterday, the mended bit began to go again and today it was so bent I had to take action. I put a small plaster round the hinge to hold the arm on the frames, but quickly realised that having a huge white thing in my peripheral vision was not the best thing and so tried to take it off again.

Oops – the hinge broke completely and so I was stuck without an arm on my glasses.

Up steps Kevin with his set of small screwdrivers and an old pair of glasses and, voila!

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He has managed to put a pair arms from one pair onto the frame part of my current pair, and I now have a fully functioning pair of glasses again!! Thank you Kev! A bit of a cannibalised pair of specs, but beggars can’t be choosers can they?!

 

I have to say that the screws in glasses are so tiny, the people who make and repair them must have eyesight like hawks to be able to see them properly. It took Kevin the best part of an hour to do this for me, and that includes the time taken (twice) to clean up the blood and dance around the room clutching his finger as the screwdriver slipped and stabbed him (twice) in the pad. Ouch.

Lesson learned: don’t put sticking plaster on your glasses when they break or else it causes no end of sore fingers for your husband!

 

 

From the kitchen


Got to share tonight’s tea with you! I don’t usually go in for food sharing online, but this is one of the easiest, tastiest, inexpensive meals I’ve made for such a long time and it is definitely worth showing you.

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Baby potatoes with olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and chicken breasts bashed out flat with a dollop of garlic and herb cream cheese in the middles, rolled up and held in place by stretched out strips of smoked bacon.

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Chopped up green peppers, yellow peppers, red onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil with a hint of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

I sealed off the chicken bundles in the frying pan with some butter and sage leaves so the bacon started to go crispy then transferred them to the oven in a roasting tray.

The small potatoes went in another roasting tray, and the vegetables went in when the chicken and potatoes were partially done.

And this is the result:

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Washed down with a nice glass of red wine, this has got to be the best dinner we’ve had since Christmas. Estimated cost of each plate – £4.50. Miles better than a carvery dinner!

 

 

January Daybook


simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 11th January 2017

Looking out my window… I can see clear blue skies, but I can hear the wind howling and there is a storm on its way.

I am thinking… I might cook cheesy bacon pasta for tea tonight.

I am thankful… that mental health in young people is taken seriously.

One of my favourite things… is driving with my son to band practice and having a natter about all sorts of things, both big and small.

I am creating… this little beauty. I began it during the evening on Boxing Day (for my non-UK readers, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas Day) and it is going to be used when we go away in our caravan this summer.

Rectangle blanket based on the traditional "granny" stitch, using rainbow colours. Three repeats of the individual colours followed by three rows of each colour afterwards. Just starting the blue three now and hopefully will finish it this weekend.
Rectangle blanket based on the traditional “granny” stitch, using rainbow colours. Three repeats of the individual colours followed by three rows of each colour afterwards. Just starting the blue three now and hopefully will finish it this weekend.

I am wearing… layers, layers and layers today. The heating is on but I’m bone-cold.

I am reading… “The Coroner (Coroner: Jenny Cooper Series)” by M R Hall

I am watching… The BDO World Championships on TV this week. I love watching the darts, and the BDO suits me because it is not as high-powered or glitzy as the PDC competitions. Darts are good to crochet to as I can listen and only half watch the TV as I’m concentrating on the yarn in my hands.

I have been listening to… Pemberton Old Band rehearsing for a competition this weekend in Skegness. My son plays bass trombone for them and I sometimes give him a lift to rehearsals. I have enjoyed the experience of being a groupie rather than a player since he started playing with them, and it makes a refreshing change for me to hear a piece of music being crafted into a performance piece to contest level by a band of this calibre. They are in the First Section (one level down from the Championship Section but working on their way back up) and they are a level above where I played with Middleton Band before I stopped playing.

I am hoping… my brother recovers quickly from his surgery yesterday.

I am learning… to trust my instinct.

In my kitchen… I have been making the effort to cook proper meals from scratch. We have a limited food budget and sometimes it can be a challenge to eat healthily all the time, and I have been enjoying the challenge of finding recipes and dishes that we can eat to fill us up, fill us up healthily, fill us up healthily and inexpensively.

Board room… we are looking at the story of Jonah and the Whale for our next Messy Church and I really want to do this activity with the children:

Post Script: I found this site (Strategies for dealing with change) when I was looking for something to help someone I love who is going through some really difficult, anxious times. I found this picture, and thought it would be great to share with you too. Please visit the host site for more like this.

 

Shared Quote…
strong-roots

Closing Notes… I began this post this morning, about 12 hours ago (which is why I said the sky is clear blue and not the midnight black it is now) and today has been another one that has been packed with drama, fun, music, family, planning, crafting and laughter. I thank God that my life is so varied and that it is filled with so many people who stimulate me in so many different ways. I have to say that being a mum is challenging at the minute, and I trust God to see us through the particular storm we are weathering just now. I am grateful to my friends who visited today too – a bit of a giggle and a chat with people you love goes a long way to making things feel better! And music. Ah music. Where would I be without you? Laughing with Ethan and Megan in the car going to band rehearsal tonight and having fun finding music that we all like. Fortunately all three of us have similar musical taste and we enjoyed a great 45 minutes each way listening to all sorts of stuff, from First Class’ “Beach Baby”, to the cast recording of songs from “Sweet Charity”, by way of Glen Campbell and his “Rhinestone Cowboy” (with alternative words, courtesy of yours truly) and a bit of “Hairspray” to finish with. You definitely can’t stop the beat if you’re travelling with the Pamster at the minute!

 

 

Book Review – “She” by Pete Brassett


 

Finished 5th Jan
Finished 5th Jan

“She” by Pete Brassett

From the blurb: A gripping murder mystery detective thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.

Background/plot: A serial killer is at work in London, and the newly-formed team of DI Munro and DS West work together to find out what is happening.

My overall impression? I’m in two minds about this book. I was part blown away, and part disappointed so overall I’m not very impressed to be honest.

The positives first: The plot was great, the storyline was original and the ending was satisfying, if somewhat confusing and open-ended.  Some chapters were written in the first person from one character’s point of view, and the third-person narrative switches between the killer and the police which altogether, makes it a very interesting read.

But the negatives outweigh all that. First of all there were FAR too many commas for me to be able read it properly. The writer is obviously striving for a realistic speech pattern in his narrative, but what happens is that all the characters end up speaking the way, and the prose is stilted and just doesn’t flow properly. Secondly, while the characters on the criminal side were excellently drawn, the characters of Munro and West on the police side seemed almost as if they were written by a different person because they were so wooden and unrealistically drawn. I didn’t get a firm idea of them and I kept having to remind myself who was who as I read. I felt I didn’t care about either Munro or West and their part in the story could have been fulfilled by any stock character from anywhere.

Who are the main characters? This book is billed as being a “Munro and West” crime thriller, and these two form the backbone of the police investigation team. The other characters are victims of the killer, which I won’t describe as it will give the game away.

Where is it set? In and around London.

Will I read the next in the series? I didn’t want to, but “Avarice” is being offered on Amazon Kindle Unlimited for free, so I started it the day before yesterday to see if it would resolve the ending or if it is as badly written as this. I am about a third of the way in and am frustrated by the same things – the commas and the one-dimensional, highly unlikely team of  Munro and West – and I think I won’t be reading the one after it.

Would I recommend it to my friends? No. Don’t bother. The different-ness about this book is not enough for it to warrant a “wow, read this!” from me because of the faults with it. I feel that had the writer used the benefit of a good edit and rewrite then it would have been a million times better. The plot is great, the storytelling is not so great. Sorry.