A Day Out in Yorkshire

Today was Easter Monday, a bank holiday here in the UK, and Kevin and I decided we were going to Do Something today. We are forever telling ourselves that we will Go Somewhere, or See Something but don’t usually get round to it, but today was different and we enjoyed a fantastic trip out over the hill to Yorkshire.

The weather hasn’t been great for the past few days but – as the seasoned campers that we are always know – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong coat and shoes. So we prepared for a typical British bank holiday day out and packed butties, crisps, a flask of tea, some waterproofs, hiking boots, sun lotion and money for an ice-cream and set off up the M62.

We didn’t encounter any rain at all, but it was a bit cold even when the sun did break out. We were heading for Rievaulx Abbey and Terrace which is about 16 miles out of Thirsk, near a little town called Helmsley. Now then, Kevin and I have already encountered Helmsley and it brought back some rather mixed emotions and memories being there again today. It was the place on our Coast to Coast bike ride 8 years ago where we found our morale at rock bottom and where we simply couldn’t go on with our ride, until we had a cup of tea and some meat and potato pie (I swear there were magic herbs in that cup of tea) and it restored us to the extent we were able to carry on and finish the ride to Scarborough.

I’m glad to say that today’s visit was infinitely more comfortable and happy for us, and it was a lovely drive from there up to Rievaulx Terrace.

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Our visit was very nearly spoiled by another family – why do parents these days seem to think that their little darlings have the right to shout and carry on disturbing the peace of others?? – but a muttered exclamation from me (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) and they soon realised that not everyone appreciates a 3 year old and a 6 year old “expressing themselves” at top volume in a peaceful garden. Isn’t it funny how the “look” I perfected with my own two children 20+ years ago works perfectly well on other people’s children now too?

Anyway. Rievaulx Terrace is a lovely place and well worth a visit. It is looked after by the National Trust and the staff there were very helpful and cheerfully welcoming.

We moved on from the terrace down to the abbey ruins at the bottom of the steep slope. You might not be able to see from the photos, but there is more or less a cliff edge separating the terrace from the abbey grounds. Too dangerous to walk down so we drove round instead.

Rievaulx Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th Century, and over the next 400 years or so saw its fortunes rise, fall, rise and then completely fall again when Henry VIII got fed up with Rome. It is a beautiful place, and even though its many buildings are now in ruins, there is still a feeling of spirituality and peace there.

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And so to the journey home. Back through Helmsley and off towards Thirsk.

On the way up, we had driven up Sutton Bank, a notoriously steep part of the A170 where the road climbs at a rate of 25%. Caravans are banned from that that stretch – up AND down! – and I have to admit that our little car did struggle a little bit going up. We thought we would stop on the way back to check out the view from the top, which we did. The sheer drop of Sutton Bank was formed with the retreat of the last ice age, and you can see the flat bottom of the valley that was formed between the bank and what is now Thirsk on the horizon. Further in the distance there is a line of (black) hills, where the mighty Whernside and Ingleborough were also formed by the forces on the earth by the advancing then retreating glacier.

The view was magnificent, and no photograph of mine could ever do it justice, but here’s a couple of pictures I took from the top of Sutton Bank.

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You will notice that the sky was changeable to say the least. It’s one of the things I love about Yorkshire in general, the fact that the skies are so big and wide, and so changeable all the time. Beautiful and a fantastic reminder just how small we all are.

So, that was our day. A lovely day out in Yorkshire with a bit of history and geography thrown in for good measure. Well worth a visit and I would love to go back again. And again, to be honest. It’s a lovely place and it’s no wonder people refer to Yorkshire as “God’s own county”.




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Tiger, tiger

I had a very rare day yesterday. So rare that I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day like it, which is saying something. I actually had nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do, nobody relying on me to do anything and no reason not to take a day to indulge myself in the things I wanted to do rather than the things I was obligated to do.

And boy did I enjoy myself!

It took a while for me to get into the swing of it but I spent some time creating a picture of a tiger’s face, which I quickly did in oil pastels in my A4 sketchbook (and which has already been claimed by my son’s girlfriend!). I absolutely loved that feeling of applying colour to paper, and it prompted me to recreate it in oil paints on an A2 sized canvas, taking my time over it and taking care to build it up in layers rather than doing a “colouring in” exercise that I have tended to do in the past.

I copied them from a photograph online, and for the first time, I didn’t trace it onto the canvas beforehand. I sketched out the outlines in pencil for the pastel sketch, but…and I’m so glad I could do this…the painting was done entirely freehand with no backing sketch laid down first. It is totally painted and it represents a big step in my confidence as well as my developing technique. Who knows, I might even feel brave enough to take my materials out into the open air and paint something “live” sometime soon!

Here is the pastel sketch:

Tiger sketch in oil pastels

And here is the painting in its various stages of completion:

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I usually find that doing something creative helps if I am feeling a bit out of focus within myself, and yesterday’s and today’s activities have helped me feel better. Not that there has been anything drastically wrong, but you know what I mean? There doesn’t have to be something wrong for something to make you feel better.

Having a totally free day yesterday was the key to it and I’m really glad I haven’t squandered the time to myself. I’m really pleased with the results and I’m looking forward to attempting a landscape or something next time.





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Daybook Entry – 2nd April 2017

For Today… 2nd April

Outside my window… it has been a gloriously sunny day again today, and my daffodils are nodding beautifully in the garden

I am thinking… about the week ahead and what I can do with my time

I am thankful… for the opportunity to exercise my ministry in the community where I live

I am praying for… my brother who has got a difficult surgery this week, and my parents who are going to be looking after him for a few days

I am wearing… “Red Musk” from the Body Shop. It is a gorgeous scent and was a Christmas gift from Emma

I am creating… a plan of action to get the house Spring cleaned

I am going… to band practice tomorrow night. “Reflections on Swan Lake” with Pemberton  Band

I am wondering… if I ought to see my GP with this pain in my ankle. I have had trouble with my Achilles tendon for a couple of months but in recent weeks it has got really painful and I’m getting a bit concerned about it now

I am reading…  “The Colour of Magic” by Terry Pratchett. I usually get through books like this in a couple of sittings but I have been so busy recently, and my days have been so filled from start to finish, that when I sit down to read before bedtime I have been so exhausted that I can only get a few pages read at a time. It’s a great book though and it’s no reflection on its quality that I can’t read very much of it at the minute!

I am hoping… this weather holds this week so I can sit out on the deck to write outside

I am learning… to trust my instincts more and more

In my garden… Spring has definitely sprung

In my kitchen… there is very little going on, and I need to plan a menu or else we’ll be eating on the hoof for the next week or so

A favourite quote for today… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” It is the opening to chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Romans and it formed the backbone of my sermon this morning.

A peek into one of my days… this picture is from one of the sessions of Experience Easter I took part in with some of the local schools. This shows some of the children re-enacting the last supper with Eddie our vicar.

One of my favourite things… is looking forward to a lie in tomorrow morning

From the board room… I love these elephants!

Post Script: You may have gathered from the lack of posts recently and reading my post today that things have been a bit busy for me. I have absolutely loved the past four weeks, but they have been pretty full-on in terms of ministry and other things. Just to give you a little flavour of what I have been doing, I have been involved with 7 funerals since last Thursday (four of them in the same morning) and done three home visits to meet with the bereaved families; I have been involved in delivering/hosting 16 sessions of Experience Easter presented at 3 of our mission partnership churches and telling the Easter story to over 1200 children and staff of our local primary schools; I have driven to Wigan and Todmorden for band rehearsals, attended my son’s A-level recital and written and delivered a sermon, a piece of liturgy and led corporate prayers four times in various services and study groups. Oh, and I did a two week spell of exam invigilation too… no wonder I am exhausted!

I did get poorly towards the end of last week with a virus or something, which left me physically drained and meant I spent most of last weekend sleeping off a high temperature and painful muscles and joints. I’m much better now, and to be honest, after such a busy four weeks I am not too sure how to fill up my time next week. I have been putting off so many things because I haven’t had the time – such as cleaning the windows, digging out my painting gear, writing, going out on my bike etc – and I feel a little bit like a kid at the start of the summer holidays with endless days stretching ahead of me to fill. I don’t actually have all that time to myself because I still have a list of things to do this week, notwithstanding the commitments I have to band on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, a study group to go to on Thursday evening, a wedding to do the music for on Friday and Messy Church to do on Saturday and whole shed load of little bitty things which won’t take any time but still need to be thought about and done properly. Sigh… I might just get a whole day to myself sometime soon to get my paints out where I can indulge myself without having to clock-watch. I’ll let you know!



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Lent Challenge – “Refine”

I thought today I would share a song with you that I learned a couple of years ago which speaks to me on different levels each time I hear or sing it.

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Lent Challenge – “Forgive”


“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude” – Martin Luther King Jr


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Lent Challenge – “Questions”


Who decided that women deserve a pat on the head for a single day each year, calling it “International Women’s Day”?


What do they think women do on the other 364 days of the year?


Do women fall for it year after year?


Are we going to wake up to the fact that in a truly equal society, there is no need for a day to commemorate women. Or men. Or men who identify as women. Or women who identify as men. Each and every day ought to be a celebration of human achievement in scientific advancement, sporting prowess, engineering feats, humanitarian succour, medical breakthroughs, musical excellence, artistic flair and so much more.


Are we ever going to make peace among ourselves if we constantly draw the demarcation lines between us?

We divide ourselves by continent: “Most Europeans can’t appreciate the poverty the Africans are suffering”.

We divide ourselves by country: “The French are so rude. Much better to go to Belgium where they are so much more polite”.

We divide ourselves by region: “People in the south have such better lives that them up North. Haven’t you heard how grim it is up there?”.

We divide ourselves by county: “Everyone in Lancashire knows Yorkshiremen are tight with their money”.

We divide ourselves by city: “I wouldn’t trust a Scouser as far as I could throw him”.

We divide ourselves by town: “Ancoats? Who wants to live there? It’s a dump isn’t it?”

We divide ourselves by street: “Heaton Park Road is so posh. We don’t deserve to have a house there”.

We divide ourselves by house: “My neighbour is forever getting in my way and leaving his car parked across my drive”.

We divide ourselves in families: “I don’t talk to me sister’s family any more. Not after she got with that idiot who drives a flash car”.

We divide ourselves in marriages: “You’re not good enough for me anymore. I want out of this marriage”.

We divide ourselves so much in so many things already, do we really need to divide ourselves on the basis of our sex too? Come on ladies and gents of the world, can’t we unite for once and instead of being divisive in absolutely everything we do?

Those are my questions for today.




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Lent Challenge – “Fear”

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, or so says Franklin D Roosevelt.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that he must have been very lucky in his life if he thought that fear was something ephemeral, shadowy and insubstantial to the extent that he could dismiss it with a phrase like that.

There is plenty of fear in the world that is not shadowy or ephemeral in the slightest.

Try asking an abused child about fear and they will tell you that it’s not the shadow on the back of their bedroom door that frightens them, but the supposed trusted adult who is in a position of responsibility over them who is unpredictable and violent towards them.

Try asking the child on the streets of Mumbai about fear, and they won’t tell you they are scared that the bank will slash interest rates again, driving down the value of their stock. They’ll tell you they fear not being able to find food that day, or that they will be forced to do something painful and degrading to be able to have enough money to buy food with.

Try asking a working man about the fear of losing his home. Not his holiday home, or the home built on land that his parents or grandparents own, the home that he has worked his fingers to the bone to finance with a bank. A bank that changes the goalposts on what it will and will not accept from its “customers” in terms of financial arrangements on a whim, leaving that man and his wife in desperate fear of homelessness and destitution. He’ll tell you what fear means to him, and it isn’t an intangible worry that lurks in his subconscious but a snarling, ferocious beast that dominates every ounce of his being.

Try asking a woman who has suffered at the hands of someone who supposedly loves her what fear is all about. She won’t tell you it is a wispy, edge-of-the-mind thought about someone lurking in the shadows as she walks home, waiting to jump out at her because she’s alone. She will tell you fear comes in the shape and feel of what is waiting for her when she walks through her own front door.

Fear can paralyse us, it can rob us of hope and ambition, and it can turn us into people we don’t want to be.

But there is hope, and where hope remains, fear cannot win.

Because if we hope – that someone will rescue us from our situation, or provide us with support to gain an education so we can work for a living wage, that someone will hear our cries of desperation or whatever it is we hope for – we can live.

And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That we live, and that we have hope and that we conquer fear.

If you are a Christian, you will perhaps be journeying this part of the calendar in Lent by reflecting on your life in God, and the hope that is offered if we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are of another faith or none, you might recognise something in what I have said about fear and hope. Whatever your belief system, I hope that fear does not play a part in your life, and that if you do have genuine fear about something or someone then you find something to cling to that will help you.

As for FDR, I can only assume that before he left his time here on Earth he had cause to reflect on the words he used about fear. It could be that what he said has been so paraphrased over the years to have lost its original meaning, or it could be that he said it because he was in a difficult position as a leader of a great nation with its back up against the wall and he needed to inspire his people, not frighten them further.

Whatever the truth and whatever his motivation, I have shown a little bit of what it is to feel fear, and to be frightened of things that are very real and painful. If all we had to fear was fear itself then the world would not be the painful, dark, destructive and divisive place it is. The opposite of fear is hope, and it is my hope that fear will one day be banished from this world. I suspect it won’t be, and it is only on the other side of life will we find the peace and lightness of spirit so many of us crave.


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