Sunday, December 06, 2009

Final frontier

Quite a lot of our friends and same-generation family members now have sprogs. It's quite unsettling.

You see, having a family may well become the only way of holding on to our social life. Whatever our mates may have said in advance, in each and every case the arrival of a little prune or prunette has fundamentally changed their approach to everything.

The thing is, although I see this change is profound, awe-inspiring and satisfying, I don't really want it. I quite like still being able to pop down the pub. And not being knackered. And fretting with carefree abandon about nothing but myself.

The baby frontier: can friendship survive it?

Saturday, November 21, 2009


My Grandfather died early this morning.

I have so many good memories of him. He and Gran used to (and I'm sure she still does) pray for every one of their children, children-in-law and grandchildren each morning. That's 24 people, before you start on all the other stuff they prayed for. The list was pinned on the wall.

I remember him taking me and my brother Joe for walks each time we visited their Devon home. The walks were a rare 'get away from the parents and little siblings' treat and were meant to increase by 2 miles a year. I think he got a bit goosed at 11 miles and the routine ended!

I remember him making elaborate 'Joe-Anna' - salads, which contained all manner of exciting ingredients. It was the one kitchen indulgence my Gran allowed him!

I remember being thoroughly embarrased by him taking me out for an ice-cream in my early youth and sitting across the table staring intently at me eat, as if I were a long-lost treasure.

I remember welling up when he quoted Hamlet at his 80th birthday do: "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may" I think it was. 

I remember he kept this tatty old bit of graph paper pinned to his office wall: I had meticulously coloured all the squares on it during the train journey to visit and he loved it.

I'll miss him. He was good and faithful and incredibly positive and fasincated by life. A founding father, you might say.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Our culture values people partly on the basis of their productivity.

So, if you're of a certain age, qualification and physical ability you really should be earning, achieving and generally making the people around you feel better. In increasing measures each year.

One of the reasons church is so important is because it doesn't hold to that: people are valued regardless of achievement. So it bugs me when I see churchfolk separating their community into the 'give-ers' and the 'get-ers'.

You're 'off the hook' (or, alternatively, deemed incapable) if you are:
  • old (too frail, too eccentric)
  • a teenager (too likely to leave)
  • a child (not ready)
  • disabled (too much effort)
  • a parent of one or more children (too busy and with better priorities)
  • not necessarily a 'proper' Christian (shock horror - too dangerous!)

You're most certainly on the hook (or capable of so much more) if you are:
  • single (so much time on your hands! - but needs watching as likely to be sexually unstable)
  • full-time working (capable of anything, surely)
  • without children (what else have you got to fill your time with?)
  • deemed intelligent and capable
  • certain in your Christian conviction.
If you're all five, heaven help you! Nobody will know what to talk to you about - except whether you might help serve coffee next week.

I'm being harsh. The churches I've been part of aren't really like that. In fact, it's really me who gets guilty and bored if I'm not busy achieving something or other; who feels affronted if someone else is asked to do something instead of me.

And, church sits in a funny place. We like to qualify time as either 'work' or 'leisure' What is church? Should we be giving or getting from it? How does it communicate its place in our lives?

I guess we should all be giving and getting from our church community. Which is why everyone should be deemed capable of contributing. And no-one should be seen primarily as a resource.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hard Candy

I have just noticed this film is on tonight.

If you're a girl, you should be okay to watch it. It will perturb you somewhat but also hold your attention. I quite enjoyed it. But I am already perturbed (and I had to put a cushion over my face a few times.)

If you're of the other gender, don't watch it. Just don't.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have added 'labels' to my blog which means you can go back and re-read your favourite posts.

Ha! Haven't you been wishing that would happen. It's like a revolution in your life, isn't it.

And I'm sure you'll find it hard to believe that my most common label, after 'diary style' (posts about what's happening in my life) is 'me'. My favourite topic is myself! What a testament to my character that is.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Remembrance and Loss – a meditation on Psalm 137

I wrote this for a remembrance event at church. It is also posted on my other blog, which is rather frugally updated!!

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.

We have not been to Zion. And yet in our deepest being we feel something like a memory of it – a longing for a hidden kingdom. A memory of a place where we belong. And we weep for its loss.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.

Is it possible to be creative in the face of loss? At times, we give up on life and worship. In pain, bereavement, betrayal, illness, abuse, loneliness, shattered hopes.

We want to live and play our music. We long for healing.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

We feel weak and guilty – mocked, at times. Sometimes, we are victims of circumstance. Sometimes, the mess is our own doing. So easily we let ourselves be overrun by selfishness, deceit, suspicion and greed. We feel like a joke, sometimes.

Forgive us. We do not want our songs of praise to seem ridiculous.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

This land is kind to most of us. But our brothers and sisters live at war and risk of death; burdened by corrupt governments; alone – forgotten; in pain, unable to be fully themselves; abused, bullied, persecuted or threatened – living in fear; dying from lack of food, medicine, clean water or shelter. We remember them and ask what we can do to free them to sing your song again?

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!

Our heritage is the stories of Adam and Eve; Noah; Abraham; Moses; Jacob; David. Betrayal, greed, violence. Creation, mercy, rescue. We want to tell these stories in our own voices, our own language We want to feel part of this heritage. We want to pass your memory on.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

It is so long since you walked among us. Since Moses saw your face. Since your prophets shouted your words.
And so we forget. We eat, work, maintain comfortable lives, fight our little battles. Build a safe corner for you. Remind us, whatever it takes, that we are a waiting people: a people not of this world. A people whose God gives them meaning.
And may our memories season our days like salt.

By the Rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.
For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying. ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall, how they said, ‘Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations! O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

We are ashamed this Psalm ends with such violence – is it in us too?

Perhaps not - but we are good at subtler cruelties: desiring others’ pain or humiliation; fascinated by others’ suffering; gossiping about misfortune; careless with the hearts of those who love and trust us; wilfully ignorant of our suffering neighbours. Obsessed with protecting ourselves at all cost; accepting of revenge; lacking your compassion.

You died in protest against our fear-driven violence. Most of all, we want to remember you. Your determination not to give into the ways of this world. The hope you offer in our darkest moments - because you knew darker and overcame.

We do not want to forget you.

We do not want our song to end in darkness.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chepstow Acoustic Music Club

One of Cheppers' local pubs hosted the first of these nights yesterday.

Having not read the flyer properly, I was expecting a tiny bar enlivened in an either deafening or muffled manner by young men playing moody indie/rock. It was more of a well-behaved, properly organised folk event, in fact. Folk music is big in this neck of the woods.

We were among the youngest, thinnest and most conservative of hairstyle in the room. But it was nice. High standard of music; a genuine sense of community; a bit sentimental and a bit of a laugh.

I think we'll go back. Maybe even to play. I can see the Pottersons in ten years time being right at home in such a club. But Jon won't have a ponytail. And I doubt I'll become buxom.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There's no I in Team. Or something.

A couple of recent events at church have focused on change/looking back on what's past/moving into what's new.

It's pretty easy to come up with biblical characters who went through huge personal or societal changes (be that by determination, accident or even under duress.) From Adam & Eve to the prophets to the disciples. A veritable shedload of examples.

This, combined with the unnerving habit churches get into of treating their congregations like misbehaving sales reps, means we are easily duped into believing we're the dormant key to a Christian revolution. If we could just figure out how to change that little, inscrutable thing we must be getting wrong, we'd awaken our potential and find ourselves swept away by a revival.

Thing is, I guess stories were included in the bible because they covered moments of significance. And even given the understandable editorial preference for activity as opposed to inactivity, the book lists generation after generation of people who saw God do nothing at all worth noting.

It's ever so slightly difficult to accept that God's call on my Christian life may just be to plod on faithfully and pass my understanding of my faith onto my friends and any children who may come along.

You often hear "what would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow?". Well, yes. But to nick a phrase from Brian McLaren, "what would you do if you knew he wasn't coming back for 10,000 years?"

Takes more guts to face up to the latter, in my case. I'd much rather believe I'm about to usher in the new kingdom myself. With humility, bien sur.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

murder most foul (NB spoilers)

I have (re)watched a few films recently in which hordes of people meet gruesome ends.

The Departed (Scorcese) I've seen four times. It's still gripping. Murder abounds. I feel like screaming at God when Leo gets shot in the head. HASN'T HE SEEN ENOUGH SUFFERING ALREADY? GIVE THE GUY A BREAK!

This screening of Fargo (Cohen brothers) was my third. Not quite as many deaths, but it's a bloodbath nonetheless. One of the more unfortunate characters is forced through a wood chipper. It's with mild exasperation and wonder at the human condition, a bit of a chuckle and a sense of great inertia that you watch them all go.

It was the first time I'd seen Surveillance (Lynch - Jennifer) and I expect will be the last. It's clever and well acted with a twist that gets you in the gut. But it's lacking in characters to like or even understand. The violence is disturbing. And its inescapability is the point, the whole point and nothing but the point.

I don't mind a bit of gore and grit. But a movie has to take me beyond that stuff in a redemptive fashion. Happy ending? Not necessarily. But if by the end I don't want any of the characters to be rescued and I don't feel that a world I recognise has been revealed to me in a true or new way, then I'm unlikely to revisit.

No doubt I'll continue to enjoy Leo getting his brain mashed, though.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

wimbledon winnings

Having bitten all my nails off watching the Murrayster yesterday, I shall endeavour to rediscover my equilibrium by dwelling on him beating Wawrinka on Monday. One part of a super-sunny week in London involved me, Jon and his mum watching that match from 'the hill'.

Sadly, my attempts to capture anything on camera at Wimbledon were foiled by the players insisting on hitting the balls so damn hard. I kept yelling at them to slow down but they took no heed.

Just as exciting was our late-night journey home. Pretty pumped up, we were.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Do I dare to eat a peach?

Today will be looked back upon as a terrible landmark on my path through life.

I must confess I had been wrestling with temptation for a while - but until a few short hours ago I had suppressed the urge to allow the desire to impact my conversations.

But, alack, I must confess that, had you been with me as I ate my lunch today you would have heard me express aloud a wish to....


To visit a garden centre. On my own behalf.


Friday, May 22, 2009

a bit of good news

Chepstow can be a bit of a boring place at times (though very, very pretty).

It came to life this week when thousands gathered to welcome home the 1st Battalion The Rifles Parade from their posting in Afghanistan. Standing with the throng, I actually felt proud (yes, e'en so) to be part of the town.

The constant barrage of pointless news about MPs expenses had been making me feel particularly lacklustre about British cares and priorities - and the turnout for a bunch of guys who had been doing a particularly tough job (which killed several of their number) gave me a bit of optimism again.

My brother-in-law was out in Helmand recently, which made the event all the more moving.

And watching the TV crews and reporters scurrying about the scene made me miss (for the first time?!) local journalism.

All good for the soul.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A thousand suicidal suns?

Not sure I should have opted to read the truly depressing second novel by Khaled Hosseini (his first being the Kite Runner).

What an onslaught. Gut-wrenching disaster after gut-wrenching disaster. Admittedly, I haven't finished it yet - will there be a ray of light and laughter at the end? Somehow I doubt it....though I'm ploughing on in hope.

I don't mind a dark novel. I don't mind a sad novel. In a perverse way, I even enjoy reading about mistreated women because it gives me more material for my occasional feminist soapbox. And I realise life Afghanistan's recent history is hardly a bed of roses.

But reading this is comparable to sitting through a bad sermon. You feel that once the guy's got you sitting there, he takes the chance to throw his worst at you because he knows you'll be too embarrassed to get up and leave.

My view doesn't seem to be the popular one. Most reviews of the book are glowing. Is this because people feel they ought to enjoy it? Or am I missing something?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Family matters......

Talking about family on a blog is a bit of a minefield....but what care I for danger?

Ever noticed the weird stuff you pick up from your parents? Having always been totally baffled by my Mum's fear of heights, dislike of the sensation of biting an apple and refusal to drink coffee first thing in the morning, and until recently sharing none of those traits, I now find myself developing all of them. Why? Huh?!

And, increasingly, I realise many of my deepest beliefs are inherited. Not just from parents, but in a Chinese whispers way from grandparents as well. No doubt it goes further back.

Kind of scary. And yet reassuring in a culture that bangs on incessantly about how we all have the power to be what we want to be. (Ahem.) Not quite sure what it says about faith. Certainly makes me fear for any future offspring......

Friday, February 20, 2009

Book my Face!

I joined the Facebook game rather late, being a bit stubborn and all, and as I feared it has insinuated its way into my life rather menacingly.

There's something weird about it. Perhaps its creepy because:

  • it's so quick and easy to establish contact with someone via Facebook that the urge to phone, email and even text just kind of fades. I've always been a bit crappy at that stuff (seeing people face-to-face is really the only way) but it has made me worse
  • the temptation to collect friends like stamps is hard to resist. (And what is the etiquette if someone asks you to be their friend, gets 'ignored' as you haven't heard of them since you were three, and then after a week or so asks again?! Hello!!)
  • I never know when accepting a gift or something means my details will forever be inscribed on an infernal marketing list that keeps sending me inane messages about pink frogs until I cave in and sell my soul. Or something.
Ah, well. This modern world is just too much for me. But I shall press on with courage and fortitude.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Yes We Can!

My husband encourages me to "think positive", for I tend to worry and assume the worst will happen.

And lo, I have now found a spring of hope in the US of A. How one man can cope with becoming a symbol of rebirth for the entire world I do not know - and yet, I'm sure Obama can.

Until recently, I feared David Cameron was convincing people that hope lay in his direction. Surely, now they've seen the real thing they'll be a bit more sensible.

Like me. Level headed. Not at all prone to pinning my hopes on the latest fad........Or attractive man. Rational positivity is what we need.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Growing pains

Is mine a 'mature' faith?

Over the past year or so, I became a bit disillusioned with it: to consider it childish.

I was treating the Lord like a spiritual PA. There to help me in times of trouble, to care about my thoughts and feelings, answer my prayers, reveal truth to me, use me in his service....Me, me, me......

So, for a while I strove to see God as one more distant. To see him as unknowable, totally good and as such totally beyond me. To hesitate before uttering self-centred prayers. To wonder whether it is wise to use the word "God" so often, in such a carefree fashion. What do I know of him, anyway? How can I ever attribute motives or actions to one so removed - one so holy, if you like.

This thinking has gone deep. No doubt positive changes have occurred in me. But in keeping with the pendulum nature of my faith, it hasn't been entirely helpful.

I am afraid to say that my world does revolve around me. My views develop out of my trivial decisions and feelings. I do want God's attention, as does every small child. I do want to be the one who serves him best.

It is good to be self-aware and to remind myself that I can never own God. But it is also important to remember that Jesus, Immanuel, calls immature people to follow him. Indeed, he relies on such people to represent him. It might be helpful for them to grow up. But often (and I hate to admit to this) it is my childishness, weaknesses and misunderstandings that best display his strength and truth.

So, perhaps I shall go back to blurting out all my selfish desires to God. He knows about them anyway.

And, I guess if I'm ever mature enough not to have selfish desires, it won't occur to me to pray about them. I'll never even realise that the growing up has happened.....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A breach in your breeches?

Well, there we go. As my great grandad used to say at 6pm every December 25th, "it's as far away as ever now." "It" being Christmas. He was a 'glass half empty' man.....but year ends do make me stop to ponder the 'rolling stone' nature of life.

As I review and expect this Epiphany, I think of the two siblings who got married in 2008. Another will do so in 2009. (Two to go - my poor old Mum may dissolve in a pool of anxiety before we're done.)

Several cousins and a best friend had babies last year.

The family is planning for a 30th, a 50th and two 60th birthday celebrations in '09. I'm sure there are other significant milestones that haven't dawned on me yet.

I have made my recurring resolutions, mainly relating to attitudes of mind and tendencies towards OCD. I may succeed this time. After all, I am 30 and if I don't nip these things in the mature blossom, it may be too late. I could be eternally neurotic.....Imagine!

Hey ho. Into the breach......