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Monday, 21 January 2019

Trouble! (AKA Jack writes a post)

Hi everyone

It's got round to that time of the year - Christmas!  (Note from The Vicar -it's past that time of the year!  Wake up, Jack!)  The Vicar always looks forward to a blog post from me, well, here we go.

What a year I've had!  The knee op is still painful some days but there's some people worse off than me.  At last I have visited my vicar friend for the first time in nearly two years, and yes, she's been getting out of hand.  My part of the garden has hebes in it!  If I get back there I will try and mask them by planting something to hide them.  I'm only joking - they don't look too bad.  I don't like to admit that as she might think I'm going soft then she might take a few more liberties and that wouldn't do at all.  I don't want her to make my life intolerable.
Jack, my sometime gardener/handyman and my all-time friend

So much has happened this year.  Over 45 years ago I was working on a farm which had students working there.  I befriended a New Zealand boy who eventually stayed with us.  He was with us about four years.  The help he gave me when my wife went to look after her sick mum was amazing. I'd been left with two children about 8-9 years old and without his help I wouldn't have managed.  Anyway, he went back to NZ and as so often happens we lost touch with each other,  Over the years I have never forgotten him or his kindness,  All I had was two letters from 1976, a newspaper cutting of his dad's death and a map of NZ.  Every time I took them out I would wonder what had happened to him.  I started to search around a bit.  I found out where his dad lived and found someone who had lived there.  I told my daughter  and my bucket list had him on it.  My daughter's husband had a mate in New Zealand and thanks to him I'm now back in touch  again.  He rang me one Sunday morning a few weeks ago.  We both couldn't speak for a while.  We were overcome with emotion.  He's promised to ring again next Christmas Day (if not before).  What a nice present that will be!

The day after we got back in touch we had some devastating  news.  Someone very close to me was told they had terminal illness.  I was absolutely heart-broken.  I won't go into details as it's too upsetting.

The Vicar came before Christmas and left a Christmas bag for me in the recycling bin!  (Note from The Vicar: that's where Jack told me to leave it!) I hope she got as much enjoyment from it as I did when the day arrived.  In my bag was a yellow belly notebook, a Lincolnshire dialect book, (I think she gave me this so I can speak correctly), and a book about the Lincolnshire potato railway.  As you may gather I'm very proud of my county.  She also gave me a Christmas tree hat, a bag of chocolate money (I'll bet it was hard for her to give me that), a tin of garden twine, four cans of my favourite tipple, an I SHIH TZU NOT mug and coaster and a bauble with a shih tzu on it, and of course a sugar mouse.  She knows I'm going through a difficult time at the moment and these pressies cheered me up.

Vicar, thank you for the unexpected gifts and for all your kindness and understanding.  Your visits give me the chance to pull your leg an forget other things for a while.  Mrs Jack enjoys your time with us too.  I don't know when I'll be back but tell Pete-the-handyman-and-gardener that he's been doing a good job and Annie-the home-enhancer ha definitely been doing a good job.  They're both looking after you so well.

Thank you to everyone for your comments on our Golden Wedding Day.  I hope you all have a splendid 2019 with your loved ones.  You never can tell what's around the corner.

And remember - exercise daily - walk wi the Lord

Love, Jack

View from the plughole

It's a very long time (thirteen days) since I wrote anything on this blog so, as it must seem as though I have gone down the plughole, I think I must report in!

Actually, the plughole is where I haven't been.  January isn't the most exciting of months but it has been OK.  I've been out for lunch SEVEN times!  I was amazed when I checked and counted.  That's included post Christmas catch-ups, a board game session and a wonderful afternoon tea.  

I've been to the Women's Institute and Trefoil Guild.

My average daily step count is the highest it's been since October 2016.  I've managed to work out a figure-of-eight course around three rooms and two tables so I can walk quite a lot indoors.  

I've conducted two Sunday services, one baptism and one funeral.  This is a lot less than I did last month but December I did too much.  I was rather over-tired.  It's hard to admit but I'm just not as young as I used to be.  

I've knitted, crocheted, sewn, made cards and generally messed around.  I've made a start on Christmas presents!  Lovely!

I've done quite a bit of pastoral visiting, written letters and emailed or phoned several people for whom I have a special concern.

And I am happy.  No January plughole for me this year!

(Update especially for Jack's followers.  He's just sent me a poem)

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
Not with silver bells or cockle shells
But with beetroot, beans and brassica all in a row amongst the flowers.

Have a nice day.  And that includes you, Jack.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Beating the January bleughs

There's something about January which makes me low.  Maybe it's because Christmas is over.  Maybe it's because light levels are low.  Whatever it is I know I'm not the only one to find January difficult.  It happens every year and really it's January and February too which is too long a period to feel low.

So I need a bit of January Joy!  Today I found just that.  Sharon, my cousin's wife, had been given a voucher for afternoon tea at a local tearoom and she very kindly invited me and we had afternoon tea at lunch time.  Look what arrived.  We both gasped as it looked a wonderful tea-for-two.  We gasped even more when a second cake stand full arrived - this food is just for one person.  You won't be surprised that we needed a doggy bag and Sharon's grandchildren were in luck.

When I got home I nipped out into the garden and I was greeted by the sight of my first snowdrops!!  Oh aren't they a joy!  And these are just the first of many.  

While I was out there I had a check on the veg patch and the leeks are now lovely and fat.  The joy of leek and potato soup will soon be mine.  

Maybe January 2019 won't be too bad.  

Sunday, 6 January 2019

The Camel's Tale

I’d never thought that being a camel was all that wonderful but you know without a bunch of us lugging the supplies and tents and whatever, the three Wise Ones would never have made it to Bethlehem by the twelfth day.  Mind you, I didn’t carry the supplies.  I carried the wisest one, Melchior.

By the time we made it to Bethlehem the little town was getting back to being its sleepy old self after being so busy for that census.  Most people had gone off home but the disreputable couple we’d gone to see were still there.  There was just a man, a woman, and the baby. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Wise Ones are all very well but as far as camels are concerned camel boys are a lot more use.  They see to it that we’re fed and watered and rubbed down now and then.  The Wise Ones were totally useless. If they were not gazing at the stars they were talking about them, charting them, interpreting them and all that malarkey. They often missed the most interesting exciting parts of the journey, so absorbed and preoccupied were they with their own concerns and interests. They didn’t notice Lucky, the mouse who smuggled herself into the saddlebag of Caspar's camel. She was a teenage mouse who had had a terrible fight with her parents. But there I go again. I'm getting off the point.

Well, we went to that dreadful King Herod's place. Oh, there was plenty of water and grain and other good things to eat, but even we could sense the evil that hung around there.  There was that smarmy Herod who wanted the Wise Ones to find the new King of the Jews and come back to tell him where he could go to pay his respects himself.  It wasn't what he said but how he said it that made even the fleas on my humps crawl with uneasiness. Creepy man. 

On the outskirts of Bethlehem we ran across the happiest and wildest bunch of  shepherds you ever did see. All of them talking at once about angels and a baby and Good News for everyone. The Wise Ones smiled. The first time any of us had ever seen them smile! So just we three best camels carried the Wise Ones into town to see if it was just as the shepherds had told us.

When we found them it was night. It was very cold. Of course I wasn't supposed to come into the place where they were but I thought it wouldn’t matter if I just stuck my head in for a peek whilst the Wise Ones were deciding if they really were at the right place.

Well, it was a bit surprising to find the scene so ordinary.   I mean, even when a new camel is born amongst the herd, there is more attention and excitement: camel boys doing the midwifery, the rest of us clomping around to get a peek, shouts, cheers, everyone watching the new one try to stand up for the first time.

There was none of that in this little tiny place in Bethlehem. The man, the woman, between them the child. The Wise Ones put their gifts in there, and bowed down on bended knee and all that. Then it was back out the door, and up looking into the stars again, and soon we were on our way out of town. All of us except Lucky, that is. She’d still been hiding in that saddlebag and she hopped out and stayed behind. She was staying right there with him, the one born to be King. She wanted to live the rest of his story!

It was some years later that another mouse joined our caravan and started telling some fantastic and wonderful stories she had heard from her great-great-grandmother Lucky! Seems that throughout the years many people came to see the child as he grew up. Some went running through the streets and all over the world telling others the good things they had seen and heard about this child. All came seeking to receive something, but once you see him, really see him, you long to give whatever you have to further his life in the world.

Sometime or another, everyone needs to take a look in that baby. I know what I saw. Even I could see that this Jesus calls us to follow him so we might do something beautiful with our lives and bear much fruit. Even camels!

Isn’t it weird.  The Wise Ones are off all the time looking at the light in the stars, when the light of the world is right here in the midst of us.  Any camel with eyes could see that!   It’s a deep secret that even the Wise Ones overlook most of the time. Keep looking at the babe in the manger, offer him your gifts, and you will see all that there is to know and see!   And who knows, maybe if we all offer as much as we receive, we just might in fact make it through the eye of a needle!

This is not an original story, I heard or read a similar one some years ago but cannot remember the source.  I've written my own version of someone else's original idea and if anyone knows the source of that idea I would be very grateful if they let me know!