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Friday 30 March 2018

Simple pleasures of an extended family

I have no immediate family.  I never married and never had any children.  My only sister died some years ago and her only son lives in Belgium.  I also have an elderly aunt who lives here in Caistor.

However, I am richly blessed with cousins.  I had eight on my Mother's side of my family and nineteen on my Father's side.  Of those twenty seven, nine have died. 

I'm sure there were more than this.  I wonder where the others went?
Some I see very infrequently but several of them live within easy distance and many are ready to help me as soon as they receive a phone call.  But what is even lovelier is that they're not just at the other end of a phone line when I yell, we also meet up for the pleasure of each other's company.  

On the first Good Friday after I came to live here in Caistor Auntie Hettie invited me for Hot Cross Buns for breakfast.  Not just any buns, but Hot Cross Buns which she had freshly made on Good Friday morning.  What a labour of love!  She continued the tradition until a few years ago and her daughter Carrie took over.

And so this morning I had breakfast at Auntie Hettie's.  Hot, Hot Cross Buns.  Dripping with butter.

This simple pleasure is two-fold.  First there are the Buns themselves.  Good traditional food and delicious.  But the second is the joy of being part of an extended family and being valued in that family.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Simple pleasures on a drizzly day

I live in a lovely community in a glorious county but I know that the loveliness and the glory are there because other people have volunteered and planted things, picked litter and made sure beauty is accessible to all and for all that effort I am deeply grateful

Today I had the opportunity to help enrich our environment when I joined with our Trefoil Guild in planting snowdrops in the grounds of our County House.  Each of us had dug  few bulbs from our gardens at home and on a drizzly March day we joined together to plant them "in the green".

There's a real satisfaction in knowing that next year things will look even better than this year and, because snowdrops spread very readily in this area, things will continue to get even better.
So a simple pleasure for this not-very-nice day in March was knowing that we have started a new swathe of beauty which should last for many years to come.

Monday 26 March 2018

Simple pleasures on a sunny day

The last two days have been sunny and wonderful here in Caistor.  Yesterday I went up to church on my trundle truck and I think I worshipped almost as much on the journey as I did in church.

I passed this lovely bank on the way.  Then at church there was a lovely display of jonquils.  I felt especially lucky because they were more or less at eye level for me as I rode my scooter
And there will soon be glorious flowers around the old trap in the churchyard.Simple pleasures, available without charge to anyone who cares to look

Sunday 25 March 2018

News about Jack

Jack modelling a t shirt sent from across the pond
Long time readers of this blog will know that Jack is my gardener and handyman but most of all he is my friend.  He has written on this blog and he has been written about.  If you click on the label "Jack" on my sidebar you'll find posts about him and several posts by him.  

For quite a while he has been experiencing more and more pain in his knees and it was decided well over a year ago that he needed a replacement joint.  I've visited him at home a few times but he hasn't been here since January 2017.

Well, last Thursday he had his surgery at last.  I haven't seen him yet but we have exchanged texts and he should be home in the next couple of days.  He'll probably read this post so


Update Sunday evening.  Jack is now home but still in some pain so I won't be visiting for a while.  He'll probably be able to read the blog now.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Simple pleasures on mundane days

It would be impossible for every day to be exciting and the mundane days come around with great frequency.  However, mundane does not mean unpleasant, for surely it is on mundane days that simple pleasures are really needed.

Most of yesterday was pretty mundane.  I took a simple funeral in the morning for a very old lady who had outlived all her friends and most of her family. Just her son and his partner and four staff members from her residential home came.  However, I take just as much care for those funerals (which present their own challenges) as I do for the "standing room only" type and once I've done a funeral I spend the rest of the day very quietly.

So I knitted - such  simple pleasure.  I'm not good at knitting.  Usually I knit scarves or hats and not much more but I wanted to have a go at circular knitting so I obtained circular needles, a pattern for a jumper,and some wool.  I tried making stitch markers out of odd bits of wool but found that proper stitch markers would be easier to use so I bought those too. This will not be a cheap garment!  Yesterday I was able to get quite a bit done.  

I wasn't feeling very interested in cooking so I looked for something very simple.  My eyes fell on a tin of mushy peas - not a sophisticated choice!  I used to go to a Bonfire Night party many years ago where mushy peas with mint sauce was among the delights on offer.  So I opened a tin, add mint sauce and thoroughly enjoyed my ridiculous meal.  Comfort food or what!!!

While I was knitting and while I was eating I was remembering.  I thought about the old lady and the good long life she had enjoyed.  I thought about the friends with whom I had shared those 5th November parties all those years ago.  I remembered and I day dreamed about so much, things which I would never have thought about on an exciting day but the memories were good and the day dreams even better.

So three simple pleasures for mundane days - knitting, comfort food and day dreaming.  

Sunday 18 March 2018

Simple pleasures on cold days

I wrote recently about my lovely book Simple Pleasures:little things that make life worth living and today has been a day for appreciating a few simple pleasures for cold days.

1. I've been enjoying the view from my window.  The starlings have been squabbling, passing children have been waving and I'm warm and happy indoors.  Bliss.

2. Comfort food has been on the menu today.  Casserole for lunch and there will be soup for supper.  Simple homely food to warm both body and soul.

3. The joy of making things.  I made my soup and casserole but I also knitted and I sewed.  Creativity is always a pleasure but not regretting being confined indoors is hugely helped by doing something wonderful with the time.  

Friday 16 March 2018

Hi Mandy!

It was one of my favourite days of the month today - I went to Mandy's aka Dunholme Crafter.  I came home with four cards having had a lovely morning chatting and doing some papercraft.  

So, here you are

With a little bit of luck Mandy has found this post with the greatest of ease as, just for once, I was able to show my appreciation for the things she teaches me by showing her a couple of things on her computer.

Hi Mandy

Saturday 10 March 2018

Some of my best friends are books

I no longer hoard books.  I used to - big time.  When I left school I trained as a librarian so in my work I handled as many books as anyone could want.  Then I changed course and after the odd experiment in the job market I became a parson some years later, a profession famed for bookishness.  That was when hoarding really took hold but I used my skills of book classification and cataloguing and had well ordered book shelves. All was well.  Vicarages have studies and mine was definitely book-lined.

But then came retirement and most of the books just had to go.  Unless I wanted every room in my bungalow to be dominated by volumes on theology, horticulture, cookery, needle arts and anything else which had ever taken my fancy, I had to rationalise.  

One big help in this was my Kindle.  As far as possible I no longer buy fiction in anything other than digital form.  I now enjoy many titles as audiobooks to be listened to as I do other things.  T'interweb became my main source of information on many subjects and my book buying was cut back.

 I still buy some books.  Three or four years ago I bought this one, "Small pleasures: little things that make life worth living"  published by The National Trust.  It consists of essays written by a variety of people.  Here one can read Adam Hart-Davis on the satisfaction of working with wood, Prue Leith on the pleasure of a hot bath, Roy Hattersley on grooming a dog, and a huge variety of other authors on litter picking, reading aloud, playing the piano or whatever else gives pleasure to life.

The real joy of this book is not what is in it but what isn't in it.  It has spurred me on to look at the simple things which give me pleasure.   It's a long time since I wrote about the little sources of joy I find in my everyday life.

Watch this space

Thursday 8 March 2018

Time Runs

It's a really good year for milestone birthdays and anniversaries.  I'm wholeheartedly in favour of a special celebration every ten years.  I did a "Project 60" in the run up to my last "special birthday" and, although I've still got nearly four years before the first digit of my age changes again, I've started to think about Project 70.

But this post isn't supposed to be about me.  It's about my wonderful friends who have Golden Wedding Anniversaries or Very Special Birthdays this year.  Just before I was ill I went to a wonderful ninetieth birthday party for the mother of an old school friend.  She had a whale of a time.  I didn't give her a birthday present as I knew she would be inundated with flowers but instead I told her that some time before she is 91 she will get an Unbirthday Present.  She thought it was a wonderful idea!

I made the same promise to my friend Doreen who was eighty last month.  Sadly I wasn't feeling well enough to go to her birthday bash but sometime before she's 81 she will receive a bouquet on a day when she's least expecting it.  She loves the fact that she will have flowers at an odd time of the year and I have given her the gift of anticipation.

When I was a child my family celebrated each of my birthdays with a party,  cake and a lot of special fuss but these days milestone birthdays seem to come round as quickly as each birthday did before I was a teenager.  I want to finish this post with a poem by Henry Twells, a Victorian vicar.  He knew all about how time varies her speed.

Time's Paces

When as a child I laughed and wept, 
Time Crept 
 When as a youth I waxed more bold, 
Time Strolled 
 When I became a full-grown man 
Time Ran 
 When older still I daily grew, 
Time Flew 
 Soon I shall find, in passing on, 
Time Gone 
 O Christ, wilt thou have saved me then? 

Wednesday 7 March 2018


I think I rather underestimated how much my cold knocked me back.  I am having real difficulty in getting back to a reasonable active lifestyle.  The steps are even more babyish than I had thought they would be.

I am managing a little though.  On Monday I went to Brigg, mainly to replenish the supplies of bird food.  There seems be to very little interest in the poppy seed hearts, Niger seeds or mixed seeds which I put out but the local birds can't get enough of the mealyworms and fat with insects in it.  This sort of cheep food isn't cheap food by any means but I'm having such entertainment that I'll pay.  The winds last week meant that mealyworms blew from the table but I melted some waste fat from the kitchen and mixed the worms with that and they then stayed on the table until fetched by the birds.

The Ancholme at Brigg
Brigg was lovely as always.  It's a trundle truck users dream.  Everyone gets free parking for two hours in Brigg but there is no limit for Blue Badge holders.  Once parked I can get the TT out of the car and trundle to my heart's content as the whole shopping area is fully pedestrianised and there is a path down by the river which means I can soon be out of the town and watching birds in the countryside and on the water.
Stixwould signal box and the canal beyond
Yesterday I went to talk to my spiritual counsellor.  Henry sees his clients in a converted signalbox at an old railway station near a canal.  It's a lovely comfortable room but one of the best things about it is that the bird watching is great.  It's rather nice to be able to break off from the conversation when something interesting is happening outside.  Yesterday there were egrets visible from the signal box and I watched a moorhen who I think was prospecting for somewhere to build her nest.

I'm no twitcher but there is something very special about seeing nature going about her business.

Thursday 1 March 2018


Max Ehrman's prose poem "Desiderata" was very popular when I was in my teens and twenties and at one time I could have recited it by heart.  I can't do that any more but some lines continue to haunt me (in the nicest possible way).

I was thinking yesterday about the line "Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself" as it seems to be my theme for the moment: finding the balance between the discipline necessary for a healthy life and yet seeking joy as a quality to be cultivated as my life unfolds.

The early part of my life, (and indeed the early part of most people's lives), was spent pursuing a career, being a carer, working a lot of things out for myself.  My days of pursuing a career are over and my responsibility to be a carer has been discharged but I doubt the need to work things out for myself will ever come to an end. 

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this post but being stuck indoors for nearly three weeks has made me rather introspective so I'm sharing this lovely poem with you

Desiderata - words for life

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.