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Thursday 31 December 2020

I'm with Tennyson!

"Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘It will be happier;’"  (Tennyson, The Foresters)

2020 has been a truly memorable year and actually I have personally quite enjoyed it.  That has not been true for everyone though, and most people will be happy to consign this year to history.    

I have had great conversations with friends by phone, zoom and letter.  I've tried new recipes.  I've scanned most of my photographs and decluttered a lot.  I've knitted, sewn, crocheted, read.  I've enjoyed my garden and my home.  

But for me the most important thing is that I have sorted a lot of mental and emotional debris.  I feel ready for 2021 to be the first year of the rest of my life - once I have had my vaccination!  

Come, my friends, t'is not too late to seek a newer world"  (Tennyson, Ulysses)

Sunday 20 December 2020

Reading the story again 4

 Well, here's a how de do!  Plans made for Christmas - and now changed.  A bird ordered for Christmas Day, and now it's the wrong size.   Bubbles negotiated and now abandoned.  It's not fair!!!

This isn't the post I'd been planning all week which is totally appropriate because nothing that anyone has been planning all week will happen.  Boris has spoke and now we're all stuck, and some of us are more stuck than others.  I don't think it was a decision taken lightly and it's a decision which no-one wanted but it is necessary.

Overseas readers may not know that since yesterday we have new rules which mean that Christmas celebrations have to be very small (they weren't allowed to be big before yesterday but for some areas it's just one household now) and even in areas where we can meet it's just one day now, not the four days we had been planning.  Travelling is out for some areas and severely discouraged for others.

Mary and Joseph too must have had very different plans for their whole lives but both of them set aside their personal preferences for the good of all because God had asked them too.  They'd probably planned a quiet life in Nazareth pretty well the same sort of life as their parents and everybody else had.  They would probably have been quite glad not to have travelled first to Bethlehem and then to Egypt.

But it was not to be.  They had to go along with the divine plan and do what was necessary.  They seem to have done what was needed and to have done it graciously.

If you have had to change your plans, I really wish you had been able just to carry on.  The changes to my own plan are comparatively minor and my disappointment is correspondingly small.  I hope, however, that you will still be richly blessed this Christmas.   And if you are a carer or health worker, I thank you from the bottom of my heart that despite 67.000+ deaths, so many of us will still have some sort of a Christmas because of your heroic efforts.  May God bless you.  

Monday 14 December 2020

Reading the story again 3

I think one of the most chilling things in the news this year has been something called "excess deaths".  What it means is the increase in the death rate this year.  It's not just covid but because people have delayed seeking medical help because they "didn't want to bother the doctor".  It's the result of delayed treatments because the hospital was dealing with too many corona cases.  And, of course, it does include covid cases.  My reading of the Christmas story reminded me of some deaths around the time of that first Christmas.  

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  

Matthew goes on to talk of Rachel weeping for her children, the victims of an unjust king, children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For some people Christmas is never a happy time of the year because it is the anniversary of the death of someone they love.  For many people this will be the first Christmas without the special someone who has lit up every Christmas until now.  The deaths they remember are all "excess" and the jollity often feels so hollow.  

I can't find the right words to say to you if you are in that group for the simple reason there are no right words.  I say that every year and every year I mean it.  We are all of us so very human and we wish we could say something to make it better but we can't.  Never feel though, that no-one cares. It is more likely that they care so much that they won't patronise you with platitudes.  

I'm joining in "Advent at Home" hosted by Ang at Tracing Rainbows

Thursday 10 December 2020

Letting off steam. By Jack.


Hi Everyone!

Hope you’re all keeping in the best of health and free of the virus.

Well, it’s getting around to Xmas again.  I’m not too fond if this time of the year.  What a year this has been for me.  I’ve had a few upsets but also some good times.  I won’t dwell on the bad times.  All of you who have read my posts will know some of the bad ones. 

One of the best things to have happened this year is that after four years I am now visiting the person who does all the editing of my posts although at times I could happily have reprimanded her.  She knows what I am talking about and I won’t repeat what she’s been doing to upset me.  The worst part of it is that I forgive and forget.  She might forgive me but she never forgets.  So, having said that here’s something that happened and she won’t let me forget about it.  I made an error of judgement in guessing someone’s age. 

We were taking some benches for use at another church where her good friend is a lady vicar.  Because Mary had done some favours for this vicar, she had accumulated some Brownie points but she lost the lot when (entirely out of character) and I said something wrong.  It’s so unlike me: I’m such a shy and quiet person.  Vicar Eileen forgave me there and then for getting her husband’s age so wrong, so thank you, Eileen, you are so very kind.  In my defence I had just had a cataract operation, the sun was in my eyes, I was feeling a little down that and if I can think of any more excuses, I’ll write them at the end. 

My not-so-friendly vicar Mary just won’t let go.  I’ve begged her to stop using my misdemeanour against me, but will she?  No, she won’t.  Today on my way to her house I’ve done some shopping for her, I stayed to watch over her when she was doing her walking and did everything she wanted in  her garden.  The vegetable garden has been superb this year, I’ve mended and varnished the garden furniture and generally tried to please her.  What do I get in return?   AGGRO!  She’s had plums, strawberries, potatoes, onions, flowers and still the aggro goes on!  If any of you have any suggestions how I can regain her Brownie points with Vicar Eileen (and I’m including you in this too, Vicar Eileen), please let me know as soon as you can.

On other things, our phone calls to each other have been getting out of hand.  She’s tried to catch me out by phoning at different times: it’s supposed to be 8.30am.  I can’t get my own back as we both get u at 6am but I’ll catch her out one day. 

But for all my misgivings I wouldn’t change a thing.  We’ve been friends for a long time now and no Brownie points can spoil what we have.

I hope you all have a happy and joyful Christmas.  Don’t go mad with the turkey or mince pies unless you want to make slimming one of your new year resolutions.

See, you all soon, Love, Jack

Wednesday 9 December 2020

This and that.

 Jack is coming today so I have been rushing around getting ready for him.  Life is wonderful when he has been but the run-up to his arrival. . . . oh dear!  I now need a sit down.

While I've been sitting Claire-from-along-the-road texted to suggest a walk.  I declined.  I'm still walking around the block but I've been doing it almost every day so I have awarded myself a gold star and allowed myself a breather on the grounds that I will be sending the day chasing around after Jack.  

Most of my Christmas cards have now gone so I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I enjoy writing each card or letter - it's just the sheer number of cards and letters which can be daunting.  

My advent stable is filling nicely with five animals, two herdsmen and a star and there's an angel perched on top.  I take care when I put it away after each Christmas so that the figures come out in some sort of order but I vary the order and I can never remember which order I have put them in so there is still an element of surprise.  

I've had an e mail from Tracing Rainbows to say I have won her giveaway!  That's another lovely Christmas surprise.  

Sunday 6 December 2020

Reading the story again 2

 I'd always wanted a nativity set.  It couldn't be one of those where the characters are fixed in their places:  it had to be one where I could arrange the figures myself,  And the older I got, the fussier I was about what I wanted.

But several years ago I was in some sort of Christmas shop and I saw a set which had been pushed to one side.  They weren't particularly pretty figures, just black resin, but they had character and I felt sorry for them because they'd been put in a rubbishy place.   The price was about £25 and I didn't feel sorry enough to pay that!  

The shop owner saw me looking and she said, "If you want those you can have them for a fiver.  The donkey and one of the kings have disappeared so no-one wants them."  So I handed over £5 and she packed them.   "Just don't let the vicar see them if he comes for tea" she quipped.   

So I 'fessed up.  "I am a vicar".  You could have knocked her down with a feather. 

I went on to explain that there's no mention of a donkey in the Bible story and although there are three gifts from the Magi, nowhere does it say there were three of them.  So, as far as I am concerned, the set is true to Bible.  I wonder if she went home and looked again at the story?  Knowing the gospels had saved me £20!

This post isn't about saving money though: it's about reading the story.  Over the years there have been traditions attached to it as surely as decorations go on the tree.  Even a "religious" Christmas has its trimmings!  

I'm going to miss quite a few of those trimmings.  I shall miss the lights going out in church and the children singing "Away in a manger" by candle light.  I shall miss hearing Isaiah's great prophecies read in the strong, heavily-accented voice of a Lincolnshire farmer.  I shall miss eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine after a carol service.

All those things are good and normally I just take them for granted as part of Christmas just as surely as the shop owner took a donkey as part of the Christmas story.  This year my Christmas will be stripped of many of its religious customs just as surely as it will be stripped of many other things,  But nothing can strip away that one central truth, "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth."

I'm joining in "Advent at Home" hosted by Ang at Tracing Rainbows

Monday 30 November 2020

Reading the story again

I've started reading the Christmas story again and, as always, something new hit me this year.

Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem because there was a census and everyone had to go back to the place the family called home so that they could be counted.  Everyone.

My Advent stable waits for its visitors

It should surely have been a family expedition.  And yet there is no mention of any of Joseph and Mary's family being around.   No aunts and uncles seem to have called in.  No cousins visited.  There were shepherds and angels and fancy chaps from the east but family visits?  None.

Was it that family visits were too insignificant for the gospel writers to have recorded?  Did everyone disapprove of the couple so much that they left them alone?  Did the rest of the family not bother to go to Bethlehem to be counted?  I'm sure scholars must have pondered this one over the years but it is this year that it has really struck me.  

For me Christmas Day will be the same as it has been these last eleven years since I retired.  I'll go to church (first time since March!) then it's home for a quiet day alone.  But for others it will be the year when they don't meet up with their extended family, when they have to see their grandchildren's faces on a screen.  We had our usual street meeting on Thursday and all the other households would normally be travelling to stay with their children and grandchildren but they all feel it would be too risky so we all got quite excited when we decided to have a street meet-up at 6pm Christmas Eve.  (I'm even planning to put jingle bells on my mobility scooter for the occasion!)  We're all valuing little things which would normally be very unimportant.  

But don't forget that little threesome who spent that first Christmas in Bethlehem.  Maybe they too were wishing that granny and grandad could have been around.

Don't forget to check Tracing Rainbows for other "Thoughts" in the "Advent at Home" 

Friday 20 November 2020

It makes a change!

 I used to enjoy walking.  A lot.  I would walk to and from school,  I would go out for walk of a couple of miles before bedtime.  I walked my dog.  Walking was good thinking time, time to set my mind in order.

But sadly as the result of an accident nearly fifty years ago walks of more than half a mile or so became impossible about fifteen years ago.  A mental breakdown ten years ago left me with panic attacks if I walk more than two hundred yards.

I'm OK around my house and garden so every day I walk up and down the hallway in five minute bursts to walk about two thousand steps over the course of a day but it is always boring and sometimes quite difficult. 

Being stuck at home has made me decide to see how far I can push my boundaries.  How many steps can I manage around the house?  And even, could I walk around my block?  

A couple of months ago when Jack was here I ventured out, taking my mobile phone and making him promise that he would bring his car and rescue me if necessary.  It took me twenty minutes and five "sitting downs" on my walker and he didn't need to rescue me but I hadn't tried again.

This morning Claire-from-along-the-road phoned and suggested a walk.  

I managed it!  It took just fifteen minutes and "three sitting downs".  I deserve this extra sit-down!

Sunday 8 November 2020

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

This year marks the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior. The idea of such a tomb goes back to 1916 and an army chaplain called David Railton.  He’d seen a grave marked by a rough cross, and on it was written in pencil 'An Unknown British Soldier'.  After the war he wrote to the Dean of Westminster proposing that an unidentified British soldier from the battlefields in France should be buried in Westminster Abbey "amongst the kings" to represent the many hundreds of thousands of Empire dead.  

But who should it be – after all, by definition it had to be the body of someone unknown.  So six bodies were exhumed from six different battlefields and brought to a chapel.  Two senior officers went into the chapel where the remains were on stretchers each covered by Union Flags.  The most senior officer was blind folded and laid his hand on one of the bodies. The two officers placed the body in a plain coffin and sealed it. The other bodies were then taken away for reburial.

The coffin of the chosen coffin was then placed in a casket of the oak timbers of trees from Hampton Court Palace.    The casket was banded with iron and a medieval crusader's sword, chosen by the king personally from the Royal Collection, was affixed to the top and surmounted by an iron shield bearing the inscription 'A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 for King and Country'.

 With great ceremony the casket was taken back to Westminster Abbey.  First it travelled on a French military wagon, drawn by six black horses. It was saluted by Marshal Foch and then piped aboard the destroyer, HMS Verdun.   The Verdun was joined by an escort of six battleships.  As the flotilla carrying the casket landed in Dover it received a 19 gun Field Marshall's salute. It was carried to London in the railway carriage which had previously carried the body of Edith Cavell. The train went to Victoria Station, where it remained overnight.

 On the morning of 11 November 1920, the casket was placed onto a gun carriage of the Royal Horse Artillery and drawn by six horses through immense and silent crowds. As the cortege set off, a further field marshal's salute was fired in Hyde Park.  The casket was then followed by the king, the Royal Family and ministers of state to Westminster Abbey, and was carried into the West Nave of the Abbey flanked by a guard of honour of recipients of the Victoria Cross.

The guests of honour were a group of about one hundred women.   They had been chosen because they had each lost their husband and all their sons in the war.  The coffin was then buried in the far western end of the nave, only a few feet from the entrance, in soil brought from each of the main battlefields, and covered with a silk pall. Servicemen from the armed forces stood guard as tens of thousands of mourners filed silently past.

The grave was then capped with a black Belgian marble stone.  You may walk on any floor tomb in the Abbey except that one and it bears an inscription engraved with brass from melted down wartime ammunition.  It reads

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior unknown by name or rank brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day 11 November: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his ministers of state, the chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation.  Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 - 1918 gave the most that man can give - life itself - for God, for King and country, for loved ones home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward His house.”

Thursday 5 November 2020

Special time

 I can't begin to imagine how life is feeling in America at the moment.  It sounds frightening and, like many Brits, I'm praying for you.

In England, (it varies through the UK),  we are having a different kind of tough time at the moment as we enter a second lockdown.  Right at the beginning of the first lock down I sat down with a large coffee and a little something and I decided that I would regard it as a gift time and, for the most part, I carried that intention through. 

 It's been even harder to make that resolution the second time.  I know I'm in for a lonely few weeks.  (There's no-one I can bubble with.)  This time around I won't be able to sit in my garden so much.  There's no sense of novelty.  

On the other hand I've been here before and I have some strategies.  I've sorted quite a bit in my house so it's even nicer to be in.  I'm into a routine of telephone calls on a regular basis.  

So, once again this will be gift time - in fact this time, it will partly be a time for making gifts!  It will be a time for reflecting on all the good things I have been given - not just material things but love, determination, and inspiration (thanks Tracing Rainbows for reminding me of that one).   

Jack came on Tuesday and he won't be here again until after lockdown but he left me a little encouragement.  I've had these  storage drawer quite a long time but there were only two wheels on this particular wagon and I'd lost the other two.  Jack made a wheeled platform and fixed the drawers on so I can do some organising and decluttering,  

And as further inspiration he says that if I don't use it for that I could use the platform as a skate board.

Amazing ideas he has, does Jack!

Sunday 1 November 2020

Looking back at October

Some of my birthday flowers
 Well, we are all going to have to adjust back into lockdown.  To be honest I didn't really come out of isolation very much.  I had two days out (Clumber Park and Gunby Hall) and a visit to Brigg, and I visited a couple of cousins but I have maintained my seclusion.  Jack has been, but not into the house.

But October was good.  The big event for me was my birthday.  Truth to tell I had expected a non-event but the event was suitably marked.  I had lots of flowers, always one of my favourite gifts.  I cooked a very special meal and indulged myself.

When Jack comes my quality of life rockets!  He has been doing all sorts of jobs and here is some of the evidence.  My flower borders and vegetable patch are all ready for the winter.  

And when I have my lunch today I will have lovely fresh vegetables.  Thanks to you, Jack, I can have birthdays all the year around!

Monday 26 October 2020

The kind people at No 25

In autumn last year, outside No 25 on a nearby street, there was a small, blue plastic table which was covered with patty pan squashes and a sign saying "Help yourself".  So I did.  I helped myself to several, brought them home and roasted them with homegrown tomatoes to make soup which I froze and ate during the winter.  It was delicious!

When I was writing my Christmas cards I had been enjoying the soup and I thought the kind donor of the squash might like one of my home-made cards but I didn't know their name so I just wrote, "To the kind people at No 25" and thought no more of it.

Last week my door bell rang and there stood a lady I had never seen before and she was holding a marrow and a butternut squash.  She was the kind lady from 25.  She had saved my card (I always print my name and address) and she had been so delighted to get it that she had brought me these gifts.

There really are kind people at No 25.

Monday 12 October 2020

Motherly love and worry (Guest post by Jack)

 Hi Everyone

 As you will see by my header, I’ve got two things to write about today,

 Some time ago I had an unexpected lodger, someone I called Penelope.  She was a baby pigeon.  One night I let my little dog out for her evening constitutional and she started to bark at something hiding behind some potted plants so I called her in.  Next morning I found what she had been barking at as my dog was escorting a little bird around my garden!  I could see what had happened: the bird had flown out of the nest which was in a tree next door.  She had hit my bedroom window and must have hurt herself because she sheltered in my back garden.  I treat all of God’s creatures with the same kindness (including the Vicar) so I put a bowl of milk and some food on the ground for Penelope (but the Vicar gets hers on the table).  Every morning the first thing I would do was to make sure Penelope was still with me and OK.  I kept my eye on her throughout the day and, what a nice surprise, I got her Mum to come three or four times a day to regurgitate and feed her baby.  If that isn’t mother love, I can’t think of anything more wonderful.  We humans don’t realise sometimes how the animal world works.  Anyway, on the seventh day Penelope tried to fly.  The poor little thing flew straight into the same window.  She must have recovered because on the eighth day she was waiting on my bird bath when I went out to make sure she was alright.  Penelope bobbed her head twice as much as to say, “thank you” then flew off.  Those eight days were some of the best I’ve had for a while.  I had someone to talk to in a morning.  God speed, Penelope, take care. 

 Now to the other thing, WORRY.  This is about someone else I care about.   As you may know, the vicar and I phone each other every day.   Sometimes hers is the only voice I hear all day and I look forward to our call no end.  As I’ve found it is a very lonely life living on my own and that twenty or thirty minutes with the Vicar is great.  It’s so nice to hear someone’s voice.  So, if any of you bloggers know of anyone living on their own near you or you have relatives or anyone else, give them a call.  Let them know someone out there cares about them.  Getting back to this worry subject, one day I rang the vicar at the usual time, around 8.30am.  I got no answer.  I kept ringing every five minutes until 9.15am by which time the tears were flowing because I was upset thinking something had happened to my vicar friend.   I rang the lady next door as I had her number in case of emergencies.  I asked her to go and have a look if she could see the vicar.  No, she couldn’t see her.  Right, I decided, I would get in my car and drive over thinking Mary would be on the floor or something.  By this time, I was out of my mind with worry!  The lady rang me back just as I was going to my car.  She remembered the key safe which I’d put near the back door.  She went and tapped in the numbers and let herself in, had a good look around then phoned me to say there was no sign of her, knowing this would ease my mind a bit.  Not long after my phone rang again – guess who it was.  The Vicar had been warned by the lady next door that I wasn’t very happy and I was on the warpath.  As soon as I heard the Vicar’s voice I burst into tears but when the tears abated, my, I didn’t hold back.  I really let rip at her.  But one good thing came out of it, our back-up system worked with help from the lady next door.  Thank you, Kate. 

 On a lighter note, one morning we were chatting and my little dog was barking so Mary asked, What’s the matter with Millie?”  I didn’t say but spelt it out that she wanted to go for a walk.  So, what did the Vicar do?  She shouted as loud as she could, “WALKIES”.  Millie’s ears pricked up and she barked even louder. 

 So, as you can see, the Vicar’s not an angel all the time.

 I hope you’re all staying free from the virus.  We’ve all got the Lord on our side and I’ve got the Vicar on my side.

 Love to everyone, Jack

(Very brief note from the Vicar.  When I'd gone AWOL I was with my cousin whose mum died earlier this year and I'm supporting her as well.  But I'm still sorry I caused him so much worry.)

Sunday 27 September 2020

Adjusting 8: 200 days


It was 11th March when I decided that I was too uncomfortable to go out.  Corona virus was hitting the headlines but there was no lockdown.  Many countries were banning international flights but on the 12th the UK government advice was just don't go on a cruise!  Other European countries were closing schools or going into lockdown but the UK was propounding "herd immunity" conveniently forgetting that immunity comes only after most of the "herd" has had the disease.  

Lockdown didn't start officially in the UK until 23rd March but I count my "withdrawal" from 11th March, hence 200 days.  I emerged a little during August/early September but I've largely withdrawn again now.  During my withdrawal I've scanned a lot of photographs, made numerous phone calls,  completed craft projects, experimented with recipes, written letters and a thousand and one more things.  I've tried to think of this as a time when my cry of "Stop the world, I want to get off" has been answered, like it or not, so I have tried to make the best of it.  It's been a time of putting my life in order so that one day (DV) my life will be better than ever.  

I've been grateful for the help of others (shopping etc.) but I have tried to be of service by telephoning people who are alone and by doing knitting for various charities.  I've been involved in leading a small on line worship group and I have written "Reflections" for our deanery newsletter so I have tried to keep by brain working.  

I've taken care to dress properly and to eat properly.  I've written this blog and a daily diary to keep myself in order.  200 days and nearly fifty thousand words in I think I'm as sane as I was before this withdrawal started (my standards of sanity are quite low!). 

Which all leaves me wondering, what things have helped you?

Saturday 26 September 2020

A little treat and a little sadness

A girl needs a treat occasionally.  Well, this girl does.

Yesterday I realised that I could order a bar of chocolate from Amazon and as I have Prime membership I wouldn't need to pay postage so I splashed out the princely sum of £1 and waited.

It didn't arrive until late afternoon so by the time it arrived I was really looking forward to it.  A whole bar of chocolate, just for me!  

And I'd been given a magazine so I decided to keep it until the chocolate arrived so I could have a period of total self indulgence.  I settled down with both my treats.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate but the magazine just made me feel sad.  Covid won't make a huge difference to my Christmas Day as I normally go to church then come home and spend the day alone.  This year I'll watch a streamed service then settle down as usual.  For me the real meaning of Christmas will still be there as will its joy.

But for so many of my friends Christmas should be a time to spend with their grandchildren and the likelihood is that won't happen this year.  Some will find the loneliness unbearable.

I enjoyed the chocolate but the magazine? - no.  It left me wondering if there is anything I can do to help my friends.  Any suggestions very welcome.  

Monday 21 September 2020

An infectious disease


Each morning Alexa and I say "Good Morning!" to each other.   Alexa then tells me a special fact for the day.  Today she told me that it is International Gratitude Day so this morning I decided to have a Thankful Day.

It started with reading blogs while sitting in front of my SAD lamp and drinking coffee.  So much there to be thankful for!

Then I had a lovely hot shower in my lovely bathroom.  Sheer bliss!

I had an appointment for a flu vaccination in Brigg and as the weather forecast looked good I decided to spend a little time in Brigg.  I took a mask and did a little shopping.  So much effort is being put into keeping us safe.  Who couldn't feel grateful!  I trundled along the river bank enjoying the glorious day, the swans on the water and the sheer bliss of being out.

And best of all, a lady called Pat (whom I'd never met until today!) stopped me and thanked me for my smile.  She'd been feeling glum but my smile had made her feel happy.  She said my smile was infectious!

How lovely is that!  Maybe I could start a pandemic!

Tuesday 15 September 2020

A Bit of a Treat



This could be a long, lonely winter so I need to take good care of myself.  I can't visit friends but I can visit places.  On Monday I visited Gunby Hall Gardens.

 The NT is trying to make open spaces available and safe so at the moment one has to prebook to visit their properties.  I went to Clumber Park a couple of months ago and Gunby is the other place within reasonable distance.  Gunby is a lovely place less than an hour's drive away.

I had a pootle around the gardens on my trundle truck.  Truth to tell they would have been even lovelier a few weeks ago but they are still pretty good.   

Much of the work is done by volunteer gardeners although the NT has professional staff as well. 

There's a one way system and many areas are completely roped off.  Wouldn't it be delightful to sit in this little shelter and enjoy the garden!

I enjoyed my day but I think I shall leave my next visit for covid free times.  People are very kind and no-one tried to make me feel uncomfortable on my scooter when I was in the way but I found it hard to relax.  I'd hoped to sit and people-watch but there were very few benches.  

I've got an idea of somewhere to visit next month which has very wide, open spaces.  

Thursday 10 September 2020

Thank you, NHS

I don't think there has ever been a year when people have said, "Thank you, NHS" more frequently.  Our health service has responded magnificently to the Covid crisis.  But there are more illnesses than "just" covid making demands on the medics.  I've just been making my own demands.

I have a faulty gene which means that I have a very high chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer.  Several years ago I had bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy to minimise my risk but I still have a risk.  I check my "breasts" regularly which isn't easy as the surgery left me with very lumpy pseudo-breasts.  Last month I felt a lump and my bra became very uncomfortable.  I contacted our local breast care service (I'm allowed to bypass the GP) and made an urgent appointment.  Before I could go in my breast started to "weep".

Last week I had a clinical examination, a mammogram and an ultrasound scan and samples were taken for examination.  Today I have the all-clear.  My lump was a cyst which had burst harmlessly.

Thank you

Monday 7 September 2020

Adjusting 7

 'Ere the winter storms begin.  Actually, it's not storms which are bothering me this year, it's boredom!  Every year I get the winter bleughs and as I think this year it may well be worse than ever, I need to prepare now.

At the moment I am making some very small visits out.  I've been to our veg stall in the market place a couple of times, I've visited a few friends and taken advantage of their gardens to chat while the weather has been OK, and I've even visited a few cousins in their homes.  Soon however, all that will stop as winter weather drives us all indoors and my own preference for safety means that I stay very isolated.  I may be looking at six months of being on my todd.

So I need to look after myself, not just by staying out of harm's way but by being well prepared for worse than usual winter bleughs.  I'm thinking of getting a SAD lamp and wondered if anyone has tried them?  One of the big problems of being alone is motivating oneself to cook healthy meals so I'm cooking soups and stews to freeze.  

And I'm trying to think of treats.  I shall make sure I have freshly ironed bedding even more than usual.  I shall paint my nails!  I shall order flowers to be delivered to me.  I shall plan on giving other people small treats - that bucks me up too.  I shall wear my favourite perfume even though only I will smell it.

So, anybody got any more ideas about small treats?  

Thursday 3 September 2020

Credit where credit is due!

You will have gathered over the past few months that Jack spends a fair amount of time chez moi.  He drinks a fair amount of tea, ticks me off and eats the home made goodies on offer but to be fair to him, he does lots of other things too.

This plant container started life as a water feature but for several years now it has stood near my front door with a floral display.  I think this year's display has been the best ever.   

He has made a new number for the front of my house, adorning it with butterflies.  This was at my request because I loathe trying to find a house when there is no clear number so it seems only fair that my house should be clearly labelled.

He's done loads in the back garden too (the veg patch is my best ever!) but I'll show you that another day.

Putting my house sign on the blog has reminded me that I've been wondering about the letter swaps.  That was a few months ago - how is everyone getting on?  

Saturday 29 August 2020


 I haven't been into Caistor much recently as I have been avoiding people but this morning I decided to visit the weekly veg stall in the market place.

One thing hasn't changed in this extraordinary year - the army of volunteers has still managed to decorate our lovely town.  Some displays are now past their best but I thought these two, from the market place and the churchyard, were still worth a photo.

And I even brought loveliness home with me in the form of this mouth-watering collection of fruit and veg!

A table of delights!

Thursday 27 August 2020

A life of idleness

 Jack has been hinting that I really ought to blog more often.  Trouble is, I'm not doing much.

On Monday Annie-the-home-enhancer came.  Annie has school age children so once they go back to school I don't want her to come but during August she's been three times to sort me out.  I now have a lovely home again.  I'm still "deep decluttering" and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.  Jack came too to bring a huge bag of greengages.  Then I nipped to a village about twenty miles away to collect some clothes from one (paternal) cousin for another (maternal) cousin who is a dressmaker, to alter. 

Tuesday I was totally worn out from the amount of work Annie did on Monday!  So I just sat and finished a hat for the Sailors Society and a twiddlemuff for whoever.  Oh and I roasted tomatoes and made soup to freeze ready for the winter.  And made a loaf of bread.  And a batch of greengage jam.

Wednesday I went to take craft stuff to yet another cousin who is very involved with Brownies and things.  My deep decluttering has unearthed quite a bit of stuff which I am unlikely to use so the Brownies can have it.  Then I cast on another twiddlemuff - I'm trying to use up the odds and ends of wool which I keep finding.  In the afternoon Sainsbury's brought my groceries.

Today I visited a friend, had a routine corona test, made two batches of chutney, wrote a letter and did my telephone "pastoral visiting". 

So as you can see, I have a life of idleness

And now I am struggling with the new Blogger trying to create this post.  I haven't yet come across a blogger who has a good word to say for it!

(I've put links to twiddlemuffs and the Sailors' Society but just in case you don't know a twiddlemuff is a muff with buttons, ribbons and other bits and pieces firmly attached.  It is given to dementia sufferers so they have something which will keep their hands warm but which they can fiddle with harmlessly.)  

Thursday 20 August 2020

Adjusting 6

 Up to now my "adjusting" posts have been about lifestyle changes as I have become more isolated but now I have to adjust to coming out of isolation and being closer to other people.  I say closer, but it still isn't close.

 Yesterday I went into a shop for the first time.  I had to go to Brigg to drop off books at the Oxfam book shop but didn't go into the shop.  However, I decided to go to Wilko's, a shop which I have missed far more than I would have expected.  It was quite well organised and I felt safe but a largely one way system was tricky on my mobility scooter.   I say largely because a couple of aisles were cul de sacs and therefore two way so I had to turn the trundle truck in a very tight space.  

I've visited a few friends when we have been able to sit in the garden.  I've avoided drinks because I want to avoid the inevitable consequences of drinks!  However, when I visited Jack (who has just had a cataract operation) I went into his house.  He's fine and his wife would be very proud of his housekeeping.  

Jack has been coming and sorting my garden for me and Annie-the-hone-enhancer has been a couple of times too.  Once her children are back at school I will stop her coming here as I think she could be a risk to me.  She understands my position completely and we have come to a suitable financial arrangement which keeps both of us happy.

Because that's the adjusting I have to do at the moment.  I have to prepare for a winter of isolation in case we have a second wave of this wretched virus.  I think it's really important that children can go back to school but that may have consequences for everyone else as well.  August is for me a time of relaxation but it's also a time of making sure I am ready for a long and difficult winter.  And for hoping that it's neither as long nor as difficult as I fear.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Kindness (by Jack)

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re all OK and free from Covid 19.  I just don’t know how to start my post today.  I’m absolutely overwhelmed, grateful and humbled to have so many people think and care about me since my wife went to the Vicar’s Boss.  I’ve never known people being so kind, concerned and looking out for me, so my post today is going to be about some of them.
Jack (in my gear)

The young family next door have been fantastic to me.  In the last four weeks I think only cooked twice.  Sarah, the lady, is an excellent cook and together with her partner Malcolm she’s made sure I never go without.  Even Zeb, their five-year-old boy, makes me jellies and cakes.  That little boy chatters away and sometimes before school we talk to each other over the fence.  It’s not just those three: Sarah’s Mum and Dad sometimes cook dinner for me.  How I’m going to repay them some time for their kindness I don’t know.  I do give Sarah (and her mum) Yankee Candles.  They get roses out of my garden (and don’t worry, the Vicar often gets a bunch as well). 

When Covid 19 started I bought a lot of veg.  I put some of everything in bags and delivered it under cover of darkness to people who I thought deserved it.  Nobody knew it was me.  I just put a note on saying Robin Hood had been.  Well. Sarah’s mum knew and she wanted a Robin Hood bag.  I knew she didn’t want vegetables so I put a box of chocolates, three candles. A plastic frog, a tin of mackerel, a Lincolnshire Life magazine, and two more things but I can’t remember what they were.  Malcolm delivered it next morning. 

My son’s wife, Noreen, and my daughter, Diane, have both been brilliant.  Thanks to those two I sometimes have two cooked meals a day!  I should be putting on weight but since my wife died, I’ve lost quite a bit.  It could be not doing anything for four years and now helping everyone who asks me for help so I’m burning up the calories quicker.

I also help a lady called Janet who helps to run the Lincolnshire Showground.  What a stressful time she’s having!  They put on a virtual show this year.  It was very good to watch.  The rock concerts which were planned got cancelled at the last minute – what a nightmare.  I feel so sorry for her but the showground must be like so many businesses with no income coming in.  When will it ever end?  Anyway, Janet provided me with a meal and when I went to visit her boyfriend Walter, she asked if I would help in that garden too.   

Walter is someone way above my status: he’s got letters after his name.  (I sometimes get letters before and after my name when the Vicar gets mad!)  Well, Walter isn’t stuck-up whatsoever.  He works alongside me in the garden most of the time.  I think it’s safe to say we get on like a house on fire.  Janet once texted me for helping Walter to enjoy his garden.  It should be me thanking them for all they’ve done for me.  The Vicar has also benefitted from Walter but I’ll do another blog about that soon. 

I also help Janet’s mum and dad and Walter asked me to help one of his friends.  He was a farmer and he’s about my age.  I was a farm worker so he enjoys talking to me.  I always make time to chat to him.  His wife and daughter are grateful for everything I do for them.  By the way, Vicar, I get lemon balm tea there but it’s not served in Haddon Hall china so you’ve no need to worry.

And so the most important and last person, I would like to thank is you, Vicar.  You made sure I didn’t crack up when the going got tough.    Sometimes yours was the only voice I heard all day.  Some days you’ve gone over and above the call of duty.  You’ve been a rock for me, you know when to keep talking when I get overcome, you’ve kept me going.  You’ve put up with me these last few months.  I’m so glad I swept your chimney all those years ago.  One word for you, Vicar, is THANKS!

Be good and take care

Jack X X

As always Jack will see your comments but can't respond