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Wednesday 29 January 2020

A joyful heritage

When I was a little girl my grandparents lived in this farmhouse deep in the Lincolnshire Wolds.  It looks very gracious, doesn't it, but looks can deceive!   I wrote about it several years ago starting with this post.

To the left of the view seen here there was a large copper beech tree, and under the tree there grew a rich profusion of snowdrops.  As a little girl I would pick bunch after bunch and you could not see from where I had plucked them.

My Mother dug up a few each year and took them back to the garden at home.  They spread wonderfully and when my parents left that house she again dug some up to plant in the new garden.  Later she moved again and repeated the ritual.  When I went to live at my Vicarage we again dug up a few of the snowdrops and planted them there.  You won't be surprised that when I left the Vicarage I brought some for my garden here.  In each place many were left but the transplanted ones spread in whatever garden they were taken to.  By my reckoning my Mother and I have been responsible for the snowdrop population in at least five gardens and in reality it has been far more than that.  

My present house is a modern(ish) bungalow about five miles from the lovely house in that photograph so my snowdrops have almost gone to their original home.  They flourish in my garden, hiding underground when summer comes but making their welcome appearance each January/February.

And today I fetched this little posy into the house.  Truly a joyful heritage.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Not just joy - sheer bliss!

Last week it seemed like I had one disaster after another.  Electrical failure (twice). no heating, no broadband, no landline. broken freezer, flattened fence and a bump on my head. Add to this the disruption caused water from a damaged radiator in the dining room because of water damage and  I think I did quite well to keep smiling.  

But things are looking up.  Last week I replaced the freezer.  Today the heating engineer came and discovered that all the electrical problems stem from a faulty pump so that has been replaced.  He also did the annual safety check on all the gas appliances.  My landlord has responded to my letter concerning the fence and has agreed to replace it.  The carpet in the dining room has been replaced at my insurer's expense.

And time will reduce the bruising on my face.    

Trust me, this feels like bliss.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

This joy has been building up for ten years!

Have you ever wanted to not want something?  I have.

It was ten years ago and I was in the middle of a mental breakdown.  I'd been doing two quite demanding jobs simultaneously. I was vicar of five parishes and I'd been carer for my Mother as she recovered from the amputation of a leg when she was 88 and then slipped into dementia.  In both those roles I had to be a rock for other people and my mind and body eventually rebelled and said it was their turn for a little TLC.    I just couldn't work any longer.  I wanted to retire but I hated retiring at 58.  I felt like a failure.  Looking back I had no reason to be ashamed but it didn't feel that way at the time.  

And so I resigned from a job which I had loved but I was unable to do properly any more.  Retiring as a vicar means one loses not only one's job (and income) but also one's home, social circle and (in my case) a lot of my identity.  I was not in a good place emotionally and within weeks of my retirement my only sister got a terminal diagnosis and once again I was a carer.

It was not a good time.  When I should have been caring for myself I was instead helping my sister, which was demanding as she was disabled and a wheelchair user even before she had the cancer.  When I should have been trying to build up a life for myself here in Caistor I was away at her home helping her to sort out her life before she left this world behind.

But over the years my life has changed.  I'm no longer "the vicar" but I can get far more work on a part time basis than I could ever do! I can still exercise ministry and indeed do so on a very regular basis.  I've got a very comfortable home and a thriving social life.  And most of all I now wake every morning with a smile on my face and an expectation of a joyful day.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of my retirement.  I took out for lunch two friends who helped me and listened to me all those years ago and are still my great friends now.  I have never been so happy.

Friday 17 January 2020

Still swimming - but only just!

I really thought very little else could go wrong!  But somehow fate had its plans.

The freezer.  I think that a freezer is the most inconvenient appliance to die as it is totally non-negotiable.  All too often one realises that it has died only when it's too late to do anything about it.  Fortunately I realised before my food was ruined and I did a very quick transfer of stuff to the old chest freezer in the garage.  

An urgent replacement was needed so I rang a local small business from whom I've bought stuff before and I explained the problem.  The lady was very sympathetic - she didn't think they could deliver today but she'd see what could be done.  So off I drove to Market Rasen.

I saw The Boss and again explained the problem and he had a word with The Man.  I quickly chose a freezer, paid and came home.  My first call to them had been at 1.30pm and by 3.15pm the freezer was working in in my kitchen.  I call that excellent service and a letter will shortly be winging its way to The Boss.  

Another minor niggle has been that the clock fell off the wall and hit me on the head while I was sorting the freezer.  I will admit to a couple of tears as it came a bit sharp but I'm not really hurt.  And part of the fence has blown over.  

I am becoming a somewhat jaded swan but I endeavour to keep swimming serenely.

This swan is still swimming

When I wrote the last post I thought not much more could go wrong.  Wrong.

On Wednesday once again most of the electrical sockets weren't functioning, the heating wouldn't work, the landline had failed and I had no broadband. Not bad, eh?

A call to the landlord's maintenance service resulted in two amazing electricians.  I say amazing as I found it hard to take my eyes off their tattoos! But they were so polite and considerate and I thought they were wonderful,  Whatever the fault is with the electrics they can't find it either.  However they have their suspicions about the heating boiler so next week someone is coming to sort that.  I hope the electrics survive until then. 

I shall continue my swan-like act.

Tuesday 14 January 2020

An Odd Sort of Joy

One of the problems about being disabled and/or growing older is the fear of problems.  Let me explain!  

I dread falling and being unable to get help.  I dread my trundle truck breaking down.  I dread domestic difficulties which I can't deal with.  I wouldn't have wanted to fall or have problems at home even when I was younger but disability and increasing years make me doubt my ability to cope.  I can try to anticipate problems (having an alarm, getting grab rails and so on) but I suppose it's a fear of the unknown.

Last night I was not a happy bunny.  I was watching TV when suddenly it went off, as did the broadband service.  A quick check told me that a trip switch had tripped so I reset it but a couple of minutes later it tripped again.  It wasn't all the electrical points in the house, just a few of them; the lights and cooker were unaffected as were a few sockets.

The first problem was a freezer full of food but I found an extension cable, emptied the freezer, dragged it out so I could access the plug and then plugged it into a the extension cable plugged into a working socket and refilled it.  Another extension restored the broadband but I had to leave everything else including the landline phone.  That included the central heating which, although gas powered, has an electric pump, not a happy thing in January!  I just went to bed.

Today I phoned for an electrician and while waiting for him I started to do the washing up by hand.  However, when I tipped the water down the drain it decided to flood the kitchen floor instead.  I now had a plumbing problem, limited electricity,  and no house phone.  I used my mobile to ask Pete-the-handyman to come and unblock it for me.  He came quickly and cleaned all the traps, u-bends etc as well as the plumbing behind the dishwasher.  It was as he was pushing the dishwasher back that he noticed that the electrical cable was damaged.

So we waited for the electrician who checked everything and repaired the damaged cable and soon everything was restored.  Wonderful!

My "odd sort of joy" isn't just the fact that order is restored but it's the satisfaction of knowing that I coped and didn't go to pieces and that I have a little more information about the things I need to do for my own self-care.  (I need a corded phone that I can plug in when needed.  I need more torches.)  

But I also know that I have got support when I need it.  So my joy is an even deeper appreciation of that wonderful network.

Saturday 11 January 2020

A Thankful Joy

I went to Brookenby today.  Brookenby is one of several new villages in Lincolnshire which were originally RAF bases, in this case RAF Binbrook. 

The church at Brookenby is in the former Sergeants' Mess which it shares with the community centre and is about as untraditional a church building as you could find!  (Except maybe the church which meets in the lounge bar of the local, but that's another story.)

Recently they had the opportunity to acquire some extra rooms and they've set up a tea room, a charity shop and a small community grocery shop.  When I had finished the service last Sunday I had a look around and expressed an interest in a wheeled walking frame but left it as I hadn't any cash with me.

But on Tuesday I had a phone call from their vicar (who was elsewhere on Sunday) saying that if I wanted the walker it would be set aside for me.  What's more he told me quite a bit of the sermon I had preached as someone had enjoyed it and remembered it and told him.  So today I went to Brookenby to buy the walker.

So why the thankfulness?  Well, I felt that although I go to Brookenby only occasionally the congregation cares about me.  Someone had noticed my interest in the walker and done something about it.  Very often when I go I am just "the preacher" but actually for as long as I am there I am part of their congregation  with needs and a life outside the pulpit just like everyone else.  And they had appreciated my gift in preaching.  And I feel truly thankful for them.

Thursday 9 January 2020

A Clean Joy

My "wet joy" post was about cleanliness and happens several times a week but today's clean joy happens just once a fortnight and hadn't happened for a whole month before today.

It's the visit of Annie-the-home-enhancer.  I can't do all my own cleaning now (disability) and Annie's visits are very welcome.  They are eagerly anticipated for several days.  They prompt me to do some much-needed tidying up.  I don't clean before my cleaner comes but tidying is a different matter.  If Annie has to tidy my stuff I have to find where she's put it and I untidy the place in searching so it's self preservation!

Then Annie comes and dusts and polishes, sweeps and mops and generally makes the wonderful.  Employing her takes a little financial juggling but it's well worth it.  

And the aftermath is fantastic!  Every second Thursday I can relax better, I can find things and do things.  My home is just so delightful.  There are many things I can't do for myself now (I wish I could) and I am just so grateful for Annie.

And I know that I haven't got to rush around tidying up for another thirteen days.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

A Wet Joy

Years ago one of my greatest pleasures was to have a hot bath.  I had an array of perfumed bubble baths and bath milks and to go the bathroom, choose an aroma to suit my mood and then sink into hot, fragrant bubbles was bliss!

When I first moved to this house I had a bath lift fitted so that I could continue to enjoy that delight, but the lift is no longer working and I decided not to replace it.  Instead I have to shower which seemed a poor substitute for those steamy tubs of old.  To make matters worse I discovered that my skin was better when I didn't use shower gels or anything else for that matter.  Showering was just functional: I cleaned myself but it was no treat.

But I've realised recently that I enjoy my shower.  I don't linger long as I don't want to waste water but those three or four minutes are sheer pleasure.  Hot water streaming gently or powerfully over me, just as I choose, is delightful.  Then to wrap myself in a bathrobe and relax - ah bliss!

Thursday 2 January 2020

A Tasty Joy

So, a small pleasure for today!

Well, three things came together and make me feel very grateful that I live in 2020.  First of all I was sorting the presents to put away and I found the butternut squash which a friend had grown and given me.  Then another friend fetched me two lemons.  And the first seed catalogue of the season dropped on the mat.

And I feel so grateful for the lovely variety of food which I can get and grow,

I was a very lucky little girl in that my Father and my Grandfather both grew wonderful vegetables.  Both grew carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beans, onions, peas, and other traditional vegetables.  Daddy had more leisure time than Grandad and he grew other things like asparagus, raspberries, cucumbers, and sprouting broccoli but basically the food we ate at either house was fresh and seasonal.  Tomatoes were a greenhouse crop so they had to be bought.

During my lifetime the seedsmen have done great things in creating reliable and tasty strains of vegetables. We can grow a far wider variety in our gardens - the nearest thing to a butternut squash that Daddy grew was the dreaded marrow, of which the least said the better.   I grow tomatoes in the open garden every year, along with peppers, aubergines and sweetcorn which were unheard of when I was a girl.  The seed catalogues tempt me with Oca, Yakon, Callaloo and Inca and the tomatoes run to seven pages!  Commercial growers doubtless can grow even more

We still import a lot of fruit and vegetables: too much I fear but that may be another post as this one is about joy.  However, I shall enjoy the lemons brought for me today just as I enjoyed the pineapple which I had at Christmas.

So my source of pleasure today is quite simply food, beautiful, varied, colourful and plentiful.

Wednesday 1 January 2020


I went to church on Christmas Day and I went to church on Sunday but apart from that I haven't left the house.  I have a truly disgusting cold.  I don't get many colds these days - it's nearly two years since I had one - but when they come they certainly make themselves at home.

This is not a good start to 2020.  I don't feel like doing the usual looking-back-and-looking-forward post for 1st January. However, I want to wish you, Dear Reader, a happy 2020 and I want to resolve that this will be a good year for me too.

So it's back to a very old theme for me this month.  For me (as for many other people) January and February can be very "bleugh".  Christmas is over, the summer seems a long way away, we get colds and flu and life doesn't seem very rosy.  So I want to use this blog as a prompt to make me look for life's little pleasures, the little joys which can too easily go unremarked.

And today's pleasure was a phone call from a friend to make sure I was OK and then her visit to the shops to fetch me something to alleviate my cold symptoms and to get the bananas which I was craving.  And what's more she even brought me some flowers.  Life is looking up!