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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