Friday, 26 July 2013


This afternoon our Grandma – my mother-in-law from my first marriage – slipped out of this world and went home to Heaven.

A kind, patient, gentle woman, full of faith with a particular quality of innocence, and integrity .  She had a ready laugh and was always the first to offer what she could when any of us were in need of help.

When my children were little, Grandma and Grandad’s place was a second home.  Too many to count, the roast dinners she cooked us every Sunday.  We’d all pile in after church, littlies to bed in the cots she had dotted about in the bedrooms, then the adults enjoyed lunch together while the children napped.  As one by one they woke up, often Grandma was the first upstairs to fetch them down, playing peek-a-boo as she opened the bedroom door.

They loved the books and dressing up box, the paddling pool and wigwam, the dolls’ houses and many other toys at Grandma and Grandad’s house.

She was our main baby-sitter, and every week when she did her own grocery run she would call by our place with two big bags of goodies to help out with our big family.

When my youngest was born she would come by every week to take my twins (then nearly three) to the beach for an ice-cream and to play by the sea.

Grandma was the one who made sure my oldest child remained a little girl even though she had four younger sisters – she was always Grandma’s special little one, and Grandma held the boundary, ensuring big sister had a space to be unburdened by responsibility.

A housegroup leader for years, the one who headed up the pastoral team at chapel, the confidante of countless ministers who learned they could trust her kindness, wisdom and discretion, she supported every church event imaginable – including Boys’ Brigade camp.

She and Grandad were a brilliant team – lovers, friends and partners in building Christ’s kingdom.

A staunch Methodist, she loved hymnody and often used to say “Methodists sing their faith”.  This was one of her favourites:

Her passing was serene and gentle.  As we sat with her this day, we felt peace and beauty fill the room and observed the kindness and tranquillity in her face.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pressed down, shaken together and running over

You have to get back some time, don’t you?  Some perspective.

This has been an even more hectic patch than usual.

Let me tell you about my (extensive . . .) evening yesterday.

The night before, I’d been at our church PCC (Parochial Church Council) meeting.  I am its secretary. 

Last Sunday we said farewell to our much loved parish priest as he departed for the next phase of his journey, and we sent him on his way with gifts expressive of so much love.

Hot on the heels of that came the Archdeacon to our PCC meeting the following night.  He addressed us on the subject of our duties as a PCC during the vacancy as we search for a new priest.  His advice proved comprehensive and detailed, his delivery focused.  It was my job as secretary to make sure I had it all minuted for circulation.  A bit like this, with no music:

The next day (yesterday) had various obligations but by evening I settled down to write up the minutes, as the PCC members need them now, not just in advance of the next PCC as usual – now, so we know what to do!

In the actual meeting my pen just flew over the paper, as I concentrated on getting down what the Archdeacon had to say – all my critical faculties suspended, just capturing words.

Thus it was that when I came to write it all up, though in Paragraph Two the Archdeacon had evidently said our advert had to be in to the Church Times for the 2nd September, by Paragraph A-Lot-more-Than-Two he stressed we must complete all our documentation in time to have the ad ready for the second week.

Uh-oh.  What second week?

After some puzzlement I thought he must have initially said not “the 2nd of September” but “the 2nd week of September”.

However, as there is an implication of considerable discrepancy between these two dates and we have to get our time frame fairly exact, and it’s my responsibility to produce correct minutes, I wondered how I might verify this.

I thought I’d email the Archdeacon to check – despite the nagging remembrance that his chronic busyness made it unlikely he’d see or reply in the time I needed an answer.

I looked at the diocesan website for contact details.  His address appeared there, and phone number, and a live link saying “email”, which I clicked.  It brought up a requirement to enter a password for Outlook, which I neither have nor want.  Darn.  I spent a fruitless while rummaging through my 455-email archive for our church looking for the correspondence between the Archdeacon and our rector that had been forwarded to me . . . er . . . last summer??  No joy.

I gave up, plumped for rendering his instruction as the 2nd WEEK of September, sent a covering cry for help/verification out to the PCC with the minutes; job done.  They have responded en masse today.  He did say the 2nd week.

So I finally put those minutes to bed and got the hard copy file in order around 2am this morning and fell into bed exhausted.  At 4am I was awaked by the oh so familiar sound of a mosquito in my bedroom.  Nyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eee  ee e eeeeeee  by one ear.  Then nyeeeeeeeeeee eee e ee eee e eeeeeeeeeee  by the other ear.

I have soft skin that responds badly to every alarum including stress.  At any given time I have sores, blisters and whatnot to contend with.  I did NOT want mosquito bites too.  I sat up and put on the light again.   Nyeeeeeeeeeeeeee e ee  eeeeee  ee  - I could see its little body blurring the air just in front of my face, but failed to catch it.  I got up and hunted around.  It fell silent. I went back to bed and turned out the light.  Nyeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee e eeeeeeee e.  I covered myself entirely with the duvet and stifled and sweltered until I could no longer bear it, then re-surfaced.  Nyeeeeeee.  Nyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.  

Expletives deleted.

I got up, went upstairs to the Badger’s empty nest (midweek = Badger in Oxford), crashed out there as the seagulls began to rouse and the dawn lightened the sky, and slept until 8.30.

 Various chores have filled the day.  Correspondence.  Laundry.  A visit to my beautiful mama.  Some complex driving through insane traffic and congested streets.  Grocery shopping for salad, fruit, fish – because I’ve been eating such trash!  When life is very busy, I forget what people might possibly eat and just grab whatever’s handy; cheese, cake, bread, cake, bread, tea . . .  tsk.   I declare it’s been possible to sit and watch myself getting fatter!  In desperation today I raided Marks and Spencer for healthy food.

Then this evening I’ve been roaming YouTube listening to opera.  Recouping time for life and beauty from so much rush and tear.
Mozart.  My very favourite.

And now, at just gone midnight, I think it’s time for bed again.

Ooh – update on Iceni!

And congratulations to Wills and Kate!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Buzzfloyd's little girl

Iceni Elizabeth Garner
born on 6th July 2013
Welcome to Earth, little one!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Good Morning

Washed its hair.

Got its breakfast.

Said its prayers.

Listening to this song (you have to set it off).

This is going to be a good day.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  We shall rejoice and be glad in it.

The tasks of this day are challenging but not insurmountable.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue with insouciant drifts of white cloud. Today I pick up my little blue car and shall be free for the time being of the effing awful Stagecoach bus service.  Mwahaha!   

Today as in all recent days I am thinking of Buzzfloyd and that little baby digging its heels in and laughing quietly, refusing to be born.  La belle Sardine.  Hasten the day when we may cry “Zut alors!  She ’as emerged!”  All is ready for her. 

Today I will practice driving (haven’t driven in almost two years) so tomorrow I can whisk my beautiful mama away in a cloud of loveliness to a perfect café with adorable knick-knacks for her to buy and vast slices of heavenly cake and magnificently frothy cappuccino.  With chocolate sprinkles.

Et toi?  What are you doing today my friend?  Is it a good day for you, or shadowed with dread and anxiety?  Do you have enough money and something to eat?  Is your home secure and are there people who love you?  Have you companions for your journey up the mountain or are you afraid and alone?  Do you have the strength to make beautiful this day that has been given to you, or are you too stressed to care and simply seeking comfort and peace?

What is this day for you?  Apart from the Lord’s gift to you.  His present.  Like all men, the Lord chooses some odd presents, but He does heed requests.  Think carefully what you speak into being!!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Miss Marple

The morning obligations have been fulfilled, I’ve had my lunch and washed up, and I don’t have to sally forth again until the evening.  I have a little correspondence to attend to, but I prepared tomorrow’s funeral last night; so right now I’m going to sit down with a cup of tea and watch Julia MacKenzie play Miss Marple in the film based on Agatha Christie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

Somewhat to my surprise I find that Miss Marple is my rôle model for the stage of life I have now reached.

The great thing about a fictional rôle model is that they cannot surprise you with disappointing choices – well, I say that, but maybe it’s not always the case; I had some vigorous protests from readers when my Father William opted for the course of action that concluded Remember Me.  But then he always did manage to upset everyone.

Anyway Miss Marple is everything I aspire to.

She has a quiet but clear and effective Christian faith.

She’s observant and intelligent.

She dresses modestly and becomingly, with understated elegance becoming to her age group.  I love Miss Marple’s dress sense.  She always looks wholesome and . . . erm . . . what’s the word . . . pleasant . . . neat . . . restful to the eye.  I like her fine lawn blouses and her well-cut tweed jackets, her sensible lace-up shoes and her soft blue woollens.  I like her graceful, tidy hairstyle

Her gaze is direct and acute, shrewd. She takes in what she sees and grasps its significance.

She is understanding and compassionate; she listens properly and reflects on what she hears.  She is wise and kind, never prejudiced or hasty in her judgements.

She is not bossy or pushy, but she perseveres and can be insistent when the well-being of others is at stake.

She is self-effacing, courteous and serene, soft-spoken and approachable.

She doesn't have to be slim.  Thank you, Miss Marple; I love that.

Oh, Miss Marple, I have so much to learn from you.

I have a boxed set of DVDs of Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple, a present from the Badger.  My absolute favourite is The 4.50 From Paddington – I love the detail of the station and  the old train (like they used to be – happy sigh), and the kitchen with all the old-fashioned things that make the world feel comforting and secure. 

I prefer Joan Hickson’s and JuliaMacKenzie’s Miss Marple attire to Margaret Rutherford’s and Geraldine McEwan’s – I don’t like the fantastical, comedic get-ups they dress the latter two in; lampooned, somehow.  Miss Marple had dignity, style and quiet flair – she was an English country gentle-woman.

In a bewildering and alarming world full of urgently and aggressively promoted agendas, antagonism, chatter and opportunism, I feel that Miss Marple has what it takes to help me thread my way through the chaos, and reach afternoon tea still smelling faintly of soap and lavender.  Or maybe violets.  Or roses.