Monthly Archives: August 2009

..she took three paces through the room…

The Lady of Shalott left her looking glass for the real world and died of it.

I kind-of assumed my peers had taken three paces, not died, and all woman kind now was free.

I never was a beauty, and I always assumed that that did not really matter. I assumed that my intelligence (or lack of), my personality and my application of my character to life were what really mattered.

I have always enjoyed clothes, and in some ways I felt a little inferior to women who were genuinely happy to totally disregard dress and appearance. It mattered a little to me, and I assumed that for a new generation it would matter less.

Not so. Arleen Philips is too old to judge ‘Strictly’. (So I won’t be watching, not that I suppose the Beeb cares.) Even in Galston there are spray tans and waxing. Young girls spend a fortune on how they look, and high heels, far from vanishing, seen de rigueur . I am astonished, dismayed. Women trade their ability to run for a better shaped leg. Not just for an evening out, not for dressing up, as though with the contents of the toy box, but for real life situations.

And the tabloids lambaste women in the public eye for failing in some area or other of conventional female dress, or grooming or deportment. Who cares? Well, thousands, apparently.

And two dear friends tell me they mourn the going of their youthful looks. If I do not misunderstand, seriously mourn. Well, sure, I’d like fewer wrinkles, and a better ability to lift, run and work … and there you have it. To me the ability to put in a full day matters a heck of a lot more. Hundreds of times more.

What the heck happened? Should I have been more militant as a girl? A young woman?

I wish we could all grow up and see people and not fa├žades.


Door frog

Not tree frog, door frog. door frog

Last night she was climbing up the jam of my door, cushioned by the gentle rain, picking off midges. She was about the size of my finger nail.

The core of the Jesus’s message

Long before the Reformation, a belief arose that if you put the Bible into the hands of ordinary people they would read it and make sense of it. Yes the Reformers also bought into that idea.

That it failed is only too apparent this week.

The core of Jesus’s message is a demand for forgiveness from person to person. You hardly need me to spell it out further. It is there in parable after parable, in his teaching, in his own life and his horrible death. Every Christian, even the most nominal, is surely aware of the one prayer he taught: ‘And forgive us, in the same way that we forgive others.’

It is hard to do, but that is no excuse for not trying. If we fail, sometimes, to get our hearts and minds to drop the grievances (which so damage us) we have no excuse, none at all, for making an attempt to follow that action in our public lives and our actions (and praying for our hearts to be converted).

There is no excuse, none at all, for anybody who loves the Lord, or indeed, anybody who thinks he was an enlightened moral teacher, baying for the blood of those who chose in an act of mercy to release a dying man.

Go read the gospels if you doubt this.

Some feathered criminal….

asparagus2 blog
Last night with great pride I potted up my baby asparagus. Asparagus is a slow maturing plant which lives for years. It is fiendishly expensive to buy roots, so (as some will remember) I invested in asparagus seed. This is also fiendishly expensive, but only by the standards of seed. I was allocated ‘a minimum of’ twelve seeds, and when they came there were actually sixteen. I treated each one as if it the price of a year old root and to my astonishment in time all sixteen germinated. Potting them was a little like weaning a baby. I placed them tenderly outside, knowing that they were too wiry to attract slugs. Thinking the open air would produce stronger plants, which I would then over-winter inside. When I went to work this morning they were all there.

When I got home one was missing and its little pot all dishevelled. Some feathered criminal – perhaps a hen or a chick, but maybe a goose, has dragged it out and eaten it – to my disproportionate grief and rage.

Tonight I moved them back indoors to a sunny windowsill – there they join the purple sprouting broccoli which had been attacked by insects and are now in recovery. Asparagus are one of the few plants we don’t destroy to eat – that seeedling had a long and happy life before it!

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi

Should a dying man, who has always denied the crime for which he is imprisoned, be released? I think so yes, but then I am a Christian and I would say that, wouldn’t I? I am bound to argue for forgiveness, and for mercy. I am bound to argue for higher ethical standards for myself and my society than I see put into practise elsewhere.

Am I sorry for those who lost loved ones and who will feel pain because the man found guilty [sic] is free for a few weeks before his death? Yes, I am. But I am influenced by the fact that he is no longer any danger to them or to theirs.

I am influenced, too, by a sense that what is against the core of my own faith is also actually and objectively unhealthy. Taking comfort in the suffering of others is natural and understandable and deeply unhealthy.

You might add, this is just a story in the news, it does not affect most ordinary people. I think it does. I now see increasing demands for revenge, for brutal and degrading treatment of others just because it is brutal and degrading. And these the people making these calls are not unkind people; generally they are those devoted to the kindly care of animals, or perhaps young children. Somehow they imagine the way to combat cruelty is by even more cruelty. It is not.

We can never really govern the actions of others. We can model healthy behaviours. In fact, we can seek to live the gospel.

A special day.

Recently I celebrated my birthday. It was strange because for the first time in my life I did not have anybody to share it with – at least in the flesh. I wondered how it would be. I started by tidying my living room, in which my neighbour had just laid my second life laminate floor. Then I fetched the beautiful birthday cake made by my son’s partner Kenneth, and lit the candle.

And then … and then… Look I can tell you the history of the whole day but it will not catch the feeling. It was a special day. Most of the things I did I might do any day – who is to restrain me, who lives a solitary life? But each moment of the day carried the feeling of its being a celebration, even the moments of work. It was with huge regret I reached the end, and bed, and knew that the next day would be just ordinary (and it was.)

All of it is the best bits – Blowers and Aggers

The beautiful boy was sitting in the passenger seat of the car outside Maryhill’s Lidl listening to his radio, turned up very high. I got into my car, started it, and my radio too came on – a look of camaraderie shot between the stout middle aged woman and the lad. We were both listening to TMS. Test Match Special is a unique experience. ‘Ball by ball commentary on the Test Match’ does not even begin to sum it up.

In quiet moments we enjoy comments on the cakes, the pies and the pigeon. If you actually using the name on your birth certificate, well, you are a bit of an outsider. Better to be Blowers, or Aggers, or CMJ. In more exciting moments, more than grown up men with accents from the thirties shout them selves hoarse with enthusiasm (just don’t have a heart attack, we so need you!). Always there is accessible commentary which helps those like me who only have the haziest grasp of the technicalities to know just why the fielder has been moved to silly mid on. And the statistics – oh they are there with the chocolate cakes. Endless, funny, delicious. And currently, the batsmen can’t bat and the bowlers can’t bowl, and the only thing saving England’s bacon is the fact the bowlers appear to be able to bat.

So if Channel 5 exhorts you to ‘The Ashes, just the best bits’ – forget it. Even if you can’t listen all day, and most of us can’t, you will have more fun, and learn more, by listening to a little more gardening at the wicket over on TMS.

The silence of the curlews

There were a few days when the lovely bubbling cry changed into the summer curlew cry, the repeating of their name. The young were raised, and giving tongue. I knew what it meant. They would be off. Now they have gone, all of them. Not a bubble, not a peep. They will be back next spring, nesting, feeding. Now they are on the coast, and wanderlust grips me too. But I must stay.

Time and place

I remember a year ago today. I was already facing up to the fact that the house I had expected to buy had been mis described in respect of the one thing on which I was not prepared to compromise. I had been told it had ten acres, and actually it had four. I had sold my house for two thirds of its asking price, expecting to move to that other property which was, just, within my reduced budget. Although a dear and very kind friend had given me a room in her home, we had both expected me to move on to my own home in a few weeks. Not to mention the problems raised by my three ponies, three sheep and assorted chicken . I was very definitely a leporida with euphoric challenges (not a happy bunny). I could see no way out of my problems which did not involve more money than I had.

Today I walked up a flowering meadow deep in grass, so deep my ponies are penned in a small area to keep their weight within reasonable limits. I walked back to my own house, which is, admittedly still a work in progress, but where the living room at least is starting to look like a normal room. I was in the really fresh air, free of fumes, safe and secluded and less than 3/4 hour from Glasgow. I had somehow done it, and within my budget. what is more, ‘the other house’ had been sold for more than I would have paid in view of the lack of land. Everybody had come well out of it.

I am deeply, deeply thankful.

A charm

And this morning they came. Brilliant, fast, convivial, flighty, an entire charm of goldfinches. They will not stay, they are simply enjoying the bounty of the late summer or early autumn which is what Scotland gives in August. They are passing through, and I hope, noting how many more feeding places, and hiding places, are coming into being here. They are like a visit from the Holy Spirit, golden and glorious, and then gone.