Monthly Archives: December 2009

..and the cold grows stronger

This is what I left behind – I gather it is now deeper, crisper and colder.

Stunningly beautiful, totally impractical.

I gather all at my address are currently dreaming of a green Christmas – just like the ones we used to know



Yesterday, my own idiocy led to my car breaking down most spectacularly outside a major British city. Yes, I had breakdown cover, but the kindness of the two mechanics who rescued me went far beyond anything money could ever have bought. I know the terms of my policy pretty well. I know I should have been charged for services for which I was not charged. Nothing in my policy suggested that having been uplifted and taken to a garage, I should then be kept in the warm lorry cab because the waiting room, around which wet snow was descending, was chilly.

In due course, I was set on my way, in a restored car, with full instructions as how to deal with any danger signs, and a firm instruction I should ring the service on arrival so they ‘knew I had got there safely’.

It was simple kindness. Delightful, unexpected, restorative. Kindness which has the knock-on effect of improving the whole society.

A non driving driver

I hate driving – and it is not something at which I am skilled. Therefore I surprised myself recently. On 22 Dec. the south west of Scotland was hit by heavy snow, and had I had any choice, I would not have driving at all. However I had an essential dental appointment – essential if I was not to spend Christmas in pain. So I headed out, and on my return heaved a sigh of relief as Kilmarnock and well known roads cane into view. The journey form Killie to home is fifteen minutes. Twenty, max. The roundabout was at a standstill. The Hurlford road was grid locked. I came back by devious ways, and was much delayed by the need to out manoeuvre motorists who were getting stuck by not observing the obvious rule that you need momentum to get up snow covered hill roads, and stopping half way up is disaster. I made it to the mouth of my drive. It had taken over two hours.

The following day a huge and ancient suitcase turned into a covered sledge, and in a foot of snow, it took three hours to accomplish a double walk to the road end – 3/4 mile in each direction. Normally, it would take an hour. My neighbours dug my car out, and I was on my way south by the longer and safer route – motorways all the way.

What astonishes me is that I succeeded while all around me, better drivers failed.

Pictures are all on my phone, which is refusing to talk to my laptop – though both have bluetooth. However, don’t get your hopes up – simply beautiful pictures of trees and snow.

Later that day, more snow fell, and the B road off which I live became impassable again.

Snow on snow

All four advent wreath candles are burning bright. I decided that snow should not put me off going to see them, especially as I had in store what these days is a rare treat, and always, for me, a delicious treat – namely reading aloud in church. I had the seventh lesson to read at the service of lessons and carols. My car was already parked down at the neighbours, so I set off on foot, wrapped in my coat, which is very warm but otherwise shares the more notable characteristics of a hair shirt. The road, when I finally got off the drive and on to it, was noticeably snowy – but we live at the highest point of the road, and the middle point, and I was relieved to see the snow fade out as I got further towards Galston. The Moscow (yes, really) and Waterside road got less and less snow, and in Glasgow it was just a sprinkle. My luck held with parking places, and then a seat with a friend. The music was as always superb and yes, I enjoyed reading every bit as much as I had anticipated. I just hope the omelet only had the correct quotient of eggs. Then out. Oh dear, more snow. Never mind, on to motorway.

It was when I could see snow on the carriage way that I began to wonder. I should have left just before Waterside – and could see the slip road was seriously snowy. I decided against it, and instead went the long way round into Kilmarnock, and back by Hurlford, through street lights and dwellings and busy roads. I realised things were not as they might be when there was snow on the Galston streets. Off on the B road, and the start of the climb up. Much snow on the road. The little car sliding gracefully, and struggling to find her wheels even in first. Up the twisty road. Then the road opens out a bit, and I was getting hopeful. It is usually a busy road. I had it to myself, until I came round the corner and saw a recovery vehicle trying to rescue a car form the ditch. The little car stopped at a respectful distance. We watched. The car in the ditch was another little car. It was gracefully pulling the recovery vehicle into the ditch. We spoke a few kind words to the two harassed drivers, who were spurred on to another attempt. The recovery vehicle made it – and ended up on the clearish bit of the road with the other car behind it. Little car had to go round the side, the two drivers cheering her on and offering to push if she got stuck. By this point you could not see any tarmac on the road, and I was travelling at ten miles an hour. I saw no other cars at all. Somehow she made it all the way to the drive, where she finally stuck, and my long suffering neighbour, a professional driver, had to rescue her. She is now down at their house and if the forecast is to be believed, I am likely to have to get all my packing, etc etc down there in a wheelbarrow for my trip down south. The extra half mile up a steep hill and round a sharp bend is not to be contemplated.

The trouble was, snow had fallen, snow on snow, while the earth was hard as iron, and you could have taken the water for stone.

Fings aint wot they used to be

It was a good market, but not a great market. This was the Edinburgh Christmas market. Now, the funny thing is – we write of many cultural experiences – theatre, opera – and we evaluate them. We don’t seem to do that for others. I don’t know why going to a Christmas (or Continental or German) market doesn’t seem to count as a cultural experience, but it doesn’t. For me, you see, it is. It is an entertainment, a joy. I go prepared to have a good day out, to spend money, to eat, drink and immerse myself in a – well – an event, a happening, an installation, almost.

So I report – it was good but not great. Too few stalls (are numbers limited?) and huge numbers of people – you virtually had to queue to see the glass on sale. The glory days of numbers of stalls selling exquisite glass decorations and interesting woodcrafts have passed. Perhaps the current relative stages of pound and euro? You had to queue for a long time to buy a number of foodstuffs. But there were good things. There was a good friend to enjoy it with. There were nice glass and wooden things, and interesting foods. It was a good market. Just not a great market.


Just occasionally, writing or speaking, a miracle occurs. Something you know to be true, but don’t especially believe to be good, springs into life for others. I have jsut been writing for Thinking Anglicans for tomorrow. Oh dear. It strikes me as being true but not alive (like that famous parrot). I need a miracle.

How potent

I particularly detest the theology of Mrs Alexander (All Things Bright and Beautiful, There is a Green Hill) but despite that I love to hear the boy’s voice ring out clear the first line of my least-favourite carol on Christmas Eve – Once in royal David’s city.

How complex our relationships with festivals and songs are. (Strange, how potent cheap music). A friend has been trying to negotiate her way around a minefield of unhelpful theology, modern gender bias and plumb awful words.

I have two very very favourite carols. The first is the Chester Nuns song – it is unhelpfully in Latin with no modern translation, but words run something like ‘the King who made the skies, the Lord of all ages and eternities, is born in a stable. Among the animals lies the glory of the world’ and it details Joseph buying the swaddling clothes, and Mary kissing and cuddling her baby. There are lots of songs on the theme, but it is beautifully simple. The other favourite is ‘While shepherd’s watched’ not to the usual dreary tune, but to ‘Cranbrook’ better known as ‘On Ilkley Moor’. It is a wholly different thing, though we still get goodwill to men, I fear.

Oh, and one more, the incomparable ‘Christians, awake, salute the happy morn’ with its delightful ‘enlightened shepherds’.
So join in – what are those you enjoy, or approve of, or disapprove of and still enjoy, or…..

Packing stones

I’m still pondering the role of discipline in writing. Currently I have set myself the task of posting twice a week on ‘Love Blooms Bright‘. I’m struggling. The gospel readings are OK and now I don’t have to write in a noisy environment with a time limit I think I may be able to do something with them (or the remaining two!). The OT readings started off sub prime – and I really have not been able to see a way into them. This leaves the epistle, of which the last two have been the most moving of Paul’s letters with most of the best bits left out, the lectionary not having my passion for narrative flow. This has emasculated the enterprise more than somewhat.

The question has been – post something which I do not feel is my best-ever shot, or just write anyhow, and let it be quieter, less profound, and hope it works like packing stones in a dyke. Holding up the general enterprise (in this case a better sense of what is really in the Bible) without much instant appeal. For a variety of reasons (including not having the sense of taking up valuable space which could be better used by others) I have gone for the latter.

This blog post, too, is another packing stone.

A room of one’s own

I do try not to be precious about writing. I try to tackle it in a disciplined way. I do however have my limits. Sadly one if them is that writing by hand kills the whole thing dead. I need a keyboard to think. And comparative quiet.

The break down of my laptop had driven me nuts. Not only do I rely on it for social stuff, fun stuff and DVDs. I rely on it to write. The library computers are efficient. But most are there to enjoy their emails, face book and so on. There is a lot of noise. Not easy background noise, but one-or-two-loud-voices-and-every-detail-of-the-marriage-breakdown voices.

I am reluctant to admit it, but Viirginia Woolfe may have been right all along. A room of one’s own and an on-line spell checker.

This recruit, this sheep, this Christian

Polly and Cassie have moved. The new herd to which they are currently joined had used up the whole field in this exceptionally miserable weather, and they have gone to pastures new. They know that at the moment they are with this gorup, though I am sure they are puzzled as to why, but they will also settle down at home when they get there. Within the new herd they have their own loyalties, their own agendas. They have kept their own identities.

As a life long pacifist, I admit I am prejudiced against the army. I may be unfair in the degree of horror that yesterday’s reports from young American Marines created in me. ‘This recruit’, ‘this recruit’ – never ‘I’. It was as though all sense of self have been expunged. That sense which makes my old Highland Mace, after six years seperation, greet his former herd-mate Coriander, as though she had been gone a week, and Jones and she, who never warmed to each other, greet at arms length – should that be at rear leg’s length? They are simple animals, but secure in a sense of self.

I hope to God that the recruits, much more complicated animals, in fact hold a secure sense of Joe, and Anne, and Elle, and Hank securely under the flack jackets. That such a sense will be resurrected when they leave the forces. I hope.

My former husband gave me, as a first-ever present, ‘Ich und Du’, ‘I and Thou’ Buber’s great book which hymns the sense of self and the sense of other. Only those who know ‘I’ can stand face to face and know ‘Thou’. It appears that to kill, to work as a unit, to be killed, one must lost that sense.

In the foundation rite of the Christian faith, we give personal names. Christian names. In Church we are known always by those names, not by a family name, not a unit name, never, ever as ‘this Christian’. I have always stood against that strand of Christianity which drifts increasingly towards a lonely individual who stands in isolation before God. But this forces me back. Unless it is ‘I’ who is part of the whole created world, then nothing is. Only ‘I’, only Rosemary, or Mace, or Polly, can be part of that glowing glorious conglomeration. Only ‘Ich’ can ever be part of the Communion of Saints, and the Chruch Triumphant.