Monthly Archives: April 2010


So here I am in the balmy south enjoying my new grandson. I drove down. As usual with these things, once I was a hour from home I realised I had left some essentials behind. That, of course, is why motorway service stations have shops.

However it appears my wants are eccentric. No dog rewards for training. No dog food. Really – what are things coming to?


… for joy that a person is born into the world…

Astonishingly, people are born all the time. Astonishingly because to encounter birth is to experience something which feels wholly unique.

This week, my poor Cassandra had a huge, beautiful still born tup lamb. Her puzzlement was great. However much she licked, it would not get up and walk. I contacted the shepherd, and with great kindness he gave me a little ewe lamb whose mother had had two and not taken to the first born. The huge tup lamb was skinned, and the puzzled tiny ewe lamb put into an overcoat several sizes to long. It trailed behind her like a Tim Burton bride’s train. Cassie was even more puzzled. The new lamb fulfilled the essential requirements of lambdom. It walked, it baaed and parts of it smelled OK. The trouble was that parts of it did not. And it kept trying to indecently assault her. It kept trying to get at her udder.

I jammed Cassie in a corner and the lamb suckled and all seemed fine. I kept popping out to do this. But eventually the lamb, now christened Martha, since she is plainly a relation of Lazarus, stopped playing ball. The jury is out over whether, when I am NOT there, Cassie is letting her suckle, or whether Martha was getting tired and losing the will to feed.

I imported a lamb teat and powdered lamb milk. Martha is reluctantly taking the occasional bottle and is starting to thrive, and I dearly hope she will shortly get back to assaulting her foster Mum. Meanwhile her foster Mum has fallen deeply in love with Martha, who is is plainly the cutest lamb on the planet. Her heart is full of the joy that a person is born into the world.

I hope the feeding is going to work out, because meanwhile, other hearts are filling with the same joy. My daughter (you, gentle reader, know her as Bea) has also been delivered of a fine healthy boy child, named for his two grandfathers. Of course I am full of delight and long to speed south to hold the little scrap of humanity, fruit of so much love and so much pain, if you count in all the long slow sadness his grandfather and I made between us, and the inevitable troubles of a child blossoming into what the Victorians called ‘glorious womanhood’ (and for once were probably right).

Only what a hell of a mess I have created for my poor long suffering neighbours, who will hold the fort while I go a-grandmothering. A ewe devoted to her lamb, which she will not suckle. A lamb devoted to its Mum and needing fed every two hours. A large smelly animal unit, not easily confined or transportable.

It seemed such a good idea at the time. Oh dear.

A real old master

Today another builder showed – certainly more personality than the last three put together. He comes pre-recommended by my BTO acquaintances. I think, by Franz Hals.

He is a bit of a tyrant – he won’t let me do anything myself. He may well be too expensive. He has a sense of humour. But he appears rational. He realises that what one wants to do and what one can do are very different things. He is adamant that the en suit must go into the guest room to have reasonable access to drainage and to electricity. He provided a sketch map to show where the twin beds could go, and all the plumbing. It was an uphill job to convince him I would, at least, buy the bathroom suit and the downstairs flooring. He certainly was taking into account everything, including waterproofing under the bathroom. He let me have my cork tiles, somewhat grudging admitting they were a good idea. He is going to bring up an itemised quotation, both for taking out my existing floors and going on top of them. I think on balance he favours the on top solution as being adequate. We agreed the rubble would stay here for road mending. I think this is also a good idea, though I need to designate a site for its storage.

I had taken him for a vigorous fifty eight – but it turns out he is ten years older. These old masters wear well.

One by one

Last Friday we drove up the hill, and a solitary swallow was sitting on the telephone line. She dived and swooped and flew through the buildings, and I hoped there were enough insects for her. The exceptional cold of winter and another bitter snap just as life was stirring has knocked the numbers of insects down a lot. I have been especially grieved at the shortage of bumble bees, which last year were everywhere you looked by April. And there is something melancholy in a single swallow.

Mid week, another arrived. Then, this Friday, another. Three. I am hoping for more to arrive yet as last year they arrived over at least a three week period. Nationally, numbers of these summer migrants fall steadily all the time. Last year I had five pairs.

I am also concerned over my frogs – lots of spawn was laid and then came the deluge. You can’t drown frog spawn but it does sweep away. I am trusting that though it is not very visible, some is even now maturing into taddies. But I can’t see it. I keep hoping.

Another day, another builder

Face by Ramsey, and unresponsive to my best jokes. I find it hard to know what to do when jokes raise not a flicker of a smile. I have two more builders coming to quote and then I quit. I fear running out of painters (joke, though I know that you, gentle reader, do not need this kind of help).

The bad news is that I will need a macerator, a Saniflo, in order to have an upstairs en suit because there is not enough head room or manoeuvre room to fit a shower over the other bathroom. It will need to be at the other end of the house. I have sourced a reasonably priced Saniflo, but I grudge the loss of space in my bedroom. I also have no idea where I will then put my wardrobe, which also needs the head room only offered by the apex of my roof/ceiling. Is it better to put my wardrobe in the guest room, or to put the en suite in the guest room?

Better question, gentle reader – why on earth should I imagine this interests anybody but me?

Low (and high) Sunday

I started the day wrapped in profound gloom – an unedifying combination of misery and fury. Church lifted it somewhat (a more than usually good sermon, I thought. The preacher looked mildly astonished at this comment. I used to notice in the happy preaching days that any sermon of mine that I thought more than ordinarily mediocre usually drew from somebody the comment that it was especially good.)

Then home in the sunshine. I was determined to be glum about the sun, but it defeated me. And I re-potted the asparagus (subject of word searches leading people to the blog, surprisingly). I had believed much of it dead, despite its over wintering in the house. But only one root seemed to have died, and I got a good number of little phallic seedlings moved into two troughs for more nurture. In fact, an afternoon of tidying and planting in the pots outside the house removed many of the sad casualties of the grim winter, and revived the survivors, and then introduced new joys.

Then a new builder arrived to offer his thoughts on the house. He struck me as man who knew how to balance the demands of craftsmanship and economy. Face by J S Sargent, I think. Do we trust Sargent? He went with the suggestions of my daughter Grace and my surveyor, both of whom I trust. It looks as if I shall end up with a hanging floor. Is that the right term? My Builder’s Bible is buried in a box somewhere. I would put the floor on to the joists myself, thus saving money – but entailing more work.

The long and the short of it is that I will need to find big reserves of courage and energy to see me successfully over all this, but I begin to think I can do it. ‘It is very do-able’ said Sargent.

If the little asparagus can make it through the winter, hopefully, I can make it through the restoration of the house. I ended with a high Sunday after all, or a Sunday high.


Numbers visiting this blog are a little – irregular. Undoubtedly what keeps them up best is regular posts. Sometimes a new blog post comes as sweetly and easily as – er … something or other.

Other times I am struggling for words. Today, for instance. What to blog about. This morning the rare pleasure of a ride out with my son, as usual encouraging me to push my comfort zone a bit. Then turning the ponies into the big field for a few hours. There is new grass on a very wet field, and I don’t want them to have too much, or to churn it up with their feet.

Lunch, then a trip to the local ice cream ‘factory’ outlet. Misnomer, really. Two deep freezes at the local farm which does make very good ice cream – we got three different litres for under a tenner, and agreed that the coffee was superb, the tablet (a superior kind of fudge for southern readers) very good and the Fruits of the Forest hardly fruity at all. We returned with our indulgent purchases and flushed with a virtuous sense of having supported the local economy. This will guarantee that we do not gain weight. We hope.

But I have nothing to blog over.


The Evangelists were all given their symbols. Of course you will realise at once that in heaven a symbol is a reality, and real beings, real angels, were at once and for ever appointed to the job. I watched the first three. Mark’s, who was given the name of Mark to add to his existing name and used it at once with great enthusiasm, was a lion, a huge forceful beast. As he stepped up to his new job, the most marvellous wings grew from his back – tawny like his coat, and huge like his personality, fur-feathered.

Luke was a huge patient ox, a domestic beast, gentle and very much the servant. He, too, at once grew wings, his always having something of the scent of hay about them. And Matthew was shaped like a man, with his great concern for justice, and that anger in him… No, of course all angels shaped like humans do not have wings – no, just think. Well exactly, the angels of the resurrection… But Matthew’s wings sprang into being. Oh, enviable wings, like the wings of a swan.

And then I became John. And I was aware of this huge disappointment. Because of course I already HAD wings. Eagles do. There was nothing new for me, and the others had become. I was just a great bird with goldy-brown wings. I heard Michael’s voice. We all knew Michael had had problems with his own becoming. ‘There are other ways of becoming, find yours,’ he said, as quietly as he could. And then I felt it. I felt goldenness. First a flush, and then it flamed up my whole being. I heard the sigh. The others saw, and knew. We all knew this was the right thing. Which is how I became, and how, to this day, I am copied in brass in churches. But (forgive me) the brass is never as bright as my living feathers, however they polish it.

(Thanks, Jane!)

… in spite of that

A strange chapter of accidents means this is the first Good Friday in years I will not be in church. Idiocy and poor planning and other accidents. But there you go.

So, after the heart wrenching grandeur and demands and sorrow of last night’s service at St Mary’s, and the very real sense of being part of the living church – today is about how to keep this day alone.

And maybe that is fitting.

Jesus’s woman followers stood together, watching his death. Less at risk of capture by the authorities of course, because what can women do? Not even reliable witnesses, not under Jewish law. Just as today we find it hard to believe the words of abused children. So they were free to be together, some of them, and dear knows what kind of support you give to each other as you watch somebody so so dear to your heart tortured to death. And John – not the apostle John, but a younger man with the same commonly given name. He must have been young enough not to be a real threat. He was with them, or perhaps Mary and he and a few of her closer friends and female relatives were together, apart, nearer the cross.

The others scattered, afraid and ashamed. As we so often are.

And today, we, men and women, are sometimes together, watching, helpless as Christ again suffers in the oppressed and powerless, and sometimes in horrible isolation. And, man or woman, both will at times be our experience.

So, I hope it is not unfitting if I largely keep this terrible day, this awe-ful day largely apart from my fellow Christians.

For keep it I will. Not quite in silence (life demands some speech) but much of it so. And I plan to spend time in a kind-of company. I am fortunate that my bibles have been gifts. My NEB from my father, my NRSV from a life long friend, and my endlessly-useful parallel Greek/English from another dear, dear friend. I always feel as though I read these bibles in company. I hope to spend most of the time from 12 to 2 in prayer, of one kind or another, and the last hour, which is a heavy burden alone, reading in just that invisible company. And in the company of weeping angels.

In spite of that, we call this Friday, Good.