Monthly Archives: June 2010

Why blog?

Colleagues today were mildly amazed that anybody should blog – they felt that it perhaps indicated ‘should get out more’ (quite possibly true in my case) and ‘should work harder’ (not true of any blogger I know).

Blogging to me seems an occupation of the workaholic, the person who simply finds it hard to switch off altogether, and finds it easier to be doing something as they step away from the day’s activities, and into the real rest of a book, or a computer game, or music, or whatever occupies the time between ending work and sleeping.

It is of course, also often the outlet of the compulsive communicator. Probably the compulsive introverted communicator, who feels they have had more than enough of having to make the split-second judgements that real conversation calls for, but who still wants to lash the day into some kinds of patterns of sense.



Ever since my new hair cut I have been grumbling quietly that the new cut would NOT lie flat. My hair was so fly away. It was only when my new bottle of conditioner passed by accident into the very small range of the focus of my eyes without glasses, that I finally saw what was written on the label. Of course I am usually blind in the shower, where my conditioner lives, because I take my glasses off before stepping in. My new conditioner is shampoo. All I can say in self defence was that I took it off a shelf marked ‘conditioner.’ Since I have been applying it ever more lavishly it is of course small wonder my hair refused even rudimentary obedience.

When filling in forms I am often asked if I consider myself disabled, and on the occasions I reply: ‘Yes’ I do so because I am thinking of my dyslexia which definitely limits my choices of rubbish jobs. It appears I have another hidden disability!

Tit fer …

I hope they are not tat.

Absence with desperate busy-ness – one part of which has been the creation of two sets of hat decoration (and, incidentally also the hat where they rest) for the Rural (in England the SWRI).

There are competitions, where various Rurals put up teams of four people to compete against other Rurals. These competitions are usually themed, and the theme of the one I am entering is ‘Holiday Fever’. The three other people are doing a sun top, a patchwork beach bag, and some decorated muffins (tell me, whatever happened to fairy cakes??). I am to do the decorated sun hat – and here it is. Or they are. I am offering a choice of two.

I have never made silk flowers before (only ribbon flowers which are made in another way) and was fearful my attempts would fail They did not, I think. But I thought I would like the ‘beach comber’ hat more than the ‘opium with Rosie’ hat – but I don’t. I like the bog standard conventional hat more.


I freely admit I have stolen this idea from Kelvin’s head. People go there looking for posts on baptism. They come to mine looking for asparagus.

I posted a couple of times last year on my baby asparagus, grown from seed, and am happy to report that they come through the winter fine. It was less fortunate that I had no sooner established them outside in a trough than ‘something’ scratched them up. Re-planted it turned out I had only lost a couple of them They are tough cookies indeed.

This is as well, for it turns out they are my totemic vegetable.

Most people have one totemic animal. I have one friend for whom it is owls, and another has bats. I was discussing this with her, and she commented ruefully that while most people have just one totemic animal, I have several (pigs, horses, dogs and sheep head the list). Then I have totemic fictional animals (dragons and now brass eagles). Then I have totemic birds (curlew, turkeys).

It never occurred to me until recently that I am so given to totems that I have acquired totemic vegetables. Asparagus. Good thing it IS the asparagus, because Puddy Em has killed all but one of the globe artichokes by using their trough for an out-door cat litter tray (for the times when coming in would inconvenience her).

Birds in the wilderness

Two years ago I was packing up to move house. I have to admit I found it grim. My one really happy memory of all that time was the farewell communion and party in my old house. One reading I chose takes the people of Israel out of Egypt. The reading which had often fallen to me on Maundy Thursday when I was Rector’s Warden, and other times when the priest would respond to my unspoken: ‘Pick me! Oh, pick me!’ I so love that reading.

‘This is how you will eat the feast – hurriedly, dressed for the journey.’

And we ate, with me ready to leave, with the packing cases around us.

I had thought of that Pass Over as taking me to the Promised Land,

More immediately, I thought it was taking me to a house I had no liking for, in a locality with which I had fallen in love, with space enough for all the livestock. It turned out the space was not there – instead of buying the ten acres I had been offered, there were less than four. Not enough. So I came here, to East Ayrshire instead.

And of course, the Pass Over did not take me to the Promised Land – it took me to the wilderness. Because that is where passovers take one. It took a series of comments on essays by a most insightful colleague to teach me that – I doubt he knows how much I owe him.

So here I have been sitting (like a bird in the wilderness, in the old song) trying to do wilderness as well as I possibly can. Beyond doubt it has made great changes in me. I am not sure I am yet able to articulate all of those in a public environment. And I no longer preach, so am not driven to dig the exegesis therapeutically, and pelican-like, from my own breast. (One of the sadder aspects of my particular wilderness, that.)

But one happy change I can note.

Once again I am packing and moving boxes, for the ground floor of the new home is about to start on its big adventure of renovation. Packing some boxes, and barrowing far, far more (ones I prudently left packed) into the old milking parlour, is tiring and boring. But this time I occasionally find old treasures, buried, as I peek in boxes. And I am looking forward, really joyfully, to having a clean warm dry decent home for the first time in two years.

‘Getting into a State’

There is behaviour so outrageous that one cannot even begin to see how the people undertaking it manage to justify it to themselves at all.

Israel has just persuaded itself that invading ships it does not own in international waters is, somehow, not piracy, and that shooting dead people on these boats is somehow not murder.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has somehow managed to persuade himself that it is totally fine to welcome into his church those persecuting gays and lesbians and calling for their country to leave the United Nations because that organisation supports civil rights for those in same-sex relationships. On the other hand, it is perfectly impossible to welcome dedicated and faithful Bishops who happen to be LGBT. Moreover he has, outrageously, single-handedly, and as an appointed leader, not even an elected Pope, managed to persuade himself that he can unilaterally ask countries supporting gay bishops to leave certain committees. Which is, as Jim Naughton points out in a deservedly-much-linked-to comment on Episcopal Cafe an action which trivialises and infantilises the whole communion.

What do these actions have in common? The participants have lost all touch with reality. They have lost that sense of groundedness, kindness and proportion which are in fact among the best gifts of our human nature. In fact, they ‘have got themselves into a State.’

It was a phrase of my mother’s. She would see a certain pattern of behaviour develop and say at once: ‘Joe Bloggs is getting into a State about this.’ It implied that Joe was not able to be contacted by those around him. He had shut off the world, and the voice of sanity, and his own feelings and thoughts were feeding themselves.

Groups of people are even worse. When not only you, but your close group, all see things in one way, it is much harder to take on board the broad view. If those you see every day tell you that – oh, beating a woman up, or molesting a child, or condemning people for a sexual orientation is totally fine, you can come to believe it. If you have a group around you, it is much much easier to shut out the cold, hard voice of truth.

And to some degree, we all do it. We convince ourselves that speeding, or over-eating, or -well tell me, what is your secret denial? Because nearly everybody has one! We convince ourselves that it is normal and acceptable and right and proper. And mostly these things do not do that much harm. They don’t lead to international piracy or to the perversion of a whole denomination from love to just the kind of petty miserable actions which Screwtape most loved. Do not be misled by the jokiness of this reference. I think both sets of actions are Evil in a very pure form.

But you can help, gentle reader. Make sure those around you know that either or both actions (and it will depend on which circles you move in) are wrong. Pour in the cold water of scrutiny on the foetid, self-referencing closed circle of the ‘state’. Call the bluff. Stand fast against the hysteria.