Tag Archives: teaching and learning

Call me naive

There is only one God. Or so I thought – go on, call me naive. Only one God, and all of our human ideas about God are flawed and fallible, though we people of faith do what we can to understand understand, to worship and to serve.

Judging from the outcry over Giles Goddard allowing Muslims to hold a prayer service in his church, you might be excused believing that Christians thought there were lots of Gods all in competition to get the good will and worship of human beings. We don’t. Of course we believe that our version of faith is the truest, and most helpful, but we do not, traditionally anyhow, believe that other faiths worship other gods. Muslims, in their turn, of course believe their version of faith is the most true, but that we, too, worship the one God.

Let me be perfectly plain. Calling for a good faithful man to be disciplined for recognising that there is only one God, and that we all try to serve him, makes Christians look foolish, ill informed and narrow minded. It stirs up ill will between the great faiths. It adds fuel to the Islamaphobia which is becoming an ever-more serious issue in our country, and it creates misunderstandings.




How to avoid being party to a huge, vile, cruel injustice.

Of course I know, really I know, that the slow process of changing minds and warming hearts cannot be hurried. It is a matter of example and quiet words and funny stories. Sometimes, however, the bossy little girl who still lives within me gets the upper hand – and she finds the  warming hearts and telling funny stories unbearably slow. So, just for her, and based on this week’s news and eves-droppings, public and private, are some useful rules for living.

Never fear asking the idiot question. Others may be unsure of what is going on too. They may be afraid to ask. You will do everybody a favour by being the one prepared to look an idiot.

Never ever be afraid to stop a meeting by pointing out just what it is doing.  Stay polite to individuals, but point out in graphic detail just where they are going and what hurt they are causing. There are worse things than a whole room full of people looking at you in disgust. Yes, honestly, there are.

Justice and truth always matter more than pleasing people. There is no real comfort without them.

You do not need everybody to like you.

Never sign a joint report without knowing what is in the rest of it. There may be a can you are unwilling to carry.

There are always ways of avoiding being a party to joint responsibility for evil actions. They may be painful, but there you go.

Dear readers, follow these rules, and you will never, ever find yourself in the position the current members of the English House of Bishops finds itself today (all bar one member, we are led to understand).

That position is the most painful I can imagine, and I am more glad than I can tell you that I have no part of it on my conscience.


I have been having trouble with my balance lately. Not physical balance (though I am as clumsy as ever) but my life balance. At all times, there is a pretty fine balance in my life between work and play, which is not helped by the fact that many of the things I really ought to do present as play.

There are a number of hours a week dedicated to simple hard graft for dosh. These are non-negotiable, so we will leave them to one side. Of the remaining hours, there are a number of possible activities, all of which need doing. They are: prayer, writing, reading, learning Hebrew, riding, animal care, rest, home maintenance (tidying, cleaning, washing), gardening, restoring the house, and dress making. Oh, and blogging. All of these need to be done. Few of them can be combined by any other. And that is the problem.

Currently what I actually burn to do is dress-making, and I spent last weekend making a ‘dressing-up’ dress for one of my grand children. It was a beguiling but tiring job, and it brought great joy to both me and the child. I did rather therefore miss out on actual rest, and as I get older I do find I need down time doing nothing. Not even blogging.

Hebrew, gardening, and until yesterday, house restoration, and riding have been all but non existent, and this must not continue.

So this week sees a renewed effort to parcel out my time – oh and if any of you have solved the work/life balance thing – do let me know!

Not mere Christianity

There was an excellent blog recently from a man who went into a bookshop looking for a good introduction to Christianity which was not C. S Lewis’s ‘Mere Christianity’. He failed to find anything, and left depressed. As an answering blog pointed out there is in fact plenty of inspiring Christian writing around. I’m not sure I am capable of inspiring Christian writing, but I think I want to have a go at discussion some of the basic Christian ideas on here. Panic not, dear sceptical readers, I will not allow this project to take over the blog, just fill in some of the silences.

Lewis’s deliberately provocative title was intended to go to a basic Christianity. beyond party difference, as it were, and especially beyond Protestant/Catholic divide. These days going beyond Protestant/Catholic divide is a doddle unless you are talking football. Going beyond right-wing uber-Fundamentalist Christianity and liberal Christianity is not. The kind of beliefs one sees unattractively embodied in some of those who stood for the Republican Party Presidential candidate is not something I recognise as Christian, and I would not want in any way to be associated with it. Best to say straight out that they may be my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I am not interested in having my beliefs in any way confused with theirs. My readers are as well to assume that I detest pretty much everything they stand for unless I tell them otherwise.

So I can make no claim that this is ‘mere Christianty’ – Christianity beyond dispute. But what I present here will be,in the main, what moderate liberals would recognise, even if they disagreed in particulars.

Not making it

I am not much in the way of buying special occasion clothes. I wear them all right, but usually I make them myself. However, currently I have a house being renovated, a book being prepared for publication and have almost no flat clean surface in my home, and dress-making does not seem like a cunning plan. Therefore today I sallied forth to buy an outfit for my grandson’s baptism in a couple of weeks.

I headed for a shopping centre, and as they are really all the same, it matters not which one. I picked the one with a good cheap fresh fruit stall. I started in TK Maxx where I remembered seeing a calf-length skirt and bolero jacket outfit which I thought would be suitable. It turned out to be a knee-length dress and jacket. As is always the case, the dress was too tight over the bust. They always are, my figure being like that – either that or fine over the bust and far too loose everywhere else. The answer is to cut a bit more generously at the top. An answer which did not apply in this case. So I found a very neat tweed jacket – which was too loose. And its smaller cousin, which was a bit too tight. And no trousers in both the right size and the right colour to go with them, not even in other shops.

I moved on to the other chain stores. I had many nice ideas for a ‘look’ which out of deference to the father of the baby (my own son) was to be pleasantly inconspicuous and not at all like the kind of thing I make. All the dresses were too short, or sleeveless, or both. Jackets in my price range were cheap and nasty. Quite a few had me goggling that anybody could even consider putting such a nasty fabric into what was plainly intended to be ‘smart-but-casual’ wear. Tailored trousers were either too tight at the waist, or too loose at the hip, causing an odd jodhpur effect that was not intended. I, who have always been a bit condescending about ‘George’ where I buy jeans and Ts suddenly realised what a sterling job they do. There was very very little suitable for a size 16 lady nearing sixty who does still want to look well turned out and smart, and does not have the kind of money to spend that Harvey Nicks expects her to have. Very possibly I would have had similar problems in Harvey Nicks, too, but am able to keep them as a kind of happy dream.

In the end I headed to the one single shop which does not cater at all for my age group – New Look. Here I found a very chic pair of very full trousers – so full the hip problem was abolished – and a very sweet Art-Deco revival chiffon blouse/jacket, which sits at the waist (fine with such full trousers) and has huge sleeves, and the kind of pattern which suggests a 70s revival of Clarice Cliffe. I also got a simple vest to provide modesty at the neck of the jacket. We will pass over the fact that I yearned to buy some teal blue fabric to bring out the touch of that colour in the jacket, and run up the trousers myself.

The only downside is that the outfit, while perfectly modest, and covering all the flesh that anybody might want covered, and not needing either new shoes, nor an new bag, not yet a new hat, looks exactly like something I would make for myself.

Equal agony for all?

Proper middle class people have teeth that are all their own. I however am a cleaner, and I do not. Today I went to the dentist to have three teeth extracted. Two on one side of my jaw, one on the other. One on each side was reduced to a mere root, which had been crowned and then lost the crown. The third was a tooth whose gum had receded, and whose life expectancy was short.

I react very badly to adrenaline in local anaesthetic, so the anaesthetic is without it, which makes it generally less efficient. The nice girl was running a bit late. She numbed my gums at both sides, and drilled a filling out and re-stuffed it. She was a bit horrified that my last dental visit was only a year ago, because rather a lot had not been done.

Then she scraped a bit at the gums at both sides and asked if I felt it. I did. She added more anaesthetic. Then I made light and hilarious conversation about my portfolio of jobs, while the anaesthetic took hold. Then she scraped at my gums – it was no better. I apologised. She added more anaesthetic. I made light conversation about publishers. She laughed a lot.

She scraped at my gums. It really did seem less bad, and I said I could not feel a thing. This was not wholly true. She started on the extraction of the duo on my left side. I let out a squawk. She stopped. I apologised. She added more local anaesthetic. She then started on the right side, on the grounds things were better there. They were worse. I stood it for some time and then stopped her. I apologised. She added more local anaesthetic.

She went back to the left side. It was bad, it was really bad. I stopped her. By now my appointment has run seriously over time. I apologised. I spat out a lot of blood. I got a new tissue. She explained I had now reached the limit of anaesthetic allowed. She could give me antibiotics, because probably the problem was infection at the root, combined with the lack of adrenaline in the mix.

By now, both sides of my mouth felt seriously battered despite the anaesthetic. I said she should at least get out the loose tooth, and try the left root. She took out the tooth in seconds. It was not a great experience, but at least the tooth came fast. The root on that side was hollow, the crown having come out post and all. This gave a bit of grip, and although the whole thing was bad, it was reasonably fast.

We paused. We re-grouped. I spat out a lot of blood. I rinsed and spat a lot of bloody mouth wash out as well. She and I both hoped that the anaesthetic on the right side was helping a bit more. She started on it. I bore it for a bit. I stopped her. She repeated her offer to give antibiotics and to have me back. The trouble was that I now had a battered and disturbed root, over a suspected abscess. I would then need to come back and endure the whole thing again. It was not appealing.

I told her to press on. If I needed a break I would stop her. Now, remember this is a solid root, and there is little to grip. There followed a desperate struggle. She struggled to grip the root and pull it out. I struggled to stay and the chair. I remembered a friend, a final year medical student, who has sometimes she says, to hold down agonised children. I decided that if she could hold down children, it ought, in theory, to be possible to hold down myself. Tears ran down my cheeks. In the end, I stopped my dentist. I made a lot of bad jokes very fast, about anything, including I think sawn-off legs. I asked how much longer. She said the root was now loose and she could, she thought, get it out in a very short time. I prised myself back against the chair. She got the damned pliers back in my mouth. There was a brief and worse agony, and then, surprisingly, there was no dentist in my mouth.

She asked me to spit and rinse, and warned me there was quite a lot of blood. I cannot say this surprised me. Then between us, we got the blood off my face and my hands. She remarked that most people would have quit, but I just kept making jokes – I replied the alternatives were too terrible to contemplate. I did not add they involved screaming loudly and hurling myself at the door. She added sorrowfully that she was usually good at extractions. I am a compassionate person and did not add any of the answers which sprang readily to mind.

There was a waiting room of potential patients, and were I a really nice person, I might not have made the joke I did while paying at the desk, because some of the patients looked as if they were the nervous kind who are liable not to realise it is wholly painless to visit the dentist nowadays. My excuse must be that by the time I got outside, I was barely capable of walking. I bought an ice-cream, for sugar and cold, and handed in a prescription for antibiotics, and went and sat in the car till I felt better.

Driving home I mused on the fact that instead of feeling pain as my jaw returned to life, I was actually feeling less pain gradually as levels of insult faded. Now I am home and in pyjamas. I propose a quiet evening of editing and the dogs will not get much of a walk at all. I am sorry for this – but on the whole I feel they will have suffered less than either me or my dentist.

du temps perdu

So, I get out the strimmer and start to anticipate the pleasure of outdoor work on a lovely day, bolstered by knowing that the rain starts again tomorrow, making strimming very hard.

First I discover mice have gnawed the cable. Heck. I shorten it, and then find the plug is one of the welded on Elven Safety kinds. I go in search of a new plug, find it on a broken toaster, and remove it, and then refit it to the strimmer.

The phone rings. I answer it. It is a call form a hospital patient whose name is mumbled and I don;t know if I known them or not. I call back. It is a premium rate, and they get their money’s worth out of me by telling me this at extraordinary length. I leave a message.

I strim. the strimmer reaches no distance at all, and I run out of flex. I track down the extension lead, which had been used to light the chicken shed. I have to cut the wire to get it back. I pull the wire back. I wire up the end of the socket (the kind you use outdoors). After I have done this, I find the mice have eaten through the flex. I cut out the damaged flex and re-wire the socket.

My son rings. We chat. Then I find there is still damaged flex. I cut out the damaged flex. I rewire the plug this time (other end of wire). Then I discover I have lost a screw and cannot close the plug. I hunt for the screw. I find a new plug and unwire it. I re-cut the ends of the cable to suit the new plug. I rewire the plug.

I come in for a cup of tea and a modest slice of bread and a tomato. I blog. Gentle reader, this has taken most of the afternoon. The blogging was the SHORT bit. I am still hoping to get SOME strimming done, but no longer will it be the whole garden, not anyhow.

Colours and shadows

One picture says it all – back to Bute overnight. A joyful afternoon choosing fabric for my new living room with the help of a good friend, dinner with another, then a night of peace and bliss with the dogs at St Ninian’s Bay.

The dogs love camping. The little tent you can see cost me ten squid at Woolworth in the good old days – I had been searching for a tent with a very limited budget. I went form Tiso to Blacks to Millets, with increasing alarm – all too dear. then in Woolies, I found what appeared to be the exact same tent, with the same specs, and the same fabric – only with a different pattern. The choice was Barbie Pink or camouflage. I have never regretted it – and it does just hold one woman and two large dogs. I am never cold – though sometimes too hot.

I lay at night, happy in the consciousness of glorious colour to deck the living room if it is ever finished, and listening to the oystercatchers. Max soon came to the conclusion that if I was resting he should, and Bridget too finally decided she could call it her bed. They lay up against me, and moonlight alternated with showers. There was no sound but wind and rain and water and birds and soft breathing.

But the next day when I came back to Ayrshire, it was home. The barn owls were very busy with the raising of their family. Bernadette and Martha were hopeful of food, and the ponies jostling for position, and I could see, at least, that one day the house WOULD be in order. I came back with renewed zest to get on with it all.

I will always go back to Bute – sometimes. The people, the peace, the wild flowers. But things are happening in Ayrshire, and I want them to happen. I have moved.

All Greek to me

I wonder if next Lent I should resolve that the only books I read will be fiction. I struggle to read novels.

On the other hand, I get really excited by books that I know some consider up-hill work. Recently I have embarked in re-reading Mark in Greek. I’ve done it before but this time I am aided by a help in the form of parallel text. It cut down a lot on the need to look things up – though to suck all the marrow from a passage, there is no doubt that a good dictionary is still indispensable. And I am riveted, excited and stirred – it is so very far from the heavy struggling English. Though a lot of the time it seems very rough Greek indeed. Rough but full of colour.

I am so luck to have learned it. It pains me so much that so few in the church learn it. It is so illogical. Muslims learn Arabic, Jews, Hebrew. We seem to think it is impossible for all but the highest flying clergy, and we don;t even suggest it for the laity. Why? It is not that hard, not that complex, and it opens doors through which vivid, life-giving images spring.

Gentle reader – if the Bible interests you – learn Greek.

The Annual Grump

It has started – the annual grump of those church people who hate Mothering Sunday. I have a certain grudging sympathy with those who dislike the commercialised aspects of the day – I know that some of them will grump in the same way over Christmas, and that all of us will grump over the joyful pagan celebration of Good Friday (Easter eggs scoffed in the supermarket car park while we are fasting). I appreciate many congregations do not want to derail the flow of the lectionary with the one-off Mothering Sunday readings.

No, what gets me is the ‘I had a bad experience as a child and mother and now you will not celebrate’ grump. Because we are all excluded from something. I’m sorry for those who had a bad experience as child and mother, or virtually no experience as both. Really sorry.

My marriage was pretty much a disaster, more especially as its ending seemed to me to retrospectively destroy what had seemed the joyful times of the early days of the relationship. I did not get to take any happy memories away from it. I don’t expect ever to have another romantic relationship that goes further than a shared coffee. Anything to do with weddings and marriage reawakens pain.

But I don’t expect Christian marriage to stop, I don’t WANT it to stop, or Valentine’s Day, just because I think of them with sorrow and guilt.

Please – be glad for me that being a daughter to a beloved mother, and a mother to beloved children made me happy and fulfilled, and that my daughters, too, rejoice in motherhood.