Thursday, 15 February 2018

Table Manners

It was the word “madam” that particularly irked her.

“It is with regret, madam, that we are unable to allow you and your companion into our restaurant for lunch today.”

“But we’ve booked and you hardly seem busy.”

She stretched up tall to see over the man’s crisp shoulder and could see plenty of empty tables. The maitre’d looked back at her sternly. Unquestioning, unmoveable.

Actually it he didn’t look at her - madam - his eyes shifted sideways to glance at her companion from the ruffled hair with its kitchen scissors cut to the down at heel scuffed lace up boots poking out from the unruly hem of the long velvet gown.

Otis had a style all of her own, out of time and out of place.

The maitre’d implied it wasn’t a style appreciated in such an establishment as this.

Melanie’s own style was of course impeccable, coiffured hair, cashmere pashmina, skirt fashionably just above the knee and freshly polished court shoes.

Otis nibbled the side of her thumb nail, a nervous habit. She pulled a bit of skin off between her teeth and spat it with precision at the maitre’d.

It landed on the lapel of his jacket. A slice of moonlight on the darkest night.

He flicked it off with a manicured fingernail.

“Please, madam, it would be advisable for you and your companion to leave, without fuss.”  He added.

Melanie wanted to stand her ground in her sturdy, sensible shoes, speak up for the little people, the persecuted, the unloved and unlovable.

The pashmina of convention was beginning to strangle her and she felt the heat rise up from her chest and cause her face to flush.

They had a reservation!

Melanie became more indignant and flustered almost missing the swift movement beside her as Otis reached under her skirts to pull out a sharp dagger from her boot.

It was like no dagger ever seen on earth before; it was translucent and shone brightly like the moon.

Otis plunged it into the man’s heart, removed it with the same dispassionate ease, wiped the blade on her skirt and replaced it safe in its hiding place.

The maitre’d stood for a second, and then tilted his head to one side, quizzically.

After what seemed like an age he slumped to the ground, eyes staring up at them. Melanie couldn’t bear to look and so unwound her restrictive scarf and threw it over his prone body.

“We’d better get out of here,” she said looking around furtively. “We can’t go in now.”

It was Otis’s turn to look puzzled, “but there are tables free and we have a reservation.”

There was logic to her statement and she defiantly stepped over the hurdle she had just obliterated.

Melanie took a last look down, it seemed as though a scarlet rose was blooming on the discarded pashmina. Something new had been born.

Lifting her head, all fears and propriety swept aside, she entered the restaurant to eat.

A story inspired by this song

Thursday, 25 January 2018

A January Garden

Squirrels scamper
 bare branches
   Pheasants frolic
       silent snowdrops
Hedgehogs hibernate
 layered leaves
Chaffinches chatter
sombre skies
Buds begin
             awakened adventures
Hope holds             

Monday, 15 January 2018

Write yourself happy!

Today is Blue Monday - apparently the most depressing day of the year.

This year it is compounded by the fast approaching BIG birthday I have next month.

I have always known that writing has a positive affect on my mood so with that in mind I turned my attention to writing a poem, inspired by something completely off the wall a friend said over coffee earlier today.

I hope it brightens your day...

My Granny’s Cat

My granny has a cat
It lives under the stairs
At least that’s what she tells me
But I’ve never seen it there.

She says it’s cute and cuddly
A little ball of fluff
But when I peer into the cupboard
It’s just filled with other stuff.

A wind up torch, a clothes brush
An odd shoe, a cricket bat
No evidence that I can see
To suggest she has a cat.

I think my granny’s got it wrong
I think she’s telling lies
Which is naughty, but I let her off
She’s quite old, she’s 55.

I think she’s just forgetful
And living in the past
When dinosaurs walked down the street
And time didn’t fly so fast.

She says a lot of funny things
And so do mum and dad
It’s crazy being in a family
Where everyone’s quite mad.

My granny says she has a cat
It lives under the stairs
It hides behind the hoover
And comes out when I’m not there.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Time to Remember All Souls

It was a privilege to host the 10:45 All Souls service at Emmanuel Church today as we especially remembered those we have personally lost in the past year.

Next week we will “remember” in a much broader context and that’s right and proper but this service in some ways validates our own grief.

And I do mean “our grief” for those who don’t know my own story this is what I shared today…

To be honest this year has been a year of funerals; I lost my nana and my mother-in-law within the space of a month. A good friend of mine recently lost her husband suddenly; we’ve lost friends from church including this week one our dear retired clergy.

I can honestly say I didn’t cry at any of the funerals I’ve been to this year, I don’t think I am hard hearted but nothing can every compare with what happened seven years ago this month when I lost my husband, suddenly and completely out of the blue.

To say my world was totally turned upside down is frankly a whopping great understatement. Andrew was only 48 when he died, I was 42 and our boys were 13 and 10.

In some ways it is easier in the beginning, there is so much to do and people are kind. My church family has always been a real support to me.

But there comes a time when even if other people don’t say it to you out loud you might think “when will this grief be over?”

Although actually I still feel quite numb, as I said I rarely cry at funerals and maybe that’s a symptom of taking anti-depressants. I’ve tried to reduce them but each time I do I get so far and then have a massive wobble which isn’t pretty, especially for my close friends who feel the brunt of it.

I used to think grief was more or less a finite thing with a beginning, death, and an end, getting over it and moving on to the next stage of life, whatever that may be.
I’ve actually not moved much in seven years.

My boys have grown up, into handsome young men, and their lives have progressed, new friends have come into my life and some have already moved on in that time. Old friends have moved back into my life. Everything is changing for everyone else and I so often feel stuck in a rut.

I have questioned God - what is this all about? Why did this have to happen? Isn’t God supposed to bring good things out of bad for those who trust him? It says that in the Bible so it MUST be true.

So what’s the plan? God doesn’t always answer clearly; he doesn’t email you a personal blueprint. If he has mine’s got lost in cyberspace.

There are lots of well-meaning but sometimes glib answers out there from Christians and non-Christians alike. Time doesn’t necessarily “heal” but it does help put things into perspective.

The biggest thing I have learned over these past seven years is not to rush my grief. I’ve learned to go with the flow and I was always such a planner before. When I look back objectively with my sensible head on I can see so much that God has worked out in my life.

He has been a constant guide and comforter to me, when I remember to talk to him and when I actually listen to him. In the same way I have been a constant guide and comforter for my two boys when they talk and listen to me.

The bottom line is my faith is a relationship not just blindly following a set of rules.

I don’t really want my boys to grow up too quickly and I know when they do leave home (the youngest will be heading to university next autumn), hopefully I will have given them the skills they need to fend for themselves in the big wide world.

Then I can properly start my own new chapter.

But these seven years haven’t been wasted and my future will be built on the foundations of my life so far, being a wife, a mother, a widow, a friend and someone with just a bit more patience, wisdom and understanding than I ever had before.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Ripples in Rockpools

Ripples in Rockpools,
speckles on sand.
“A wet day at the seaside
still can be grand!”
With hot sugared doughnuts
warming our hands.

Finding shelter
from raindrops,
“Please let this rain stop!”
Squelching on seaweed
and listening to it “POP!”

Digging for treasure,
a red plastic spade.
Soaked to the skin
in the breakers we played.
“Time to go home.”
I wish we could have stayed…

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Gathering Stones

At church today Julie, our curate, and I used the material from the Christian Aid website to write this sermon dialogue.

I'm posting it on my blog as a convenient place to share it. It's a different sort of writing from what I usually put on here and it was a different sort of service, one that touched many as we prayed for those facing adversity with no place to call home and yet praised God for all he was doing through Christian Aid.

One word struck me as we looked at many stories of refugees and that word was HOPE. Not necessarily a word you would expect but then God is always the author of the unexpected story...

J: What are you doing?

S: Gathering stones, you see I was listening to the song we had at the beginning of the service and there was a line about a time to gather stones.

J: And what are you going to do with them?

S: I don’t know, to be honest I’ve never really understood that line.

J: You know those lyrics come from the book of Ecclesiastes

S: Hark at you. I knew that actually, it a book in the old testament of doom and gloom where everything is meaningless. And makes as much sense as gathering stones and throwing them away again, which was another line in the song.

J: You could gather stones to build things

S: That would be constructive!

J: Buildings are important, homes are important. Jesus talked about a house in the gospel reading today, a house with many rooms.

S: We had that reading at my Nana’s funeral, it’s comforting to think Jesus has prepared a place for us when we die.

J: Yes but Christian Aid believe everyone needs a safe place to call home BEFORE they die.

S: I was reading about that, about a family called Nejebar and Noor. Nejebar fled Afghanistan with her family after the Taliban threatened to kill anyone who worked for the government, like her husband, Noor. They have lived in a makeshift camp in Greece for six months with no end in sight and despite her meagre circumstances, she has also welcomed brothers Faraidoon (22) and Farzad (13) into her home – they don’t know where their parents are or if they’re even alive. You can read more of her story and others on the Christian Aid website.

J: They travelled a long way and I’m sure they didn’t always have a solid stone path to walk on. The road was probably rough and even scary in places. And even now they are living in a tent, not in a permanent stone building.

S: It’s amazing to think they are looking after 2 extra children as well as their own especially when then have so little themselves. They are still thinking of others. We have so much in comparison. Giving to Christian Aid is a good way to share our own resources.

J: Yes it does make you think.

S: OK talking of thinking and gathering stones, which is where we started. How many stones to you think have been gathered together to make this church do you think? Hundreds, thousands, millions?

J: No idea but talking of big numbers, because it is obviously a lot, do you have any idea how many displaced people there are in the world?

S: Good question, displaced people, you mean refugees like Nejebar and Noor? A million?
J: Higher

S: Ten million

J: Sixty Five Million,   
S: The current population of the United Kingdom is 65,450,887 as of Monday, May 8, 2017, based on the latest United Nations estimates. I googled it when I wrote this!
J: So that means the number of displaced people in the world is pretty much the same as everyone in this church, everyone out there in Saltburn and throughout the whole country.
S: That’s a sobering thought, that many people on the move. I wonder how many Israelites refugees there were wandering in the desert with Moses? And is there a time for wandering in the book of Ecclesiates? That’s the trouble sometimes with the Bible, you start on one track and end up going off at a tangent. Well at least I do.
J: Well instead shall we look at our other reading today from Acts.
S: The stoning of Stephen – that’s a cheery one. But it fits with the gathering stones and throwing them away lyrics.

J: What we didn’t read, and you can go home and read later, is the beginning of Acts 7 where Stephen is preaching and basically outlines the whole story of the Old Testament.

S: Including Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert! And for telling them a story he was stoned?

J: He did call those listening to him stubborn and hard hearted people. He told the story from the point of view of God’s people not listening, going their own way, fighting against the Holy Spirit and killing the prophets.

S: So then Stephen was killed too. Martyred even. Christians are still killed today because of their faith.

J: But did you know Christian Aid “work globally for profound change that eradicates the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality.” Being a Christian doesn’t mean we can exclude people we help. Another reading we could have had today is from 1 Peter 2, we used it in our confession where it says Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith. He never discriminated against the people he helped.

S: That’s the reading about Jesus being rejected too, it must feel like rejection if you are a refugee, especially if there are places you are not welcome.

J: Which brings us back full circle to Jesus saying he has prepared a place for us.

S: He makes us welcome and we should always follow his example, a bit like Nejebar and Noor welcoming those two boys to live with them.

J: So what are you going to do with the stones you have gathered?

S: Well, I could be negative and throw them, to wake people up who have fallen asleep, or build a wall to hide behind.

J: But you’re not going to? Are you?

S: No I don’t think I ever was but stones can easily be used as barriers and weapons and stumbling blocks. But hopefully we’ve given people a few more positives suggestions and things to think about.

J: You could lay stones to make a path

S: You could build stones to make a shelter

J: You could use stones to make bridges in your communities

S: Or as stepping stones to meet people where they are

J: As it says in Ecclesiastes there’s a time to gather stones, to build constructively

S: It still says there’s a time to scatter them but I reckon that’s to break down barriers so we can be welcoming like Jesus and let people in.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

some more writing group inspiration!

Another good evening at my writing group last night and some more poetry.

This is based on a workshop someone had been to run by Natalie Scott

We looked at several poems and I chose the prompt loosely based on a poem by Deborah Landau called “You’ve Got to Start Somewhere”.

The prompt was – recall a time when the world around you is moving at a fast pace.

This is what I came up with…

Everybody’s Moving On

Everybody’s moving on.
And I am staying put.
Everybody’s chasing me.
I’ve fallen in a rut.
Everybody’s growing up.
What do I want to be?
Everybody’s in a couple.
I’m on my own. Just me.
Everybody’s changing.
Wisdom added to their years.

Really everybody’s just the same
It’s not as it all appears…

The ending is a bit abrupt but then I did write it in 5 minutes and I’ve only tidied it up a bit from last night.

I think in a lot of ways it sums up how I feel sometimes. The world is moving quickly and it’s easy to believe everyone else has life sorted, especially viewing all the “happy” posts on Facebook but if you stop for a minute and snap out of your self-pity you see that we all have struggles to contend with.