Pensioners’ Outing

We’re midway through the school holiday and the end of my holiday before the other half becomes lead parent for the second week.   With all of us around the house this afternoon it seemed a good opportunity to head to the pictures.   

(As I typed that I realised there is a whole discussion on what people call going to the cinema.   I’ve always gone “to the pictures”, my youngest sister goes “to the film”, while my children go “to the movies”.   For all of us it’s the same activity, but how we describe it speaks of the time we were growing up and the people we were friendly with.)

Anyway back to our outing…

To save some money I visited a supermarket reward scheme and used some points to buy two adult tickets for the afternoon.   Then returned to the cinema website paid for the four tickets.   Who knew there was now a “teen” ticket?

At the appointed time we set off from our home, with some excited people – not the female contingent.   Occasionally I think we don’t go out much, given how excited some people were.   Some adults were pre-warned that should they start singing during the film, the rest of us would move to the other side of the theatre.

As we took our seats in the cinema, looking around it looked like our children were the youngest people in the room.   The age profile of those who had come to see the film had us wonder if we had accidentally gate-crashed pensioners’ time.   We didn’t let that worry us.   Instead we sat back to remember that life really is a musical, you just have to find your song and for someone in our party these were his.

So “Sunshine on Leith”… It’s good if you like Proclaimers songs, views of Edinburgh and a bit of a greet.   The story is not bad, difficult to explain to a 9 year old within the cinema, but has some good Scottish pathos running through it.   All in our party, even “the asker of many questions and I’m a bit bored part way through” left saying they had enjoyed it, and would happily watch it again.

Just don’t go expecting Hollywood – notice the title of the film…and the beauty of my home town.




Swings and roundabouts

Sometimes when I walk through the local park the playground is completely empty. When I have the small people with me it is very easy to upset the eldest by having a shot on the swings. The youngest is fabulous acting as a look out lest anyone should spot me.

This week I was on my own as I approached the play park, and the swing was empty. Looking both ways, I put my shopping down, parked my bottom, and then pushed off.

Swinging my legs backwards and forwards it wasn’t long before I was up in the air. The sensation of the giggle rising brought a lift to an otherwise uneventful day.

Finally I headed home, with a lighter spirit for this week.

I’m looking forward to my next walk that way in the hope the swing will be empty and I could have another shot.


London Legs

Once upon a time in my late childhood and the first year of my teens, I lived on the outskirts of London. Part of that stage of my life involved learning to commute around London, as I attended a Church of England Secondary School rather than the local comprehensive. Some of my friends from Junior School went to the same school and we travelled together, while new friends were made on the train or in school. Getting to their houses to visit meant travelling by train or bus to nearby small towns and being met to walk to their homes.

It’s not a period if my life that I remember with any fondness or regret. School was not always a good experience and for a good part of the five years we lived there, my sisters and I found that children can be cruel as we were taunted for our differences. On one particular occasion my hair was singed on the train by girls from another school. I have no lasting friendships from that time, in comparison to a forty year friendship with a girl I lived two doors away from as a pre-schooler, and a twenty year friendship with the girl who started High School in Scotland on the same day as me.

Time spent in the city of London as a child was sparse. There were school trips to Covent Garden, the Southbank, and the Tower of London, concerts in Westminster Abbey and The Royal Albert Hall both as performer and audience. Music exams somewhere in London as I was taken by my piano teacher. Helping my father move office from a building on one side of the road to the new one on the other. The Lord Mayor’s Show and Christmas Lights.

What that time did teach me was the independence of commuting. Standing still or sauntering is not an option, instead movement should be purposeful and certain.

This is my fourth return visit since the 30 years ago we left. The last two occasions have been with my own children. 18 months ago we visited and had nothing planned and found ourselves aimlessly overwhelmed with the wealth of all that was there. Eventually we managed to organise ourselves enough that we took a bus tour, saw a show and visited Westminster Abbey.

This time we had plans before we arrived, and had booked the Tower of London and the London Eye. We also knew we would be heading to the Science and Natural History Museums.

What has amazed me each time we have returned us how fast moving and energetic life in London is, and also how fit people need to be to even commute. Changing from train to tube often means a lengthy walk along underground corridors. Even changing bus routes can involve a movement from one street to another.

In the heat of recent days we ventured to travelling above ground, as the underground became unbearable. The bus allows glimpses of the city, and in some ways allows the possibility of piecing together the different areas. Underground you lose a sense of where one place is in relation to another. Sometimes so much so, that on occasion you may not realise the short distance that could have been walked.

However even with all the public transport possibilities there was still much walking. Each evening we returned home hot and tired with sore feet.

These last few days of holidays for me have meant an opportunity to revive from the excited energies of past day. Resting of course involves the energies of washing as we put away all the holiday equipment and return to normal life.


Cote d’Ecosse

Usually at this time of year we are somewhere on the Brittany Coast enjoying French sunshine, warm seas, cider, French bread and mussels. This year plans have been a little different, not least because booking a holiday involves sitting down at the beginning of the year and making a decision. A valuable lesson has been learned for next year, and decisions will be made.

Not booking a formal holiday we decided to use our own flat as an opportunity to get away, with a four day trip to London to bring the holiday to a close. We’ve had our own place for nearly all the time we’ve lived in the parish.

Before parish life, we started marriage in a small, modern two bed house very close to a railway line. So close, my dad was convinced passengers could watch our very large television from the train as it paused before entering the station. Once we moved for the first time we decided to sell this, but with the arrival of a child began to recognise the need for somewhere to escape to that was ours. Perhaps sensibly for us we were also looking to the future, and having at least a deposit for the place we might want to stay in should we leave a parish or eventually retire.

While the children were much smaller, we spent half term holidays at the flat, and the odd Friday to Saturday if we wanted to escape. It contains much of the furniture we have had from the early days of marriage, including the settees.

In deciding that this would be our holiday, we also agreed that we would behave as though we were in France.

Tous les matins mon mari reveille, et il va a la supermarche et il achete une baguette et trois croissant. Pendant les matins nous faisons des visites, et pendant les après-midi nous allons a la plage.

Excuse the lack of French acutes, I can’t find them on my limited keyboard.

The absolute bonus so far has been the weather. The sun and heat were not what we expected, but have made our chosen town seem like the Brittany Coast. And just to top it off, regularly we find ourselves accidentally in the company of French people.

The sofa and the bed are as uncomfortable as they would have been in a gite, but at least here I know the resolution lies in my own hands.


Finding a Balance

Once of the frustrations of being a parent has been trying to think of food that everyone might eat at mealtimes. It is not an easy task. Usual at a mealtime there is at least one person who decides that what we are about to have is not something that they like, and they then proceed to ensure that all at the table know they are not happy. Negotiations wrangle as each mouthful is encouraged over reluctant lips, and eventually a good portion of the meal is consumed and the unhappy consumer is allowed to leave the table.

I find the situation all the more upsetting, because I’m not a terrible cook. Instead those who come to eat at our house usually leave quite happy with what they have received. Unfortunately the residents don’t seem to be happy.

All our meals include a broad range of vegetables, and we work our way around proteins and carbohydrates. That’s where the problem lies. One resident would prefer red meat in its variant forms and potatoes, while the other is more a past or pizza fiend. My belief though is no negotiation. I do not have time or imagination to cook more than one meal, so what is on your plate is what you are having.

That of course does not mean that I have not listened to the differing tastes and ideas. Instead the breadth hopefully contains something that is liked by at least one person each day. However there is also an element of being the parent, the one responsible, that has to come into play. We can’t just eat what we like, we have to make sure that meals offer all the nutrients that are needed to ensure we are eating healthily.

Is this just a family post? Perhaps not. For there are areas of ministry where what is on offer may not suit keep everyone happy. Instead sometimes ground has to be held, as we look for ways to ensure that as the people of God we encounter the fullness of the Holy Spirit.


Panic rising

There are some days when moving away from most of the family suddenly hits home. We’re not really that far away, but particular days do make me realise that the potential for help is not always right on my doorstep.

We’ve never really relied that much on support of others for child care. When the children were very little they went to nursery, and with the job being flexible, on days when they were ill or bad weather kept us at home, then I could usually adjust my plans and work at home or take them on some visits. When there was not a possibility for that to happen then granny would appear. It’s not so easy for granny to appear here and given the weather today I don’t think she will be making a journey to help out.

The panic has been rising this morning as I have a funeral that has me leave town to go elsewhere for the burial, and I’ve been watching out the window and watching Twitter, just in case we suddenly get a call to say school is closing. The forecast is for snow flurries for much of the day, and once I leave the house that’s it, I will no longer be able to answer the phone or organise something to happen should the youngest need to come home. Some days (at the moment it seems like most of them) just aren’t as flexible as they once were.


Completed and submitted

Despite being on holiday still, I finally managed to submit the piece of work I had been invited to contribute. In the day before everyone else in the house joined me on holiday I put my head down and by late that evening had 2500 words of something that vaguely made sense. Most of it was commentary on the subject I’d been asked to look at and the Biblical texts that were appropriate to that. I’d managed one piece of liturgy, which fortunately had rushed into my head while getting up one morning and I had scribbled down. (At least this time I wasn’t walking to school, and suddenly having to send myself a voice message in case I forgot.)

With a good start it was good to be able to abandon it and head off as a family on holiday. We headed south in the car for a couple of nights in a hotel just outside a university town, and it was a good and relaxing time. Some took the opportunity to make good use of the pool, others caught up on some reading. We met a godfather and enjoyed a meal and a walk around the city together, enjoyed some sightseeing and museum visiting, climbed to the top of a tower to see the view, and then went to dinner with friends and remembered how easily children who have not really got to know each other can fall into an easy knowledge as they share their stories and games.

Meeting up with people and catching up on their lives is always good. You laugh when you realise the similarities that have passed through your lives. When you were once best friends, its good to know the easiness that means that even though years pass between meetings the reason that you were friends can still encourage certain amount of intimacy. We’ve caught up on family, shared our shared position within the family – in fact I think amusingly everyone of us at dinner that evening was an eldest child – and known the frustrations and the advantages.

Returning home but not to work, a certain amount of routine has kicked in as everyone else’s lives have returned to usual. I’m still clinging to the vestiges of a holiday, although I need to be more thorough at not answering the phone or responding to email – none of which is easy when you are in the manse. The piece of work is completed though and submitted. I’m not convinced that it is the right thing, but there lies another of my continuing concerns – the notion that the things we write for worship are ever finished.

I’ll come back to that thought later today or tomorrow but for now, I’m going nowhere near my place of work to drop of things for other people… Not me…I’m just making a minor detour as I head to a bigger city to meet a friend for coffee.