Daily Archives: May 30, 2005

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My home looks like a jumble sale and smells of campfires. Will it ever look like home again, I wonder? My bathroom is occupied by a Sprout who hasn’t been to the toilet all weekend 😉 and doesn’t exactly smell of roses. He’s exhausted – no voice at all, which is the usual first sign of tiredness with him – and is somewhat prone to making teenager grunts but it’s lovely to have him home, I think. I was wise bringing him home nights, even though it meant he didn’t get a badge, because he was so tired last night (the one night he was allowed to stay) that he took himself off to bed a good three hours before the rest anyway and missed half the “Grand Howl” or “Big Bark” or whatever it’s called when all the Scout troups gather round the massive campfire on the main field.

Smudgelet and I had a splendid day without him. Am I supposed to say that? Somehow, turning eight has changed Smudgelet once more into a lovely child to spend time with. What is it about being seven that makes a child so obnoxious? Whatever it is, he seems to have suddenly outgrown it and was great company this morning on our “Grockle Day”.

Junior Driver at Alum Bay is a treat. It’s a real miniature road layout, with traffic lights, roundabouts, give way signs, the lot. There are little cars which the kids get to drive and they have to obey the basic rules of the road like driving on the left and obeying the road signs in order to get a “driving license”. Smudgelet was in his element as he negotiated the turns in his big white tow-truck. He loved the big Victorian Carousel too, and was disappointed to learn that he couldn’t change his name to James to match the horse he was riding.

Then came the moment of truth. Hmmm… talk about conquering fears! Smudgelet wanted to go on the chair lift. He’s a real daredevil and the only member of the family who’s not particular perturbed by heights. Certain
other members of the family have been on this chair lift before and know only too well the effects of the sheer drop on their internal organs! But there was no getting out of it… it had to be done. The first part wasn’t too bad as it was over the trees and didn’t have the sensation of being very high up. It was when we breeched the cliff edge and began the steep drop towards the shingle below, blown from side to side by the breeze and kerthunking over the pylons that it didn’t feel quite such fun.
The picture on this page just doesn’t do it justice.

At the beach I gave way to temptation and agreed to take Smudgelet on the boat trip to see the Needles from close up. It was fantastic, truly fantastic. The coloured sands of Alum Bay are famous and even more impressive from the sea. It was just such a beautiful day for it too, with the sun glimmering off the pure white cliffs leading to the Needles themselves, and the sea an incredible azure blue like a deep lagoon, with a gentle wave inside the natural harbour of the cliffs. The cliffs themselves towered above us. We could see where, during the Wightmeet last year, we had walked along the clifftop to the Needles Battery and then down into the depths of the cliff to a gun emplacement just above sea level. Then we carried on, closer and closer to the mighty Needles and the lovely red and white lighthouse at the end. With an evil glint in his eye, the captain of the boat asked us if we wanted to get wet and proceeded to take us further out, beyond the shelter of the cliffs. Hmmm. Rocky would be an understatement. Not sure whether to laugh with excitement or cry with terror as the boat tipped from side to side and the waves splashed over the edge of the boat. It was fun, but I was not incredibly disappointed when he declared he’d frightened us for long enough and would be turning round for the return journey!

We were back just in time to pop home to our local church for their summer fete. They always serve the most incredibly lunches, and today was no exception. Replete and laden with unwanted purchases – too many books for my already crowded bookcases, some carpet which I am sure won’t cover our bathroom floor, six dishes which caught my Dad’s eye, and a rather melted iced ginger cake, we set out once more to collect Tiddles from camp…. but only after the drawing of the raffle. Talk about embarrassing – they chose Smudgelet to be the person who drew the tickets from the hat and yes, you guessed it, we won first prize – the hamper. Lots of goodies for tea tonight, if only I can summon up the energy to prepare them. Well, it’s hard work enjoying yourself, you know.

That’s the first one over with!

Hold on while I just rescue a Smudgelet from a kitchen disaster involving tuna chunks.

That’s better.

Now, some of you were kind enough to enquire about last night and my first ever venture into the pulpit. Well, actually, I’ve been in the pulpit loads of times before, but never to do a sermon. As a worship leader in my own church I have been landed several times with leading worship (amazing – it does what it says on the tin!) but we’re not actually allowed to do a sermon. I felt sort of naughty, actually, just three units into the training course and feeling no different than I did three months ago, standing there in front of this congregation of mainly local preachers and pontificating. Not that I did pontificate, I hope, but you know what I mean.

I had a nice quiet prayer time of my own before we set out, standing in the sunshine at the end of my road for ten minutes until my lift arrived. Not that she arrived late, or that she’d insisted I walk half way to meet her, but I decided that it was probably a better preparation to have a little walk in the sunshine than to strangle my father 😉

The church is a huge one but the evening congregation small. It was strange, actually, as I had attended this church for about six months fourteen years ago – I used to drive my housemate to her swimming training session in the pool in that town and went to that church while I waited to bring her home as she hadn’t got a car. It never really felt like my church, though, for some strange reason, despite being really welcoming and friendly. Nobody there particularly recognised me…. which is probably just as well. We’d been told to prepare for a congregation of four but there were ten there, which was quite a nice number as they all sat together in the choir seats and turned the lectern round to face them.

My mentor, B, did the first part of the service then handed over to me to do a drama (well recieved and fun to do) and the reading and the sermon. I noticed during the drama that one elderly gentleman was struggling to hear – a nightmare really as I knew my voice was loud enough to carry and if I raised it, the huge church with so few people in it was terribly echoey. Fortunately during the sermon he dropped off to sleep. I don’t think, in theory, you’re supposed to feel relieved when one tenth of the congregation fall asleep during your words of wisdom.

I felt comfortable and increasingly at ease as I spoke. As I went on, more people began to smile and nod in agreement or empathy at things I said and laughed with me as I told them about my Smudgelet bringing home a near-dead specimen of a sunflower in a yogurt pot and expecting it to grow, and God working a miracle and raising it to a good seven foot high tower with a head the size of a dinner plate. For all that, I went quite shaky afterwards (although apparently nobody could tell) and I started to wish I’d had time for something to eat before I went.

The congregation were lovely with their comments, mentioning that I’d used plenty of eye contact – I bit back the comment that that’s not difficult when your congregation is sitting in two rows of five! – and a good use of voice. They said I appeared not to be nervous (if only they’d known that fourteen years of teaching makes you well practised at hiding your terror!) and two people were flattering enough to comment to my mentor that she had a natural preacher as her protegee, which was rather nice to hear. Mustn’t let that go to my head! My mentor gave me lots of opportunity to reflect on how I felt it had gone and what I would have done differently, though she didn’t actually comment on what she thought of it – maybe because she’d already approved the content and she knew I knew I was OK on the delivery overall.

I’m very nervous about the next one, though. A country church, very set in their ways, with a congregation of about four. My minister is the superintendant for our circuit and he has a policy that every trainee local preacher has to preach at this particular church at some point in their training. My wonderful friend M planned me there for my second trip out simply a) to get it over with and b) to do it while I was only responsible for part of the service, not for the whole thing. I now have a fortnight to prepare and decide how much of the service I want to take responsibility for. AAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHH! I suggested that, as they haven’t an organist, I’d take responsibility for the music and B could do the rest. Somehow she wasn’t having that!

Still, forget it for today. The Smudgelet and I are off to brave the Bank Holiday crowds at Alum Bay, to make sand shapes, to ride on the “Little Drivers” track and generally have a bit of fun before I collect my tired and smokey Sprout from Sprout camp.