Monthly Archives: June 2005

England expects every woman to have an umbrella

It is interesting, I suppose, to ponder the historical significance of the hot bath. If tales of Roman times are to be believed, the relaxation of soaking in a bath of hot water is fairly well established in ancient history, and I’d guess even Nelson would have enjoyed luxuriating amongst the bubbles after the battle of Trafalgar… if he hadn’t been dead, that is. But, wonderful though the sense of relaxation and gentle thawing was this evening, it only slightly compensated for the disappointment of missing one of Britain’s greatest battles… a point that is even now being rubbed in by the persistant rumble of gunfire in the background as I type.

Yes, even now the Battle of Trafalgar is underway and we’re not there to see it. It was inevitable, really. We stayed on Ryde seafront as long as we could. We gazed open-mouthed at the ranks of ships littering the Solent as far as the eye could see in every direction – battleships, cruise ships, tall ships, yachts, tiny little boats – hundred upon hundred of them from 35 different countries, no less. The binoculars were worth their weight in gold – it was incredible how clearly we could see through them, even making out the sailors lining the decks of the ships as the Queen sailed past doing her international fleet review. We “oohed” and “Aahed” at the flypast of various RAF planes and helicopers, wondering how on earth some of the bigger ones ever stayed in the air at all! And we marvelled at the aerobatic skills of the Red Arrows as they did the most complex tricks mid-air, travelling at over 400 miles per hour and passing with their wingtips only 10 feet apart!

(I was, however, rather disconcerted to discover that my history-mad, ship-and-aeroplane-mad children were completely disinterested in the once-in-a-lifetime marvels around them and that I had actually suffered the mental torment and guilt of keeping them off school simply for them to revel in the opportunity to build yet another sand castle!)

But, alas, our plans of staying in situ all evening were thwarted. OK, so Nelson wouldn’t have let a bit of rain put him off, but honestly, it was torrential. That really cold, wet stuff. One minute we were sitting in our deckchairs, sipping coffee and admiring the view, the next we were deluged with an intense shower of near-ice daggers which soaked our clothing, even through our waterproofs, and ran down every single crevice of the body with an icy determination to reach the very bone. As the sky turned increasingly dull and misty and the rain showed no sign of relenting, we decided to admit defeat… not least because Tiddles is still incredibly tired after his trip away and my friend M who was with us suffers with a weak chest and already has a bad cough. So here I sit at home, snug and warm after my bubbly bath, the children fast asleep in bed, and the sound of the Battle reenactment and the biggest firework display ever held in the UK echoing in the distance behind us. Somehow watching it on the telly just won’t be the same.

Still, hopefully we’ll see at least some of the ships again when we go over to Portsmouth for the International Festival of the Sea at the weekend. I’m glad Dad’s staying up at my sister’s for the fortnight because it means we can go there with an easy conscience as it’s something he’d absolutely love but would be unable to manage. As it is, we can go for the entire day… thunderstorms permitting.


Would you believe it… the car’s broken down! And how about this – it’s less than one month out of warranty and similarly one month out of it’s free breakdown cover. I had to ring the RAC and get my cover renewed instantly, paying an extra £40-odd for the priviledge of having a (rather nice) RAC man come out to the house even though my policy wasn’t in place. He ducked under the bonnet, and after much muttering and computer-diagnosis and phone calls to find where on earth they’d hidden the crank-shaft sensor on the Kangoo engine because he couldn’t find it to repair it, he declared it in need of hospitalisation. Still, could be worse, it could have happened en route tomorrow! And at least it bought me an extra hour or so at home. My kindly neighbourhood garage is hard at work repairing it and, by a stroke of good luck, have managed to find me a rather nice courtesy car to have while I’m waiting. So I am just finishing my coffee and I’ll be back off to work.

The problems with my windows are still there… though thanks for your suggestions so far, Deeleea and Ian. The top toolbar used to be in two layers, deeleea, so that I could access everything on it. I can do the expanding bit, but it just hides another part. And that box in properties, Ian, is already unchecked and the one saying to keep it on top of all windows has a nice green tick in it. So I’m still puzzled, and still unable to toggle nicely between windows and see what time it is too. Particularly annoying when you’ve got a game of freecell going on in the background to fill your “thinking time”.

Right, coffee’s finished… off to work! (Just in time for break 😀 )


My computer’s gone funny. The address bar and tool bar at the top of the screen seem to have amalgamated into one, with lots of little arrows where it won’t all fit in on the screen. And the toolbar at the bottom of the screen has disappeared completely, only appearing when I move my mouse to the bottom of the screen – very inconvenient if you’re trying to read people’s wiblogs with one eye on the time so’s not to be late to work. Any ideas?

Two firsts…

Local Preachers’ Meetings, that is. We have two here in our circuit… one just for the trainees, mentors and tutors, and then one for everyone all together.. and of course I have to go to both.

It was the full one today. Interesting. (Hmmm.. was that the best word to use for it?). I felt a little nervous, a little like an interloper who shouldn’t really have been there. I think that may be part of the problem of working independently rather than in a training group as it felt as though I’d sneaked in uninvited, and when it came to the voting I felt awful as I didn’t feel I had the right to vote on things such as whether one of the other trainees should be recognised as having completed their training and being ready to go on full plan, but then it felt bad to sit with my hand down when people were asked if they approved of that decision! Still, they made me feel quite at home in one way – when I arrived I was asked if I’d play the piano for the devotions at the beginning!

And a classic error – the meeting was being led by a stand-in while our superintendant minister was away on sabattical. He looked at his agenda at the very start of the meeting and said “I believe Smudgie is going to do the welcome” and looked straight at me, expectantly.

“Er… erm…. I don’t think she is,” I replied, looking frantically at my mentor for support.

“Well, it says here – ‘ Welcome: Smudgie ‘ as the first item on the agenda.”

Instant understanding: “I think you’ll find that means that you’re supposed to welcome me, seeing as it’s my first ever local preachers’ meeting” !!!

The training meeting was actually last week. Talk about intimidating! Even though everyone knew everyone else and it was all very friendly, I’m not looking forward to this aspect of the training at all as it took the form of reports on everyone’s progress and actual reports of the services taken, strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement. Boring and embarrassing, dare I say it. And I got a bit frustrated because there’s some confusion over my training files. I said that I’d been sent the wrong ones, everyone’s insisting that I haven’t. It’s like having a conversation with my father! I mean, I ought to know what files are actually sitting on my desk, oughtn’t I, and they are NOT THE RIGHT ONES!

Best part of the evening, but still somewhat daunting to think that this is still to come… two of my colleagues were being given their final interview, where they have to discuss one of John Wesley’s sermons! They have to know it inside out – although apparently they were treated more kindly than most and simply led through a discussion of the content rather than quizzed in nit-picking detail as often happens. I had expecting this part to be rather offputting, but instead I have to say I was entranced. I’ve never read any of Wesley’s sermons, but I came away longing to read the four that are identified as the best and most pertinent. This man’s words, although written in archaic language of course, have such resonance today and the two people who were talking about them were obviously fired with enthusiasm for his ideas. Since last Thursday I’ve even found myself referring to his words of wisdom.

But I have a theory. God may or may not have called me to do this training in order for me to preach… but he’s definitely called me in order to teach me patience and tolerance!

Gathering my thoughts..

It has been some time since last I blogged…. it has been some time since last had ten minutes of guilt-free time to sit at my computer desk with a cup of coffee and just while the hours away. Hours, what are those? But I fully intend to while away a few minutes now while I have my cup of coffee and relax after my first ever Full Local Preachers’ Meeting and before I tackle the next task on my to-do sheet which is writing to a friend whose wife has died.

Life here is fairly hectic as we prepare for a trip up to the Midlands to a) see my sister, b) deliver my father for a fortnight’s break, c) go to a Church of Fools retreat and d) pick up Tiddles from his Peak District adventure. I wonder how he’s getting on. Today, the itinerary informs me, he should have been having a tour of Chatsworth House. I’m quite jealous. I’ve never actually been round the house, despite it being only a short distance from where I grew up, and despite having had a lovely afternoon in the gardens there… and I resented having to miss a school trip there in order to do my Maths O’level a year early. Humph… at the time I wasn’t too sure whether it was a sacrifice worth making… was it? I don’t envy him tomorrow’s trip, though – a full day’s hiking in this heat! I wonder how he’s coping. I had my obligatory postcard from him, sent the very first day: ” Having a loverly time. We got here at five pm and had tea at harf past six. It was chicken (something) and chips and salard and was very nice. Hope you and Smudgelet are having fun. Love Tiddles. PS Your turn to right”

My grand attack on the boys’ room is in hand. I’ll be at it in earnest next week when we get back – cleaning thoroughly, decorating and….. mwahahahaha…. dividing it into two separate halves by means of a row of wardrobes from my room. (You can imagine the chaos in the meantime, however – my bed has disappeared under the entire collection of our assembled wardrobe contents!) This will hopefully put an end to their night-time natterings (Smudgelet likes to keep Tiddles awake and then sit back to watch the fireworks afterwards!) and their interminable arguing over who’s turn it is to tidy the bedroom. The boxing up of all their toys and books was a depressing task, made bearable by my wonderful friend M who shared the task. Five boxes of books, partially read; three boxes of clothing; an empty washbasket turning into an overflowing washbasket by the time I’d picked their clothes off the floor; three small boxes of undamaged toys; two bags of teddies; and… wait for it… five huge black bags of broken toys, snotty tissues, and the assorted wrappers of various purloined sweets and biscuits!!!! Poor Smudgelet caught the brunt of my anger when he came skipping merrily home from school!!!

Meanwhile Dad’s trip to the cancer clinic brought a mixed blessing. I can’t quite express how I feel. Suffice to say, the cancer seems to be responding to treatment again and the bone scan did not reveal any spread to the bones. The consultant smiled reassuringly, but offered no explanation of the pain Dad’s in other than the “simple” aches and pains of getting old. Maybe the recent Xrays will tell us more… maybe. But the signs are definitely there of diminishing memory and self-control and at present I feel myself dreading for him a prolonged suffering through Azheimers – and to be honest, I dread that for me as well, both in the demands on my time and patience and emotion and in the torture of seeing him brought so low.

He’s having the shower, though – it’s being fitted some time next week 😀 😀 😀 😀 (Don’t get me started on the story of the tiles!!!)

Now, before I write this letter, I have to make some decisions about the menu for my nephew’s wedding in August. We have to order our five courses in advance. Hmmm.. it all sounds very posh. Anyone got a dictionary of cuisine so I can work out what on earth it is I’m ordering. Do they do fish and chips? Somehow I don’t think they cater for fussy eaters!

Gently does it..

Great fun at school. Extremely important to remember – don’t expect too much of the adult colleagues who may be feeling somewhat sleep deprived and whose legs may ache from spending a whole weekend standing up (and with legs crossed); remember not to talk too loudly because of the hangovers and damage to eardrums; and above all, don’t pat anyone on the shoulder as the floaty tops are concealing severe sunburn. 😀 Wonder why!


It’s the bit they omit to tell you in those “joys of parenting” books. That the night you decide to go to pick your son up early from scouts because you happen to be in the vicinity and you know he needs an early night before his trip away with the school, will be the night that they’ve decided to go for a hike and have got well and truly lost. Sitting in a freezing cold, dark carpark for an hour and a half with no access to toilets, caffeine or the tea which you’d not had time to eat earlier is all part of the excitement of Scouting, they tell me.

Oh, and when they finally do arrive back at HQ, Tiddles hands me a Scout Newsletter that enquires politely whether I’ve ever thought of becoming a Scout leader. Answers on a postcard……


Well, that’s the second one under my belt. And I should apologise to the congregation out yonder because not only was it not too bad, but I really enjoyed it. I had a congregation of four, plus organist, which was lovely because en route I’d prayed that there might be three there (although it was slightly disconcerting that they were reluctant to make eye-contact, though I’d guess that is a hazard of small congregations because too much eye contact can be disconcerting for both sides too!) and the fellow who’s criticism I’d dreaded actually made it far easier by nodding his approval and agreement from time to time and making a sincere encouraging comment at the end.

We were out in the Isle of Wight countryside on a beautiful summer’s day, surrounded by fields and downy hillsides (downy as in “like the downs”, not as in “covered with fluffy feathers”, although the recent visitation of a kestrel had made the second impression too!). The chapel there is old and well loved and it was amazing to hear the singing of our little gathering well-nigh raising the roof. Driving home, it was hard to resist the temptation, having almost made a wrong turning, to go with my impulse and leave the children at Sunday School and zoom off into the rest of the Island to revel in the sunshine. Shame I had to come home and make lunch and label hundreds of “Peak District Kit” instead!

A couple of months off, now – due to my mentor and I not being able to coordinate our social calendar sufficiently to be planned out together for a while – and then I have the joy of preaching at our own church and preparing a children’s address for the Smudgelets!!!

My WISE parcel hasn’t arrived yet.


My word! My boys are sitting in the kitchen eating their breakfast and… wait for it… quoting Shakespeare over their cereal!!!! Granted it’s the scene from Henry V where Catherine is learning English and pronouncing everything incorrectly, but still. A bit of culture shock for their mummy!