Rock Art

Many years ago I went to stay at Bishop’s House on Iona with friends. I can’t remember what was wrong with me (other than the usual) but I was unable to join them on long walks about the island. Instead, I would take my book and sit at the little beach at the foot of the garden. I might paddle, or sit in the shelter of some rocks and read, or just gaze across the Sound to Mull. Just like every pilgrim before or since, I gathered some pretty pebbles, knowing I’d probably never be able to carry them all home.

When I was in the local shop I spotted some enamel paints (the ones which model makers use) and thought I could paint something on those pebbles. I did some celtic crosses and friends’ names and handed them out to everyone as a wee memento. And ever since then I have painted the occasional doodle or word on little pebbles.

Then came Pinterest. If you don’t know about Pinterest, google it now. What an amazing resource. So I started to pin religious paintings, Scottish art, nice old gates and doors (a particular favourite of mine), funny quotes, nativity sets from around the world, cute cats because who doesn’t love a cute cat?, crafts to make for church… and that’s where I found my first piece of Rock Art. It was a rock, a stone, a pebble painted with beautiful patterns. I could do that, I thought. And so I did…

To begin with I made mistakes. But you learn from your mistakes. Here are some tips that I’ve learnt:

  • Acrylic paint is best but I found that a coat of Gesso does a wonderful job of preparation.
  • Brushes have to be just right and I found that brushes specifically for acrylic paints are best of all. I have a zillion brushes but I use only 3 or 4 – 2 flat ones and 2 tiny pointy ones.
  • Chalk or a pencil gives you the outline but pencil can show through light colours so don’t press too hard.
  • I use my old travel hairdryer to speed up drying if I want to move on to the next colour or do the other side.
  • Don’t put down newspapers but use plastic sheets because the paint can pick up newsprint if it’s not completely dry.
  • For outlines or fiddly bits use Sharpies pens.
  • I’m using a varnish for decoupage just because I had some but you can use exterior varnish if you want to put them outside or Mod Podge.
  • There are books you can buy for inspiration but I’ve found Pinterest has more painted pebbles than you can shake a stick at.
  • And if you make a mistake or the varnish makes the paint bleed (which it did with some black paint for some unknown reason) you can paint over and start all over again.
  • Let the shape of the rock dictate what it will become.
  • Sometimes the rock is so beautiful you don’t need to paint it all – just do a little bit.
  • If you live near a beach or river then you can find lots of nice rocks. Smooth surfaced ones are best. If you don’t have easy access your local garden centre should have River or Sea Cobbles which you should wash and leave to dry overnight before use.

Happy pebble painting! Here are some of my first attempts.

Cream and Red mandala first attempts flowers Mandalas owl and mandala Penguin and owl

Sermon on the Refugee Crisis

Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9,22-23
James 2:1-10,14-17
Mark 7:24-37

Someone very famous – so famous in fact that I’ve forgotten their name – said that to do theology you had to hold a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
Our reading of Scripture has to be informed by what is going on in our world today.
For it to be relevant to us, this book written two thousand years ago, can only be meaningful when we place it in our own context and in light of what is going on in our world.

So I wonder what you thought of when you heard these words from our first reading this morning:
The rich and poor have this in common:
the Lord is the maker of them all.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity
and the rod of anger will fall.
Those who are generous are blessed
for they share their bread with the poor.
Do not rob the poor because they are poor
or crush the afflicted at the gate
for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them.

God loves the rich and poor.
Those who are generous and share with the poor are blessed.
God cares for the poor and doesn’t think much of those who don’t treat them right.

So I’m going back to my newspaper in my other hand.
Actually I don’t read a newspaper. I don’t read newspapers because I don’t trust them. Having worked in PR in a past life and regularly sent stories to the press I know how often they got it wrong. They couldn’t be trusted to copy and paste a story accurately. And people got hurt. And if they can do that with my wee billet doux then heaven knows what happens to the bigger stories. And newspapers are so affiliated with political parties now that I’m not sure if any can be trusted.

But we all watch the news on TV or listen to it on the wireless.
And I also get news from my tablet, my phone or computer.
But however we hear or read it, we can’t help but notice what every bulletin is screaming at the moment.
The migrants, the immigrants, the refugees.
What do we call them?  And does it matter?

Well yes it does.
For according to my dictionary they each have different meanings.
But which is the name you’ve heard most?  Migrants?
According to UNESCO a migrant is someone who travels freely to another country for reasons of personal convenience and without intervention of an external compelling factor.
They travel freely, of their own accord, to make a better life for themselves.
And why not?
People in this country have been doing that for centuries.
Choosing to emigrate and live and work in another country.
Immigrants are those who have already done that – they live and possibly work in another country.
Our country has plenty already that nobody says a word about – those are footballers.
One law for the rich and another for the poor, it seems.

Interestingly most news articles seem to think that all those poor people in Calais, in boats, in stations are just wanting to come to Britain because they fancy a change of scene. Or worse.
Some newspapers would have us believe these migrants are coming to sponge off our State, getting benefits, using our beloved National Health, take all our jobs.
So tempting is our treatment of the poor – what with all those foodbanks – that they’d risk life and limb (and they do lose their lives) to come and have a bit of the action.

But what about the word Refugee?
We don’t hear that word quite so much in the Press, but perhaps we should look at the definition of it now.
UNESCO says we shouldn’t confuse the two.  Migrants are not refugees or displaced.  Refugees are compelled to leave their homes.
Migrants make a choice, although sometimes it is Hobson’s Choice.
It may be that there are no jobs in their own homeland.
But Refugees have no choice.
They live with the fear of persecution (or worse) because of their religion, race, nationality, or political opinion.
They have no choice but to escape for their lives.

Those are the people of Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and elsewhere living in the shadows of our world.
Some are seeking asylum – protection from death.
Many are well educated and many already work in our hospitals, our hotels and cleaning our streets.
Many have no homes to return to.

So there is a difference between Migrants and Refugees.
Migrants are getting the headlines, but I know most are actually refugees.
Either way, they are not getting a good press.
Their desperate measures are causing disruption to our roads, our travel, our holidays in France, for heaven’s sake!
But remember…

God loves the rich and poor.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity.
Those who are generous are blessed.
Do not crush the afflicted at the gate
for the Lord pleads their cause.

Some of you might be of an age to remember, or at least have heard of, the Kindertransport.  In 1938 twenty thousand Jewish children were sent away from Hitler’s regime.
Britain and the USA were reluctant to take in Jewish refugees at that time but public opinion forced them to give in and many children travelled (with no adults) to the UK.  Some lived with families, others in camps and special homes and many Christians and Quakers were instrumental in making that happen.
9,000-10,000 came to Britain hoping that one day they would be able to go home again and be reunited with their parents.
For the majority that never happened.  Their parents died a horrible death in concentration camps.

But I wonder why that kind of thing can’t happen today with the people of Syria?
Why is nobody planning this kind of aid?
Why aren’t the churches?
Instead we watch men, women and children drown in dark waters trying to escape a regime just as awful as Nazi Germany.
And this week I hear that the Germans are being so generous in their treatment of refugees that they’re being told to stop sending so much.
The descendants of those on the Kindertransport are now helping others as much as they can.

And then I laughed when I read our second lesson today – from the letter of James…

Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?  But you have dishonoured the poor.  The rich oppress, drag you into court.  But if you show partiality between the rich and the poor you commit sin.

I laughed because a couple of weeks ago Songs of Praise went to Calais to the camp there and oh what a song and dance there was about it.  The Press were baying for blood, screaming about how ridiculous it was to be giving them air time on our precious BBC and spending our licence fee in the process.
But like the Italians imprisoned in Orkney, these refugees had built a little church in their camp. So important was their faith that they had cobbled together a chapel made from sticks and blankets and they went there to pray.
The poor in the world are often much more rich in faith, I suspect.
And we have dishonoured them.

What good is it, my sisters and brothers, if you say you have faith but do not have works?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?  So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

This is why we need to read the bible with our newspapers in the other hand – or our ipads or phones or radios, however you hear the news.
But what can we do?
An article I read this week said:

Faith communities… can play a significant role in making the human issues of forced migration and displacement central,
challenging misleading language,
highlighting unjust or victimising policies,
and opening up space for alternative perspectives and conversations.

In particular, those of us who are Christians need to remind ourselves that we are the product of people movements – some forced, some voluntary, some hopeful, some fearful.
It is out of this resource of experience, and our founding texts that point to justice and compassion as going to the heart of what God requires, that we should seek to respond.

So challenge the language you hear with your families, your friends, your colleagues.
As Christians we have to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Even if our neighbours are clamouring at the gates to get in.
Our job, as Christians did in 1938, is to open our arms and welcome the stranger.
No ifs no buts.
It’s a simple law.

In your handout there are lots of ways you can get involved if you wish.

Not easy – no one ever said it was going to be easy – but it’s what we’re called to do.

In which Ruth ponders the housework of ministry

Following on from my musings on ministry (last blog post) I came across this quote from Kathleen Norris’ book The Quotidian Mysteries. This spoke to me today.

I found it remarkable – and still find it remarkable – that in that big, fancy church, after all the dress-up and the formalities of the wedding mass, homage was being paid to the lowly truth that we human beings must wash the dishes after we eat and drink.  The chalice, which had held the very blood of Christ, was no exception. And I found it enormously comforting to see the priest as a kind of daft housewife, overdressed for the kitchen, in bulky robes, puttering about the altar, washing up after having served so great a meal to so many people. It brought the mass home to me and gave it meaning. It welcomed me, a stranger, someone who did not know the responses of the mass, or even the words of the sanctus. After the experience of a liturgy that had left me feeling disoriented, eating and drinking were something I could understand. That and the housework. This was my first image of the mass, my door in, as it were, and it has served me well for years.

A photo illustration shows a priest cleaning the Communion vessels inside the chapel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' building in Washington Oct. 24. At the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion will no longer be permitted to assist in the purification of the sacred vessels at Masses in the United States. (CNS photo illustration/Bob Roller) (Oct. 24, 2006) See SKYLSTAD-VESSELS Oct. 24, 2006.

In which Ruth ponders the M word

Some people in the church love the M word. They want to talk about it all the time. They want committees devoted to it. They want to throw piles of money at it to make it work. They want conferences and books and weekends away all dedicated to that M word. They reckon that if we’re not doing it, then the church is going to die.

So what do you think about the M word? Are you for or against? Do you love it or do you give an inward shiver every time you hear it? And you will hear it. There is no getting away from it. The M word is here to stay.

Mission. Of course. Mission is the word on everyone’s lips. If you’re not doing it then you have no life in you. Some dioceses have programmes dedicated to it. Everyone has to sign up and everyone has to share in buzz groups and pledge to do this, that or the other because if you don’t… dum, dum, dum… then surely the church will perish.

But what if you didn’t like the M word? What if you prefer another M word? What if you dreamed a dream that one day nobody would throw all the money in the diocese into M, but into your favourite M word? (Let’s call it M2.)

Ministry. Of course. What if all the money was ploughed into selecting and training and supporting and caring for fabulous priests who were so inspirational that they didn’t need to use the M word?  Those priests would love liturgy so much that people would be transformed by it. They’d literally be so moved that they’d want to tell their friends about it and bring them along for a slice of that loving. Word would spread and soon everyone in town would be wanting a bit of the action. They’d want to do some of that M2 word themselves. Because they realise that the M2 word was what it was really all about.

Today a lot of my friends are out marching at Gay Pride in Glasgow. They are wearing badges and carrying banners, proclaiming to anyone who hears that the Scottish Episcopal Church welcomes them and loves them. You might call it Mission. I call it Ministry. Because my job as a Minister of Religion (at least that’s what my Tax Office calls me) is to welcome all and to love all. That is my ministry. That is our ministry. Yours and mine.To proclaim a church for all.

When I first went to church (and that was in my late 20s) it was not because of any Alpha Course or Poster or Notice in the local paper. But more importantly, the thing that made me stay was the Mass. It was every part of that liturgy: the music, the Confession, the theatre, the stories, the food for the journey, the people, and yes, the priest too. Those were the things, most of which I didn’t understand, which made me want to go back and learn more. I went with a friend and I made a thousand more. It made me want to do that M2 word every hour of every day.

And it still does. But I do wish folk would stop banging on about that M word. Just sayin’.

holding hands elderly

In which Ruth ponders the exams she didn’t really pass

All over Scotland today young people will be ripping open envelopes containing their exam results. Or perhaps they don’t get envelopes these days? Perhaps it is all done exam resultsonline? I’m told the pass results are the best ever but I seem to remember that being said last year and the year before and the year… The teenagers I know these days seem to take it all very seriously and study ever so hard for those exams. Those who can afford it have tutors to help and their social lives take a long backseat while they study for that chance of a place in the university of their choice.

When I was young not everyone was expected to go on to University. In fact, it may have been a minority who did, even at my fee-paying school. Neither of my parents went to university although one uncle did and he was always thought of as the brains of the family. (Sadly he died last year of Alzheimer’s.) However, my mum and dad did have a faint hope that I might have gone to university but there was certainly never any pressure to do so. Which was just as well.

Revising for exams in my teenage years coincided with the much more exciting task of getting to know boys and going to parties. Being at an all-girls’ school (and from a family of four sisters) meant that I knew nothing of the mystery of the male species until a skiing trip to Switzerland in 2nd year with nearby Broughton High School. All of a sudden there was something more exciting than playing rounders or hanging round the swing park. Or studying for O levels. I’m sure if I had hung around with boys sooner it would not have been such a distraction. And there was no amount of revision which was going to take me away from listening to T Rex and Bowie on a record player in someone’s house while their mum and dad were away.

I was only allowed to sit three Highers and when that brown envelope came through the door nobody was in the slightest suprised that I only passed one – English. However, on appeal I got French and Art but they must have been the lowest mark possible for a pass. I think in those days you were expected to do 3 Highers in 5th Year and then more in 6th. I didn’t stay on for that, needless to say.  Although I was accepted at Queen Margaret College to do Drama with my one English Higher, I never did go. They wanted me to wait a year until I was 18 and by that time I worked in the bank and was far too used to having money to spend. The student life would not have suited me then at all.

But things change and life moves on and somehow in my late 30s I found myself doing an Access Course at New College, part of the University of Edinburgh and was accepted to do a BD. In 1996, at the grand old age of 40, I became a full time student and had the most glorious four years studying theology. Oh it was hard being a mature student with a lousy memory, but what fun. I think the only TV I watched in those four years was Casualty on a Saturday night for the rest of my evenings were spent writing up notes, revising and trying to remember what I’d learned that day. And you know, I think university would have been wasted on me as a teenager. Far better to be there when I really, really wanted to do it and could appreciate it.

So for those of you who haven’t got the results you want today, have no fear. There’s always time. And perhaps the time is not right for you at the moment. I can thoroughly recommend becoming a mature student. And Son #1 went in his late 20s too and got a great degree, which I’m sure would never have happened as a school leaver. Let’s hear it for mature students! Yay!

mature student

Sermon for Pentecost 7 2015

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19

One of the most interesting parts of my sabbatical has been visiting other churches. And there’s nothing quite like visiting other churches to appreciate how good your own is! Most of the time I have been ignored. Oh perhaps I got a smile at the door as I was handed pew sheets and a hymn-book – but not always. At the Peace people did indeed shake my hand, or limply touch my fingertips without even looking me in the eye, but you could tell they were just being polite before they could have a natter and a real smile for their friend in front of you. And then at the end I handed my books in and mostly nobody even noticed. Only once was I invited back for coffee.

In churches where I was known it was very different of course. There it was smiles and welcome-backs and catching up on news. So it was very tempting to keep going back to those ones.

And then there was the worship itself… Oh jings, but some of it was dreary. Hymn singing that you could hardly hear; (and you know, if you’re going to insist on only singing hymns written before 1900 at least sing them joyfully);
dull, dull, dull sermons straight out of a biblical commentary;
and Eucharistic prayers recited as if it was the phone book.
How great are we, I kept thinking? And we are great! And I really missed you!

But when I was reading today’s lessons the Old Testament reading reminded me of one church I visited where things were completely different. Let me remind you of those verses from the 2nd book of Samuel:

‘David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals… and David danced before the Lord with all his might.’
Dancing and joyful songs and musical instruments – surely not in worship? Surely not in Scotland? No indeed, this was New York.

St Mark’s in the Bowery to be precise. A church tucked away in the East Village, nothing much to look at outside, in a rather poor neighbourhood.  But oh what a welcome! And of course you’re thinking ‘those Americans are a bit over the top when it comes to welcome and worship’ and you could be right. But you know, before the service people really cared that I was there and asked where I was from. “Scotland?! Oh wow! My grandmother came from Scotland.”  “Scotland? Wow! What brings you here?”  “Scotland? Wow! How lovely that you’re visiting us!”

Let me read you the welcome on their pew sheet:
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery works hard to be a welcoming place. What that means here is that you are welcome, as you are, to participate in any of our worship services. We believe people encounter the holy here, and we want that for you.
We know that church might be something you have wanted to do for a while; a dream come true; kind of scary; possibly awful; or really exciting for you. We won’t assume.
We would like you to know that all kinds of people come into St. Mark’s week to week. You might find yourself next to a life long member, a new-ish one, or someone who has walked in for the first time. Don’t worry that you have to do what they are doing.
We love children. We are delighted to have them in our services. If you are worried that your child is distracting others, please do what you need to do to be comfortable, but don’t worry that we are worried. If you find it difficult or distracting to be near a child who is making noise, feel free to move. We want children to remember the church as a place that reflects God’s love for them. If you feel that you have been approached in an inappropriate or unhelpful way during your time at St. Mark’s, we would like to know. If you feel that something about how we do things causes you to feel unwelcome, we would like to know. Please talk to an usher, a priest, or email or call the office.

The service was relaxed, the music was mostly modern (quite a few Iona hymns actually) but we also sang The Lord’s my Shepherd to the Scottish tune Peter and Hazel had on their wedding day: Brother James’ Air. And the people really, really enjoyed singing them. There was even some swaying along to the music too. I couldn’t see an organ so they used a piano and if you felt like singing in the choir all you had to do was turn up half an hour before the service and join in the practice.

The sermon was funny in bits and serious in bits and there was a story (and you know how I love a story) and gave us all something to think about when we went home.

We sat in rows in a circle round the altar in the middle and when it came to the eucharist we stood in one big circle round it. “Come along!” they said. “Come and join us!” And Winnie, the priest, really meant that Eucharistic prayer, she believed it, you could tell. Then we passed the bread and wine along the circle from one person to another.

And you know that big AMEN at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer? That one that I’ve told you has to be said loudly and affirmed? Well they sang it and clapped it and swayed to it and someone even produced a tambourine for it.

So when I read this morning’s reading about David rejoicing and dancing in the temple, St Mark’s in the Bowery is what I thought of. I remembered the joy they had for all their worship. A joy that showed on their faces. A jazzy, gospel, blues kind of joy. A bit too cringey for you?  For us in Scotland? Well perhaps. But what a sense of enjoyment I got there, of loving the Lord with all their heart and soul – and bodies too.

And afterwards when I was sitting in the sun in a nearby park jotting down my memories of that service, I saw the people from the church coming round with a big shopping trolley handing out food and drinks to the homeless folk there. Just like David who, when he had finished offering the sacrifice, blessed the people and distributed food among all the people – to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. (And I have some Hershey’s Kisses for you when you leave today.)

Now we may not be up for the dancing and singing but we can support the homeless by bringing food along for the Salvation Army. Do what you can in your own neighbourhood.

And perhaps in time, you’ll be so inspired and excited about coming to church that you’ll go out of here singing and dancing. You’ll know you’ve welcomed the stranger in your midst, made them feel at home in your little Temple of the Lord here in Falkirk. You might even want to go home and write it down so you never forget the welcome you got and how wonderful you feel. You might even believe that you are loved by God and you want to show it.

You might.

man dancing in kilt

Sabbatical Reading

When you have three months off work there is more opportunity for reading without falling asleep after the first page. I wondered whether I should read lots of theology because the Lord knows I have plenty of those gathering dust on my shelves but some wise person on Twitter said ‘Read fiction – you’re on sabbatical!’ so I took him at his word. And let’s not forget there is often tons of theology in fiction anyway. So here is my list of reading for the past twelve weeks. (The ones I can remember anyway.)

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber. Missionary goes to evangelise aliens. 4 stars.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. 17th century Amsterdam, homosexuality, sugar and miniature things. 3 stars.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. Time travel, humour, easy to read and loads more in the series. 4 stars.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E L Konigsburg. Children run away and hide in Metropolitan Museum of Art. Angels, Michelangelo and a fierce girl. 4 stars.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C Wrede. Another children’s book with dragons. Another fierce girl but she let the feminist side down by doing the dragon’s dishes. Good fun though. 3 stars.

Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid. Fact not fiction but really interesting if you love gore. Never look at a fly in the same way again. 4 stars.

The Comforter by Margaret Hart. Written by a friend and interesting journey through counselling and spirituality and sexuality. 4 stars.

Unseen Things Above by Catherine Fox. Sex , bishops, feminists in the C of E. Wonderful romp. 5 stars.

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.  13th century, young woman holed up in church, world keeps interfering. 5 stars.

A Brush with Death by Elizabeth J Duncan. Wales, love and amateur sleuths. More in series. 3 stars.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Riches. Amsterdam, Cambridge, secrets, fast-paced thriller. 4 stars.

Runaway by Peter May. Glasgow, London in swinging sixties, crime, putting things right. 4 stars.

The Faces of Angels by Lucretia Grindle. Florence, Boboli Gardens, honeymoon killer, art history, stalker and murder. 4 stars.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh. Required reading for anyone who works in a hospital. Anyone. Not just doctors. 5 stars.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A single parent, fabby children, haunted house, racism in the deep south, a trial. 5 stars.

The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.  1st in fantasy series, touch of T H White, bastard son, Wit and Skilling mind games, thrilling ending. 5 stars

Missing by Karin Alvtegen. Scandi crime, homeless woman, serial killer, enlists young boy to help so became slightly unbelievable, fast pace. 3 stars.

And a host of art books too many to mention.

So what good books have you read lately?

Our Book Group begged a break while I was away so they could read what they liked but I now have a few good suggestions for when I get back. Always open for more suggestions although this is my unread bookcase so I’ve plenty to keep me going. (Two deep on most shelves!)

2015-07-06 06.28.01

Is this the most expensive cat’s toy?

When Son #2 was looking after Lucy Pussy and Rita Kitten while I was sleeping in a library, they were rather stressed out. A cat-loving friend of his brought one of his cat’s toys round for them to play with. Since we got Rita Kitten Lucy Pussy has not deigned to look at a toy, let alone play with one. Which is a shame as she is now a fat-cat and could do with the exercise. So when Son #2 told me that not only had Lucy Pussy played with this new cat toy, but that they had played together, I was frankly amazed. This is something my heart has been longing for so I immediately asked for the name and set out to purchase said miracle toy.

Cat toySo for £12.55 (I see it has gone down in price today) I bought the originally named Cat’s Meow. It consists of a sort of robovac hard plastic thing with an attached parachute affair out of which peeks a plastic mouse’s tail. The motorised tail can be set to slow, medium, fast or random and whirls about under the parachute and cats can’t resist. So they say.

What they don’t say is that it needs batteries. A lot of batteries. And they don’t last very long. Son #2 informs me they are the rectangular ones (PP3) and you need three of them.  His friend got rechargeable ones so I had a look online but couldn’t find any chargers that did 3 at a time. In fact it wasn’t clear whether they’d even do two because they are all multi-chargers so I went to my nearby Maplins where a lovely lady said you could only get them to charge two at a time so I bought a multi-charger and three rechargeable batteries. Total cost £34.96. So that’s now a grand total of £47.51 for a piece of plastic, a flimsy tail, and enough batteries to keep my smoke alarms going for the rest of my lifetime.

Came home, ripped open all three batteries (yes, you know where this is going, don’t you?) only to find that it was not PP3 batteries at all, but C batteries that were needed. Back in the car to Maplins (but let’s leave the petrol costs out of this, shall we?)  ‘Fessed up to same nice woman that I was an idiot for listening to Son #2 and should have read the instructions and purchased three rechargeable C batteries for £13.98. A bargain as they were about to go up in price. (That’s £61.49 now if you’re interested.) Batteries installed and the motor began to whirr. And whirr and spin around like a demented robovac. That’s when I learned there is no off switch. Round and round it went as I tried to screw in the teeny tiny screw in and it kept falling out. Whirr, spin, whirr. Grab instructions to look for off switch on diagram. No, no mention of off switch. Whirr, whirr, grindy noise (that’s when I was leaning on it firmly to try and screw in teeny, tiny screw). Forced teeny, tiny screw in and know it will probably never, ever come undone again and cats appear to see what all the noise is. Cats get very excited when they recognise the Cat’s Meow and want to play before I even have tail attached. Learn from instructions that you need to undo top thing to fit parachute underneath and then reattach. This is not as easy as it sounds. Twenty minutes later we are ready to attach tail which is not easy as it whirrs round and back and forth and looks like it really shouldn’t be forced on too much or it will split plastic. Find off switch! Hurrah! (Just in case you are ever likely to purchase this most expensive cat’s toy the off switch is found if you press the speed switch from slow to medium to fast to random… and then once more for OFF!)

By now I am exhausted. And poor. The cats are champing at the bit. Put Cat’s Meow on floor and stand back to be amazed at their love of this new toy and first-time friendliness and camaraderie with one another. Lucy Pussy stands back and watches Rita Kitten romp round and round trying to catch the plastic tail. She looks disdainful. She looks sad. She looks as if her world has come to an end. Rita Kitten doesn’t care. She is having the time of her life. The parachute thing is getting bunched up but she doesn’t care one jot.

After five minutes Lucy Pussy casually walks over, closer and closer… will she play? Lucy Pussy sits on the parachute and the tail. All play comes to an end abruptly.

By this time I have been up and down, sorting the parachute, and am exhausted. The Cat’s Meow grinds and grinds trying to whip the tail around but Lucy Pussy sits resolutely firm. I nudge her off and finally they play together. For the first time in over two years. A miracle indeed!

It last all of 10 seconds when Lucy Pussy clamps her claws on the tail and game is over once more. She looks smug. Smugger than smug. Rita Kitten looks alert and ready to pounce. Eventually she gives up and lies down. She watches and waits. She has the look of Mary Magdalene about her. Has it gone forever? Will I never see the tail again? I think there is a tear.

And so it goes on. I push Lucy Pussy off and game begins again. For another 10 seconds. Repeat last paragraph again. And again.

£61.49. Dear reader, was it worth it?

cats playing


There is something about having time off from ministry to make you think more about ministry. And then I came across this Ordination address from Henley Henson, Bishop of Durham 1936:

Nearly 50 years have passed since I was myself ordained in Cuddesdon Parish Church on a lovely summer morning in 1887.

How well I remember the tumult of conflicting thoughts which raged in my mind, and perhaps hindered me from entering as fully as I would have entered into the solemn yet exalting service!  How little I guessed what lay before me!  The immense failures which would overtake me too – ardent beginnings; the disappointments which would shadow my later course; the growing sense of inadequacy which would become a settled resident in my mind…

The happiest years of my ministry were those in which, as the vicar of a great industrial parish, I was nearest to the people.  Faces look out at me from the past – toil-worn faces radiant with love and confidence.  Nothing of what men foolishly call success is worth comparison with the experiences which those faces recall…

I say to you then – love God and love people.  Count nothing excessive that you can do for them.  Serve them in your office for the love of Christ, and they will surely give you back more than you can ever give them.

The real story about an extrovert drowning in a sea of introverts

OK, so this is the real story about my trip to Gladstone’s Library…

Twelve days was too long. A short course or Gladfest would have been better for me.

Twelve days of sleeping in a library felt like I’d inadvertently slipped into a silent retreat with total strangers who didn’t want to be naughty.

Twelve days of trying to strike up conversations with people who really just wanted to read was exhausting.extrovert introvert

Twelve days of thinking you’ve found a like-mind only to find they are only there for the day or are B&B and off exploring all day and only going to appear again next breakfast is disheartening.

Twelve days of not having your own books and journals of quotes around you is maddening.

Twelve days of no music (except for the radio in my room – Please Respect Your Neighbours when choosing Volume) made me wish I’d taken headphones for my laptop.

Twelve days of whispering or talking in hushed tones (in the lounge, for heaven’s sake!) was a strain on my vocal chords.

Twelve days of no laughter was depressing.

Twelve days of rubbish church on Sundays was agonising.

Twelve days of not being able to talk about my project or show people pretty pictures was really hard.

Twelve days of not being able to entertain was like being bound and gagged.Extrovert Rooster

Twelve days was too long. Just too long.

Remind me of this next time, will you?