The Prisoner of Buckstone

It seems that it might be time to revive the old blog. However,  don’t go expecting nice pictures and thoughtful prose. The reason?  My study where the computer is is freezing,  my new laptop doesn’t work,  so I’m doing this on my trusty tablet using Swype so there will be spelling mistakes and nothing fancy.

Now,  why the blog revival?  The world is in the midst of a pandemic called Coronavirus. We are about 6 weeks into it here in Scotland and I have been housebound since 3 March 2020 as I had a chest infection at the beginning and was told to self isolate. No warning that it might go on for a while.  No time to stock up on stuff. I had to get cover for church services and turn my ministry into the phone kind once I was feeling a bit better. My son lives with me so he became full time carer,  shopper, messenger, along with all the rest he does for me at home. I started online supermarket shopping and with reasonably good grace we got used to being home all day.

Things got worse. The College of Bishops started issuing guidance to keep us safe during the crisis. First it was no intinction at communion (yay!) then nobody to receive the chalice except the priest,  no shaking hands at the Peace, no biscuits after the service, and finally our churches had to close for who knows how long?  That was when clergy up and down the land had to rethink ‘church’. And quickly. If church isn’t the building,  what is it?  And soon there were priests popping up on Facebook saying Morning Prayer in immaculate studies while I wondered how long it would take to find a tidy yet erudite bookcase to sit in front of and look holy and thoughtful. That’s when I discovered my laptop wasn’t working so ditched that idea.

The doc told me i had to begin 12 weeks of self isolation which would take me to June as i have a few health issues which make me high risk. I had 1 wedding in June and 2 in July so contingency plans had to be made. One of my little flock was seriously ill in hospital and I couldn’t visit. I enjoyed phoning my congregation,  when I could get them in… these lovely elderly people were not going to stop going out until the day came when the government put us into lockdown. That’s where we are now, only allowed out to shop for necessities or short exercise.

On Sundays we gather for  a Spiritual Communion, me in the rectory with a candle, a cross, and my home communion set. During the week I email or post the service sheet out,  along with a weekly newsletter,  and on Sunday we all say the service ‘in communion’ with one another. The same folk are late. We all miss the hymns. It’s all over rather quickly. But feedback has been good.  For the past 2 Sundays Bishop Mark and Bishop John have done an online eucharist which we can watch on Facebook or YouTube. So few of my congregation are on social media so they are missing out on that,  and it’s also why I haven’t done any services myself that way. I feel that I should. I don’t know how but I could learn. I’m living with that guilt at the moment.

Social media is my lifeline at the moment. I can’t get out.  Nobody can visit me. I’ve not been well. I’m an extrovert who needs people around me for energy, for stimulation. But i have a good circle of friends who will chat online when i need it. I have low days,  very low days,  and good days.  Like everyone.  And we’re told this is normal. I’ve stopped watching the Prime Minister’s daily bulletins because they are bad for my mental health. I can’t shop online any more because the whole world is doing it and supermarkets are doing the best but just can’t cope with how to prioritise the most vulnerable. That can take up a few hours each day just phoning or searching online and it does nothing for my mood. But heh, we’re not starving as many are. I need to keep remembering that.

Oh that’s enough for first isolation diary. Let’s see if I can upload this… more to follow on plans for Holy Week…

Diary entry in which one is nearly bombed

I used to ‘diary’ every day. A page a day from when I was about 14. Then it became a ‘journal’ and I kept it going pretty consistently until I started blogging. They all lie in a trunk and occasionally I will rifle through them while looking for something else. I used to have a friend who promised to destroy them all on my death for fear of others reading them. But now I don’t care so much – or perhaps I’ve just forgotten what secrets lie therein.

Of course blogging is nothing like keeping a diary/journal. It is public for a start and therefore probably not one’s inner thoughts. (Well not the libelous ones anyway.) But from time to time, mostly when on retreat or holiday, I do go back to scribbling away in a delicious notebook. One should always have a delicious notebook, don’t you think?

A while ago someone gave me a wonderful book called The Assassin’s Cloak – An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists. Each day there are several entries from well known (or not so well know, in my case) diarists from that day. Pepys is in there of course, and is probably the earliest at about 1661.  Today one of the entries really made me smile, so I share it with you.

I noticed a very funny note in the kitchen from old Kate who ‘does’ for my mother.  ‘Madam,’ it said, ‘had one [bomb] at the top of our street. I was shot out of my bed. It was gastley, all night digging. Today I am nearly a cripple, I can hardly walk. I think it must be rumatism. I am breaking up.  The butcher has run out of sausages.’  My mother’s note for today simply said, ‘Dear Kate, so glad you are still alive. I think we will have Welsh Rarebit tonight.’

Joan Wyndham, 1943.


Blogging v journalling

I’ve kept a diary since I was about 12. Most of that time it was a daily diary too. I still have most of them in a large trunk and occasionally I come across them and sit for a while pondering the minutae of my life.

‘Latin today. Boring. Who cares about all these wars?’

‘I think B loves me and he is lovely but J is just sooo cool and I think I fancy him.’

‘Why won’t this baby stop crying? What is wrong with him? Or is it me?’

‘Thinking of going to Church. I know! Can you believe it? Me going to Church? What shall I wear?’

At some point, around my 20s I think, it stopped being a diary and became more of a journal. More thoughts and feelings than merely recording events. And then it all starts to peter out at around the time I was ordained. Probably this was become I was so unbelievably busy that I didn’t have time to journal. Which was kind of ironic when you consider that TISEC (the Theological Institute who trained me) would keep banging on about us being reflective practitioners. I did start to keep a Quotes Journal at this time which became a place to write down prayers I’d found: poems; quotes; passages from books; and I am now on Volume 3.

And of course it was about this time that I started to blog. Now blogging must not be confused with keeping a diary or journalling. Although to begin with my blog was pretty boring and full of ‘things I did today’ entries which didn’t elicit much comment. And journalling of one’s deepest fears and hopes is definitely not the sort of thing that the world needs to hear about. So blogging became more about comments and observations and reviews of books and movies. The only time I journalled was when I was on retreat and the dreaded silence drove me to my fancy notebook and trusty purple pen.

But lately I’ve found that I miss my journal. I miss working through problems on paper and going back over them when solutions are found. Seeeing the journey written down can be very helpful and there is something really powerful about spilling your guts out (in other colours if need be) and ‘getting rid of it’. I often tell other people to keep a journal when they are going through tricky times, and advocate the use of the ‘unsent letter’. (This is absolutely something that should NOT be blogged.)

So I’m going back to my trusty journal. (Lilac linen cover, plain watermarked paper, stitched and bound in case you’re wondering.) I’ve found that I can’t write as much as I used to without my wrist getting achey and my handwriting is not what it was when I won a prize for the neatest writing with a dip pen.

Now if I can just find someone who will promise to come and destroy them all when I die, I’ll feel much more comfortable about it all.

Diary Dilemma

It’s at this time of year that the space allocated for the 2010 diary notes starts to really bulge with information and scribbled notes that you know will not be legible in a few weeks time. Most clergy get diaries which begin in Advent, the start of our liturgical year, and so it is just a few weeks away from The Beginning of the New Diary. This is a time of year that I love. I love the crisp new pages waiting to be filled. I love spending time writing in all the birthdays and dates I have to remember. (Yes, and if I missed you this year I am so sorry but the pink pen wasn’t really eye-catching enough.) I love writing in phone numbers to remember on the Notes page at the back.

My big dilemma this year is ‘which diary to buy’? Usually I have bought my diary by now but this year I’ve been putting it off for some time. Do I want to go with the Parson’s Pocket Book for Filofax as I did last year, or back to the normal Parson’s Pocket Book? The Filofax is lovely (lavender, in case you’re interested, but no matter what I do to it it has never aged and still looks brand new) and handy but it is a bit bulky for my handbag. And now that my Blackberry keeps all my address book up to date I don’t feel that I really need all that the Filofax offers.  Why am I not using my Blackberry for the calendar as well, I hear you cry?  Of course I could. However, that would require me finding reading specs and then doing quite a bit of scrolling through the days and months.  Whereas with a paper diary I can manage without specs, it is much quicker, and you do get a better sense of overview for a week when planning.

I will confess to having bought an SPCK Church Pocket Book and Diary (in pink) but I’m afraid it was far too small for the amount of appointments I have. And I do love the extra page with the PPB for appointment addresses, prayer concerns, things to remember and a whole host of other info.

So it looks like it is the PPB once again. They are never thrown out either but sit all lined up in the bureau.  Many is the time when I’ve had to go back to look something up, and you can’t always do that with your mobile phone, can you?

So what’s your diary of choice? What do you look for in a calendar? Week to view or page a day?


I love Stationery

Ever since I was a little girl and got my first pack of 12 HB pencils with my name printed on them in gold I have been in love with stationery. I remember fondly those trips to Woolies before we went back to school and stocked up on pencil cases, maths sets, and pens galore. I remember my first fountain pen (and winning the prize for best handwriting too) and that developed into the search for lilac ink. At University I discovered I had RSI in my hand and was sent to a physiotherapist who watched me write and said I pressed very hard with my pen. She recommended gel ink because it requires less pressure and I found my beloved Pilot G-1 0.7 in Violet.  Sadly I am down to my last half inch of ink and can’t find a source for them anymore. But I also love an italic pen, or a Pentel Ultra-fine in black for form-filling. Broad nibs are preferrable.

There is almost nothing quite like that frisson of pleasure when you open a new journal and the virgin pages lie before you waiting to be filled with thoughts and dreams. It all began with page-a-day diaries and then developed into notebooks in the best quality I could afford. (Very important that ink doesn’t bleed through to the other side.) My journal writing lasted from when I was about 14 until my Blog took over, but that hasn’t stopped me purchasing gorgeous books to put quotes in, or take to conferences and retreats. Both sons have inherited my love of stationery and have since introduced me to Moleskin notebooks which are classy but not quite purple or unusual enough.

My love of stationery is not restricted to pens and papers however. I can linger in a Stationery cupboard for hours just gazing at post-it notes in every hue, index cards, treasury tags, folders and pocket files.  How did we ever manage before Post-it Index flags to mark our pages? And you can’t hurry me in a Stationery shop for love nor money. I linger over those wonderful art and painting supplies with lust in my heart. Now if only I could paint…

Diaries are another source of pleasure. Over the years there have been desk blotters, page-a-dayers, angels and arty ones spiral bound for ease of writing, filofaxes which I have a love/hate relationship with (too big and heavy for handbags), electronic (too slow), and of course the beloved Parson’s Pocketbook. It is the latter that I am using at the moment in filofax form (lavender in case you were wondering) but I may go back to the burgundy version next year. I do wish they would do a two-page per week version though.

So there you have it. My secret vice shared with you all. And if you ever find some of those Pilot G-1 0.7 pens in Violet please buy them all for me, would you?