In which Ruth reads a book and goes to the theatre

It has taken me ages to read this last book – Wool by Hugh Howey. I think I began it at the beginning of the month since when my life has become rather busy and my head has hit the pillow before I’ve even thought of opening the book. it was recommended to me by my Chiropodist as we are both in book groups and have similar tastes and often swap titles. This one is like the Hunger Games but for grown-ups. However it is not quite so page-turning until the latter quarter when I did really want to find out what was happening. It is a big book and tells of life in the future (post apocalypse) in a silo. People live in these deep silos where everything they need to exist is found. If you’re naughty you are sent out into the wilderness landscapes to die and, needless to say, our heroine suffers that fate. Good story, thought provoking, and possibly good discussions at a book group. It is part of a trilogy but I don’t know that I liked it enough to carry on. 3 stars.

Will Young CabaretLast night Son #1 and I went to see Cabaret at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh. Cabaret is my favourite film and musical so I’ve always wanted to see it on stage. Will Young was playing the emcee which was not a particular pull for me but obviously was for the many drunken young women staggering about the foyer at the interval! However he was absolutely brilliant. His voice suited the role perfectly and he was deliciously camp. The set and choreography were excellent and the first half whizzed by with thrusting crotches and singalong tunes. There were a few numbers which are not in the film and a slight change to the story. Instead of the young friend who is Jewish, in the play it is the landlady who falls in love with an old man who is a tenant and ends up not marrying him because he’s Jewish. The second half was much darker and the ending absolutely breathtaking and you could have heard a pin drop as the curtain fell.  Go and see it if you get the chance.

However, don’t ever buy tickets for the Upper Circle in the Kings if you want to straighten your legs ever again. It was the most uncomfortable evening I’ve ever spent and I have the shortest legs in the world. At the interval we all had to space ourselves out and dangle our legs over the chair in front!  (Not exactly comfy either.)

And just for those of you concerned about Rita Kitten… the miraculous recovery has continued. She is frisky and fun once more. Her eyes are bright, her gums and tongue pink instead of creepy white, and Lucy Pussy’s nose is out of joint once more. And she is eating like a cat possessed (of a large tapeworm!). So we give thanks for her continued good health and hope that it lasts.

In which Ruth had a week off and didn’t do very much

It is tricky using up all your holidays when you didn’t start early enough in the year. Now I’ve got to the stage where people say, “Are you off on holiday AGAIN?”  And you immediately stutter that it was ages since the last one, or how many weeks you didn’t get last year, or how hard-working you’ve been. And because I didn’t take time at the beginning of the year I still have two weeks to take so managed one last week. Was going to go away but that didn’t happen so it was a lovely week chez moi.

Think I may have given myself a thrombosis sitting so long reading books in the first three days. I managed the Book Group one: The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman which was jolly good and didn’t take long at all. Then I read The Black Rose of Florence because it was set in Florence really. Found it a little disappointing for a thriller and not as much about Florence other than a few place names thrown in here and there. Not a mention of the Boboli Gardens either. How can you have a whodunnit without the Boboli Gardens? And finally I started Wool but am only half way through, it being small print and lots and lots of pages. It is a sort of grown up version of the Hunger Games, perhaps not so exciting but intriguing all the same.

I also did a bit of knitting for the Christmas Fair coming up. Still on the infinity evening scarves. There will have to come a point when I stop knitting them, I know. There are only so many events one goes to that require an infinity scarf after all. But once I find something I like doing I have been known to rather overdo it, in a sort of addictive way. It was the same with smoking, you may remember. (Almost a year, btw.)

Rita kitten is poorly again so there were some vet visits too. Her anaemia is back again so it looks like this will be her future. 4-5 months of okay health and then quickly descending into weakness, heart-racing, lying around. She has had all the jags this time but they’ve not made much of an impression. Last time this led to blood transfusions but I don’t think this is possible this time. As the big Maine Coon cat who lived locally and was a donor match for Rita kitten has moved away there is no other source of blood. Told today the blood bank has none either but there may be a Vet in Glasgow who has some – at about £1000. Eeek. Don’t really know what to do. Except worry.

Went to church on the Sunday of my hol to Linlithgow – my old stomping ground. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and be shocked and amazed at the size of the young people. J & R were just wee souls and now J towers over me and R is so articulate – he just ran round and round when I was there last. These people do feel like part of your family still but sort of distant relations. Made me slightly envious of all the young children they had, mind you. They did a fabulous Harvest presentation.

My baby was 35 too last week. 35! He, his girlfriend and I all went out for lunch. What did he want most on his Wish List for birthday presents? Star Wars Lego. Is this normal?  Last time I played with Lego it was at the Tisec flat when we were training to be priests. Not sure whose box of Lego it was (perhaps Gareth S?) but we were known to build our own sanctuaries when the studying got too much. Of course now those memories of sumptuous sanctuaries are long gone and we realise that we live with what we’re given. Cracked and crunchy tiles and all. Lego Church Top

And that was my holiday. I did sneak in a few wedding orders of service by the weekend because it was all looking rather hectic when I got back. Naughty, I know. But if you do take on looking after two churches during their interregnum then something has to go. And now a week later and the wedding is done and my day off today was spent attending the funeral of a good friend, and you realise that it is really that thing about being a priest 24/7. Ontologically and all that jazz. You do what you do because you want to, not because you have to.

 

Silence and noise

So every year there is a Diocesan Clergy Retreat, now held at Whitchester Retreat House just outside Hawick. It is all very comfy and chintzy with log fire and napkin rings and home cooking and butter knives.  Now, we all know that I am not great with silence. I don’t mind a little of it – I call that “peace and quiet to read a book”. But frankly too much of it makes me go a little bit … what can I call it … strange.  I start to regress and giggle at the slightest thing. I sigh loudly when really I’d like to share an insight with somebody. I catch people’s eyes and smile forlornly. And yes, one of these days I shall design a retreat for extroverts which is part-silence and lots of creativity.

However, until such times, I shall continue going to the annual clergy retreat because I’m familiar with the place and the people. This year our retreat was led by Bishop Gordon Mursell, retired Bishop of Stafford, now living in Scotland somewhere west and south, I think. And what a hoot he was!  Very amusing, self-deprecating, witty, went off on tangents but always came back and the journey was always worthwhile. And that is what’s so annoying about silent retreats – you don’t get to dialogue with the retreat leader and that can be very frustrating because I’d have loved to chat with him at some of the talks. The topics were all about vocation and really worth listening to. I never once noticed how long he spoke (which is always a good sign with me) and I was often left wanting more.

So, apart from the daily offices and talks what did I get up to? Well, reading mostly as the weather was not the best. The second day was nice and sunny and I managed to inveigle someone else into escaping in the afternoon on a jaunt to Melrose for a wander round the shops and a coffee. But the third day was rain all day and cold so there was nothing else to do except read and build fires. As I stood outside on the doorstep having a ciggie or two, it did occur to me that the country was not really terribly silent either. Birds started at about 4am just as the bat flitting was dying down. Opposite we had a field of sheep and little lambs mehing and baaing and there was also what sounded like a turkey, but may have been a grouse or some such meal-in-waiting. What with that and the hot water pump between bedrooms 5 and 6 it was not exactly what I’d call silent either.

First book was Take This Bread by Sara Miles which I had started before I went off and was half way through. It was fabulous and I can thoroughly recommend it. The author, raised an atheist, wanders into a church one day, received communion and found herself transformed. The fact that this church happened to be St Gregory’s in San Francisco might have something to do with it, being a radical Episcopal church which loves to do liturgy. But it is Bread and food which capture her imagination and soon she is running a food pantry from the altar of the church for the city’s homeless and destitute. There are some wonderful characters throughout her story, many of whom we all meet in churches around the world, and it is a book to be read by old and new Christians alike. 5 stars.

The second book was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges are Not the only Fruit. I saw Winterson being interviewed by that blonde throaty woman who does the Book Show on Sky Arts, and it really caught my attention. For this is a memoir, partly written about in Oranges, of an adopted child who grows up with the very strange Mrs Winterson and her husband. Religion doesn’t come out particularly well in this book but that is what makes it so fascinating – the way that some people use faith for their own ends. The book is funny, shocking and sad but always very real. Another 5 stars.

Next I read the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy: Mockingjay. Now you might be thinking that this wasn’t very serious theological reading for a retreat but I have to say that there are some great themes in there. I couldn’t put this one down either and was delighted at the way it all ended.

I then started to read How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran but it was so funny and rude that there was a real danger of me exploding so I had to abandon that until a more private time. Instead I spent some time meditating on Woven Words by Mary Fleeson from Lindisfarne. The last three were read on my Kindle so people may have thought that I was reading the Complete Works of Barth, unlikely as that may seem. That’s the beauty of a Kindle. Nobody knows what you’re reading.

I did plan on doing a little blogging and footering around on Facebook and Twitter, but serve me right… I couldn’t get a great signal and there was no wi-fi. Going into Hawick and wandering about holding my phone in different positions only helped me get the urgent emails I needed so I didn’t really get to ‘chat’ with the outside world as I’d have liked. Someone somewhere was having a laugh at my expense, I’ve no doubt.

Finding a comfy chair to do all that reading was no mean feat, let me tell you. In the lounge at Whitchester there is a big comfy squashy sofa but it is of the kind that once you get into it, you may never get out of it elegantly once more. There is a rather delicious pink sort of Chesterfield but it is a little upright for me but the matching armchairs at either side of the fire are not too bad for curling up in with a book. However, through in the conservatory, there are two rather splendid blue chairs of the type found in old folks’ homes. These particular ones have a remote control and you can slowly tilt until your feet are up and your head tilted back – perfect for reading. If you go too far of course you end up either tilted so far back there is nothing else for it but to go to sleep, or the other way you find yourself thrown out of the chair as it tilts up and tosses you out. Great fun though.

And soon I shall take my own little flock and friends back to Whitchester for another silent retreat. However this time, I shall be the one doing the talking. Yay!