New Year Revolutions 2015

Jumping on the blogging bandwagon of making some New Year resolutions (though Revolutions sounds more fun) for 2015. You should know that I am not very good at keeping them, however. Last year, or was it the year before, I made a resolution not to buy any more books until I’d read the all the unread ones I have. That lasted until May. And I still have a 6ft bookcase outside my study which is positively bulging with unread books. So that brings me to my first revolution:

books and coffeeReading
This year I shall put in my diary some time for reading. For the past few months it has taken me 4 weeks to read our book group offering and occasionally I can fit in another one but I read two pages in bed and fall asleep. As for reading theology and books to feed sermons… pathetic!  So this year I shall put some time blocked out in my diary and not feel guilty at all about reading. Which leads me neatly on to my next one…

From 14 April to 14 July I shall be taking my first Sabbatical. 12 weeks of time away from the parish to restore, refresh and renew myself and ministry. For years I’ve wanted to put together a Lent Book/Blog using a piece of art each day with a meditation. I am a visual person and really look forward to gazing at lovely paintings and matching them with meditations for the 40 days of Lent. I’ve taken some advice and have been told New York and Washington are the places to go to see great art so that’s where I’m headed. Then perhaps some time in Gladstone’s Library for putting it all together. My Bishop tells me there must be some rest in there too and I’m not arguing with that. Of course this is all dependent on getting some Grants to help finance it so if you know of anyone who can help…

Health and Fitness
I know! Can you believe I even have considered including this? Last year was not a great year for health but was much improved when I was sent for Pulmonary Rehab at the hospital. 6 weeks of exercise and diet left me feeling so much better and my plan is to carry on with that in the new year. I’ve been referred to the local gym and some lycra may even be purchased. Steady, Ruth! I also have liver disease (of the non-alcoholic kind, she quickly added) and was given a scary warning about losing weight (not before time, I may add) so I need to continue to eat cottage cheese and resist all cakes and biscuits on church premises. I will need your help in this, so if you see me reaching for a wee slice of malteser cake you have permission to smack my hand.

I’d like to say I will spend more time keeping my study tidy and organising it better, spending more time visiting family and friends, learning how to crochet, avoiding wasting time on stupid computer games, spending less money on purple Purple-Leather-Handbaghandbags (how many purple handbags does one woman need? really?), making time for mutual support with clergy friends, tidying up my computer files which have been desperately needing doing since I got new computer and can’t find anything, blogging more on topical issues, not leaving my tax return till the last minute, etc etc. I’d like to do all these things but suspect they are an annual hope which take more effort than I’ve ever given. Maybe this year… Oh, and stopping smoking again. Yeh that.

In which Ruth resists making any New Year Resolutions

The wireless has been full of them. Magazine covers scream NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!  Advert breaks cry out with Diet Pills, Diet Food, Exercise Accoutrements and all the rest. It seems that everyone makes a New Year Resolution and more often than not, it involves giving up booze, eating less and exercising more. You will not be surprised to hear that I don’t do that.

elinga99Last year my New Year Resolution was to buy less fiction. You may remember me promising to read the books already waiting in the big bookcase and on the Kindle. For I am a book addict. I buy and buy and buy. New books in supermarkets, new books in shops and on many and varied websites. I read a good book review in a magazine or hear one on the wireless and before the battery has run out on my phone or iPad the Postie has arrived with it at the door. Kindle send me emails of bargain books at 99p. “What’s a pound?” I reckon. “Nothing at all really.” One-click and it’s mine. Charity shops call to me and in I go and devour the secondhand book shelves. And they pile up and up and up until they have filled a 6 foot high bookcase and if Kindles could bulge mine would surely do that.

So, last year I vowed to buy no fiction for a year but to read the ones I have. I joined the library just in case a new book came out which just couldn’t wait. Of course, I couldn’t say I wouldn’t buy all books. Sometimes you have to get books for work so that’s why it was just fiction. And how did I do?  *hangs head in shame*  OK, so I lasted until May. But that’s nearly 6 months! Come on, give a girl a break.

And it was much harder than I thought. Of course it did make me think about how much book pilemoney I waste on books which I impulse buy. And the awful thing is that some of those new books I had to have after May are still lying unread. Why May? I hear you cry. That was when Christian Aid have a big second-hand book sale in Falkirk. I knew by then it was all over and took a rucksack with me. How good it felt too. Have I read them all? Nope. Perhaps one or two. The rest lie in the overcrowded bookcase.

This is the problem with New Year Resolutions. You set yourself up to fail really. And then to feel bad about yourself. Well I have had enough! No more New Year Resolutions for me. I’m fat and I know it. I need more exercise. More? I need some!  And I don’t need any more books, that’s for sure. But am I going to tell the world, or even merely my journal, that I’m going to give up all those nasties in 2014? Nope.

Instead I’m going to do what God does: love me just as I am. Cos that’s what I am meant to be mirroring. Love in my chubbiness. Love me in my wheeziness. Love me in my guilty love of books.

Cop out? You bet!



(Isn’t this a glorious image? Can’t find the source but love it all the same.)

21 days later, Ruth has a wobble

Montserrat So how is your New Year Resolution going, Ruth, I hear you cry?  (That is, not to buy any new fiction this year.)  Have you teetered yet and given in? Have you 1-clicked by mistake and ordered the latest blockbuster novel? Have you succumbed to the supermarket’s ‘2 for £7’ or the stupidly cheap Kindle surprises that are emailed every day?

Well, thank you for asking, but no I haven’t. I nearly have. Often. 12 days in and I thought I was doing terribly well until it was pointed out that it was ONLY 12 days. Now at 21 days I see that I have added over a dozen books to my Amazon Wish List. I have wobbled a few times, teetered on the brink of purchasing but so far I have resisted womanfully. I can’t believe how hard it has been not to buy a book. Even a wander round the charity shop had to be severely curtailed when I realised I daren’t go near the bookshelves.

Our last Book Group choice was one I had on my bookshelf so that was okay. Our next one, I happened to have ordered months ago on my Kindle when it was cheap. I’ve also read a couple off my shelf since New Year. (And Lord knows I have plenty more from which to choose.)

Then, the most delicious thing of all happened. I had wondered how I was going to read books that I had been eagerly awaiting. Join the library, I was told. Then there is Mothering Sunday and the aforementioned Wish List, and my birthday of course. However, last week I was going to a church meeting when the Vestry Secretary mentioned that she had a wee pressie for me. And she did indeed. She handed over The Chessmen by Peter May, the third in the Lewis trilogy. And not just that – it was hardback! AND it wasn’t on loan. AND it was signed TO ME by the author!!!! How cool is that? What a star my VS is. Love her to bits.

Now if every month is going to be like this, then I don’t think it will be quite so bad after all.

Holiday reading and viewing

Well, it was a funny old holiday really. Not really a holiday at all. First there was the illness… the cough to end all coughs that has lasted longer than a cough ought to last and is so flipping tiring it is almost the cough that carries you off. So we spent day 1 of the holidays in the doctor’s surgery getting antibiotics and steroids (not the first for this cough, but don’t encourage me or we could be here all day).

Day 2 was spend doing the housework that had been severely neglected over the Advent/Christmas period. You know the sort of thing – rubber duck nativities scattered hither and thither, christmas lights to be untangled, cards to be taken down but only if you are willing to dust and I wasn’t quite at that stage, diary to be updated, etc etc.  Oh, and Rita kitten had just been ‘done’ so I had to spoil her ridiculously, although she didn’t seem in the slightest fazed by the whole drama, and carried on leaping about like a gazelle and cleverly removing her own stitches. (We always knew she’d go far, that one.)

And sleeping. Yes there was a lot of sleeping.

So I didn’t really get into reading mode until about Day 3 and I managed to get through Death comes to Pemberley by PD James. Now, I am a big fan of PD James. And I am not averse to a little Jane Austen either. So I thought that when PD James wrote a book in the style of Jane Austen, and cleverly following on from the tale of Pride and Prejudice, I thought: “What’s not to like?” But I really had to force myself to keep reading. It was okay. But I’m afraid I didn’t think it was a great PD James or a great Jane Austen. It was a 2 stars for me.

My next book was a Christmas pressie from Son #1 – The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. I’m afraid this was a bit of a struggle too to keep at but the second half did improve things a bit. I just don’t think there were any likeable characters and so I didn’t really care what happened with any of them. Except for Krystal. I ended up caring about Krystal and she was the whore.  2 stars again.

I abandoned Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton which someone had recommended. It is a memoir of depression and perhaps is more interesting to people who have been through that or very close to someone who has. I don’t usually give up on a book although I have begun to come to the conclusion that life is too short to read bad books. But this one just didn’t seem to be good enough for holiday reading. Perhaps I’ll go back to it.

Then yesterday I went to see Les Miserables at the cinema. Now this gets a big 5 stars from me. For some reason, I’ve never seen the stage production although I did share a flat with an ordinand once from Gateshead who had a penchant for the soundtrack, in particular ‘The Sound of Angry Men’. I came to hate those angry men.  Nor did I know that it was an opera and that the whole thing was going to be sung and that took a wee while to get into. Especially as everyone sung so much higher than me – and that’s the men I’m talking about! But once I got past that, and the very obvious white teeth, it was absolutely riveting, moving, and rousing. I just adored it. And I’d go back tomorrow.

Last day of holiday and one has to find a church. Oh what a dilemma. I really must learn how to use a Sat Nav – and indeed buy an up-to-date one. But in the end I had to go and visit Papa and drop Son #1 off in Edinburgh so I ended up going ‘home’. Should have checked the website first! It was a Children’s Service! Woopee. You know, I think I’m just going to leave it there.

So it was a funny old holiday. It doesn’t really feel as if I’ve had a week off. The house is still not completely tidy and the back of my mind is still niggling with Lent courses. (Anyone recommend a good one?) The good thing, I suppose, is that the cough is nearly gone. Not quite but almost. I have caught up with sleep. And today I made my first ever Chicken Liver Pate. It remains to be seen if it tastes any good.

Oh and how is my New Year Resolution, I hear you cry? Well, not very well, thank you for asking. You may remember, dear Reader, that my resolution is to buy no more fiction this year. I have a bookcase and a Kindle full of unread books, not to mention all those books I’d love to read again. Someone asked me yesterday how it was going and I said ‘not too bad’. He then pointed out it was only 12 days. Blimey, it felt like I’d been at it for months. So far my Amazon wish-list has grown by 8 books. That’s not bad, is it?


In which Ruth reveals what books she’s read and what her plans are for 2013

Ok, so sometimes you are feeling really harrassed and busy and feeling sorrow for all womankind and you need to read something really empowering for women and that’s when I go back to good ol’ Fidelma. There’s nothing quite like a powerful woman in Celtic times to put things in perspective and find your inner woman-warrior. Actually good ol’ Fidelma was a bit wimpy in The Leper’s Bell but she got it together and solved the crime and fell in love with the delicious Eadulf all over again so that was nice. Sometimes there is just a wee bit too much history in these books or strange sounding names which my inner voice struggles with, and this was no different. Not much churchy stuff. 3 stars.

Madonna and Child with Angel 1916 by Eric Gill 1882-1940A certain lovely Rector’s Warden gave me the best present of all (Amazon voucher) among other delicious delights, and I got Eric Gill: Lust for Letter & Line by Ruth and Joe Cribb. I’ve been a huge fan of Gill’s religious drawings ever since I came across some clipart ones many years ago. A few months ago I saw a little Gill print in someone’s lounge which made me covet it and want to learn more. Have since found out that he was rather a subversive and a very naughty boy. (The biography is out of print but on my wish list.) This little book has lots of lovely pics, a brief resume of his life story and a desire to know and see more. 4 stars.

Finally, I am almost at the end of The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers which Son #2 got me off my wish list for Christmas. I only have a few pages to go so perhaps it is unfair to talk about when I haven’t finished but I’m giving it 4 stars and don’t think the ending is going to change that. I am a huge fan of Ms Vickers and her way of observing people and writing about them. This one is full of characters we all know well, especially in churchy circles. Loving it.

And now to my plans for 2013… well it is Hogmanay and one’s thoughts do turn to New Year Resolutions. I’m never very good at keeping those. But there is one area of my life which is severely lacking in self-control and that is the purchasing of novels. I have a tall 6 foot bookcase outside my study door which is full of books I’ve not read yet.  Some come from charity shops, some from church sales, many from Amazon one-click either because they were recommended by someone or I just stumbled across them, and some from the supermarket bargain bucket. I also have a Kindle which is chock-a-block with novels waiting to be read, all sorted into different categories, some only costing pennies, but mostly all unread.

Some time ago I read a book by Susan Hill called Howard’s End is on the Landing. While looking for the said book she stumbled across a host of books either unread or waiting for a second reading and decided to take a year out to do just that. Well I am going to try the same. I want to spend this year reading the books I already have and perhaps re-reading some old favourites, although I suspect there are enough new ones to keep me occupied. Catherine Fox managed to do a year without buying new clothes, so surely I can do it without buying fiction. I’m saying ‘fiction’ and that might be a bit of a cheat. What do you think? I just think there might be books to do with work which I will have to get, or is that a cop-out?

I was tempted today to go through my Amazon wish-list and buy all those big books I’m waiting for in paperback because they’re too heavy to read in hardback and too expensive yet in Kindle.  But I reckon that’s a bit of a cheat and there is always Mothering Sunday and my birthday when I can force my offspring into feeding my addiction.  And it might be time to join the library too.

So what do you reckon? Think I can do it? And what is your New Year Resolution?

New Year Resolutions for 2012

I’m usually quite good at making new year resolutions. What I’m not so good at is keeping them. Over the years they’ve mostly consisted of less food and less fags. As you can see that hasn’t really been a great success. In fact, all it did was set me up to fail. Oh I have given up the fags but as soon as the weight piled on I started again in the vain hope that the weight would fall off as if by magic. This never happened, by the way.

This year it might be better to be a bit more vague, I reckon.

  1. More reading is definitely high on the list. I now have a huge bookcase and a Kindle which are full of unread books. I’d like to do a Susan Hill and make a vow to never buy another book this year and just read the ones I have, but I know that ain’t gonna happen. However, what I can do is make more time to watch less rubbish on TV and read more.
  2. More blogging is another must for this year. Last year I’m not sure why there were so many large gaps in my blogging but I somehow got out of the way. But blogging is mission and mission is high on our priorities here at Christ Church this year so the blogging must improve.
  3. More financial restraint is another must for this year. Already I have made some of my own Christmass presents and nobody threw up their hands in horror at the sight of a homemade fancy scarf.  I have removed myself from all the tempting emails that come in telling me of Emma Bridgewater, Molton Brown, Radley sales etc. I don’t need more handbags or shoes. I may want more, but I don’t need more. And I’m going to keep telling myself that. Really, I am.
  4. More time with God might not be a bad thing either. I’ve loved doing the Daily Office during Advent with others, and will do that in Lent again. But I shall make sure I get a retreat this year and take all my holidays. I might even start something new in church for those who seek silence and quiet time.

I think that’ll do for now. So what are yours?

And do you have any predictions? I’m sure you can predict which of my new year resolutions will be broken by February. I see that a certain Provost has published his again this year.  (Without the help of Paul the Octopus, I’m told.) Have a look and see what you think. His first prediction affects those of us in the Edinburgh Diocese.

New Year Resolutions

I don’t think I am in the habit of making new year resolutions unless you count the usual ‘lose weight, exercise more’ kind. And if you know me, then you’ll also know that these resolutions were forgotten long before the wise men even appeared. But this week I’ve had a lot of plans going round my head so let’s see if I record them, then they actually come to fruition.

  1. Learn how to make bread. There was an attempt at this last year and it never took off so this year I am adamant that I shall learn the kneading thing.
  2. Get back into knitting some prayer shawls. I have the wool and while the cat sleeps…
  3. Diary some time for reading ‘serious’ books. It is work after all.
  4. Teach myself Powerpoint. Yes, I know everyone in the world knows how to do it but I’ve never really had time to sit and play. This year I shall.
  5. I have invested in a Slow Cooker so this year I am going to cook more (well, just cook actually) and not rely on ready-made meals when Son #1 is not around to cook for me.

New Year and Covenants

Over at RevGalBlogPals there has been talk of resolutions and covenants.  Sally said:

We stand at the beginning of 2010 looking not only at a New Year, but at a new decade full of promise and possibilities. For some of us this will be exciting, but others will approach it with trepidation and probably most of us stand on this threshold with a mix of emotions and reactions.

It is at this time of year that many (British) Methodist Churches celebrate their Annual Covenant Service, a service that will include this prayer:

I am no longer my own but yours,
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now glorious and blessed God,
Father , Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so forever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. AMEN

This prayer is said every year, and offers every member an opportunity to renew their covenant with God. This is no soft or easy prayer, it states in the company of others our willingness to worship God come what may, not that we should become doormats, but that we place God above all else. ( And every year if we are honest we have to acknowledge that we fail).

Then she asks these 5 questions.  (Why don’t you cut and paste and have a go yourself?)

1. What will you gladly leave behind in 2009?

Bouts of ill health which were not terribly serious but were annoying. Nicotine which I still miss daily but being smoke free for 6 months now I have to acknowledge that I am now a non-smoker and do feel better for it.

2. What is the biggest challenge of 2010 for you?

As ever, it is about managing time and trying to get that balance of work and play and family time and reading space.  Definitely need more of the latter!  And to achieve these things it means saying No to some things and that is often hard.

3. Is there anything that you simply need to hand to God and say “all will be well, for you are with me”?

Yes. (Not for blogging though!) So much so that I now wear a bracelet with Mother Julian’s motto written on it.

4. If you could only achieve one thing in 2010 what would it be?

To listen to God more.

5. Post a picture, poem or song that sums up your prayer for the year ahead….

Lord, take my heart and break it:
break it not in the way I would like,
but in the way you know to be best.
And, because it is you who break it,
I will not be afraid,
for in your hands all is safe and I am safe.
Lord, take my heart and give to it your joy,
not in the ways I like,
but in the ways you know are best,
that your joy may be fulfilled in me.
So, dear Lord, I am ready to be your deacon,
ready to be your priest.

Michael Ramsay 1904-1988 Ordination Prayer

(By the way, on Sunday I think we at St Mark’s will use the Covenant Prayer in place of the Creed.)

Happy new year

And Blessings for you and yours this year.

Sorry I haven’t been blogging for a few days but this new year seems to have brought chaos to my computer which is running so slow, if at all. Yesterday I had no connection at all and was bereft all day. It’s funny how we come to depend on our emails and internet. And FeedDemon seems to be suffering from a hangover too and won’t give me updates on all those other blog-friends. I miss them too.

Anyway, we had a lovely Hogmanay and some of my little flock joined me here at Fawlty Towers for a nibble or two. It was a dark and stormy night and we heard that the Hogmanagy celebrations at Princes Street had been cancelled. There must have been a lot of unhappy people who go to such lengths to get tickets for it. But judging by the amount of trees that came down, I guess it was the right decision.

I wept at the very last episode of the Vicar of Dibley last night. Who was that actor that played Harry and what has he been in? Cute though.

Now it’s back to work and my first resolution is to get my income tax done before the last deadline at the end of the month…