Sunday, 3 September 2017

What I did in my summer holidays

We are doing all the back-to-school things. Uniforms are ironed and hanging in the airing cupboard. Have I ever shown you a picture of my airing cupboard/hot press? It is genuinely exciting, to me. Lunches are packed and in the fridge. School bags are packed and in the hall. It is raining.

So here are a few sunny summer memories from home and away, just to remind me of blue skies! We got to the blissful middle of nowhere in France with friends, the always delightful Surrey with family, and had a wistful farewell trip with our big, blue, old, cathedral of a tent in Fermanagh.

Thank you to all you kind folk who still read and comment here, even though I've been a very absent friend for years maybe now. Working more than I did a decade ago, and having parents to look after now as well as boys, and just trying to live a life, I suppose, dictate less self-indulgence at the keyboard! I have Psalm 37 open here, and saw this in verses 25 and 26:

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.

I'm struck by a double layer of meaning for me this weekend. Last night Prince Charming and I were delighted to get to one of Rend's Hometown Gigs. At more recent gigs of theirs that we've been to, they have promoted the work of World Vision, and we're hoping to talk to somebody soon about sponsorship. It seems to cost £26 a month, which is less than my gym membership. It would certainly be money put to better use. I must tell you someday why I joined a gym, the most boring place on earth.

Happy September!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

This month: Glasgow

This month I went to Glasgow for a weekend. I got up at a ridiculous hour one Saturday morning, closed my eyes briefly on a plane and woke up in Scotland. Admittedly there was a very accommodating husband and pre-booking forethought involved. There was food, and food for thought; there were friends; there was crochet in public on Knit in Public Day. It was wonderful. The photos might imply more sun than in fact there was, but it was Glasgow. Just as miserable a climate as here, presumably! All in all it was nice to know that such things can still be done.

Thanks to Catherine and Fred for letting me come, and thanks to the strawberries for letting me go x Summer school holidays start tomorrow- in hilariously seasonal pouring rain...

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Life with boys

 This is the book I bought for Prince Charming for Father's Day on Sunday. I got it in Glasgow the week before, hoping to blog about that soon too! It obviously forms part of this wave of nostalgia we have for the pictures of our childhood, overlaid with the cynicism of our adulthood. Poor Bruno Vincent doesn't even get a mention on the front cover, though he seems to be embracing his role as "Enid Blyton's comedy representative" with great magnanimity.
 PC and I will laugh until we cry over anything that takes personal experience and turns it into communal shared fact. This used to be my favourite definition of poetry, paraphrased from T. S. Eliot, but now it just sums up how any book full of tales of exhaustion is going to work for us! I think this is why we crawl outside like good pagans every Summer Solstice night and sit up until the last trace of light is gone from the sky- just to prove to ourselves that we can. Not that we will necessarily function well the next day!
 When I started blogging it was all artful scenes of kitchen table and lots of small feet, and tales of wry domesticity. Yesterday I got a letter mug from the new M&S range, all fancy and gilt, to set me apart from the bold monochrome of men mugs. Now they drink tea from full-sized cups. Now they have broad shoulders that look sharp enough to slice the bread things they eat continually. Now I am often taken aback at how outrageously funny they are, or right, or wise.
 And then other times it still feels like this! Which is why I think the Enid Blyton spin-offs are so successful just now. Personal pain made public! The book about The Meeting makes you realise that you are not the only person dealing with inanity at work. The Mindfulness one makes you take yourself just a little bit less seriously, and allows you to chuckle at excess. And that's just three out of the four titles I've bought this year- you'll have to ask Niqi about The Dog one!

Depending on how the Queen's speech goes today, I might think about putting this one on my Amazon wishlist. Presumably it's our jolly, old DUP who are holding up the proceedings on Mrs May's new government. See apology below! With politics, much like parenting, do we need someone to help us laugh as well as cry?

Friday, 9 June 2017


I would just like to apologise to all of you living on the Mainland (as we call it, as if living on the island of Ireland was like living on the lake Isle of Inishfree) for the exposure you will now be experiencing to the phenomenon of the Northern Irish Politician.

Well, to the phenomenon of a DUP politician. Obviously, to call them politicians ignores the fact that we currently have no government here in the frozen North and they are all canvassing around the place with no work to do and £70,000 a year to do it with.

I digress. Apologies for the incomprehensible accent, the esoterically Unionist rhetoric, and the fact that it has brought you a state of affairs that may be not at all to your liking.

This may help... (The comedian on the left is the one we "met" at the Museum in the post below!)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Raising Ebenezers

I have blogged about this little sculpture before. It is "Community" by Sonja Landweer, and it is my very favourite piece in the whole of the wonderfully wonderful Ulster Museum. I have always loved the diverse mounds and pillars and surfaces, all of us in all our shapes and sizes, how we look and how we feel.

 We spent an evening in the Museum one Friday night last month. Such a hoot. It was open for one of Belfast's Real Sketchy events, where you roll in and wander, with a drink in your hand, live music in your ears, and sketching any of their treasures as you go!
 It was planned to coincide with the Museum's hosting of the Lines of Thought exhibition- sketches of masters from Michaelangelo (in whose fat belly this middle-aged and spreading woman found much solace) to Picasso. The Barbara Hepworth is all ours, but it was gorgeously intimate to be there after hours, able to look and consider, though still not touch!
 Some people took it very seriously. This is Colin Murphy, a Northern Irish comedian we laugh over when we watch the Blame Game on BBC1. He really didn't want to be disturbed. I'm afraid I did. Couldn't resist. I don't get out much.

This is our friend, the prof, who doesn't wear shoes inside. Ever. Anywhere. When we first met him, and his fabulous wife, in church, we presumed it was a standing on holy ground thing. It's not. He just doesn't do shoes unless absolutely necessary. Darlings! It was just his sort of night.

Other people didn't take it quite so seriously. However, what I have since appreciated about Prince Charming's artistic output has become something very significant. PC downloaded an app that allows you to photograph something, and then turn it into your own piece of art. Very David Hockney. Very now. Darlings.
And so here is Landweer's community re-imagined a la PC. (That's a very PC word- apparently re-imagined is an old hymn given a modern twist.) And what I keep thinking about now, is how perfectly it illustrates what is increasingly for me a very, very fundamental truth. I Samuel 7:12. "Thus far has the Lord helped us." It's the story of Samuel experiencing the loud thunder of the Lord's deliverance, and setting up a stone, raising an Ebenezer, as a visual reminder that time and time again God deals with the details of our lives, the fights, the struggles, the worries, the times. I know that we know this, but I am not good at remembering this. I love the notion of having visual reminders in the landscape that say to this generation and the next- thus far has the Lord helped us.

So, until I can get some big rocks into the garden, I'm sticking with PC's Landweer!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Spring into summer, and then just back to Spring

 In terms of blog posts written since then, it wasn't very long ago at all that I was wondering about "autumn" as a verb, and you cleverly pointed out that "fall" and "spring" were indeed verbs.
 It is nonetheless two whole seasons ago. Must do better! And here are some photos from the last few weeks in Northern Ireland, the few weeks in the year when we wake up one unexpected morning to vast blue skies, temperatures warm enough to merit dragging out the suitcase with the barely worn summer clothes, and the firm belief that it could never rain again.
 You see, Spring in Northern Ireland springs straight into summer for a few weeks in May. Every year. Just at exactly the time when you need outdoor-craving boys to be indoor-revising boys. Not sure if Jo is smiling or begging in this shot. Five minutes more, and you oblige, because you don't really want to be an indoor-boy-curtailing-mother.
 So you wander round marvelling at all the colour, and all the heat, and all the sun. Rejoicing in the fact that the people who built the house were gardeners! Real gardeners, with a scheme and a plan and everything. We don't really have a plan. We just try to weed it all out as best we can, which doesn't admittedly amount to much effort on my part at all...
 Look at that sky. Blue. Ireland is mostly green, because of all the rain. But when it's not green, and therefore grey, it is very, very blue.
 So here we all are at the table. Inside. Books and files and pens and mind-maps. And tea. Door wide open for air! My sanity lies in the basket of small ends of things. Crocheting lots of little flowers to join lots of other people's little flowers to be joined into a little flower thing for our Knit in Public day at the start of June.
 Lots to look forward to- boys' exams start tomorrow, so obviously it has rained again, as revision season draws to an end, but at least the revision pain will end! A morning at Mossley Mill with Hookery for KIP, where we'll sit outside if the sun shines, and inside in the coffee shop if it doesn't! And maybe we'll still get glimpses of vast blue skies before the traditional downpours of July. The speck in this picture was a para-glider who had thrown himself from Knockagh Hill, just behind the tree. He served as a needed reminder that day that the feeling of falling off a hill can possibly be followed by the feeling of actually surviving and landing safe on the other side!

ps Thank you to everyone who did leave comments re Outside Tea in Lent. I have a little sachet of tea wending its way to  you all x