Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Beccy was not 100% sure about camping but she was outvoted 3 to 1 so we set off after school on Friday. We had spotted Middlewood Farm campsite whilst walking on the disused railway track between Boggle Hole Youth Hostel and Robin Hood's Bay last summer. It scored highly in the future-places-to-stay stakes because it had a play area. We finally get there about and pull up with the evening sun warm on the car. Getting out into the brisk little wind is a slight shock, but with the excitement of putting up the tent our spirits aren't dampened. The girls help me very reliably with holding pegs and groundsheets until the tent is three quarters up when the temptation to jump in and out of the newly formed space becomes too great to resist.
Next thing I know they have unpacked everything and spread it all over the inside. It has to be put away again so that all the mats and sleeping bags can be unrolled into place.
As soon as we are done we set off to walk to the beach. Through a gate right next to our pitch then over a stile, a kissing gate, another stile, and we start to drop down through a little valley thick with the fragrance of wild woodland flowers, the curves of ferns and the cascading of a little stream. The girls love to skip along down the steep path and it's a delicate balance between giving them the freedom of their enthusiasm and making sure they are not going to do themselves a serious injury. As we draw near to the first houses in Robin Hood's Bay a fearful doubt arises, "What if the Fish and Chip shop isn't open?" But sure enough the next breeze brings a whiff of frying and vinegar to our eager senses.
The pieces of fish look rather small but everything is for the best because one portion turns out to equal three pieces so two portions to share is plenty for the four of us. We take them round to the "quarterdeck" overlooking the unusual "wave platform" revealed by the low tide that is overlooked in turn by a handsome three-quarter moon. What can be better than really good fish and chips by the sea and these have lived up to all our memories by being as delicious as ever.
The gold of the sunset is still catching Ravenscar and Jemima spots a little white dwelling half way round the headland, "That's our new house," she says, "If only, darling!" Suddenly we are surrounded by a crowd of schoolchildren asking how far it is to some bees. "Sorry - no idea." Only then do I remember that we are at one end of the Coast to Coast path. The other is St Bees - is it 186 miles? - there are a couple of journey's end plaques on either side above the slipway.
It's getting late but we can't leave without exploring the rock pools. Winkles, limpets and assorted empty shells are all investigated with occasional crab scares splitting the air with screams. They are all false alarms until Imogen finds a hermit crab that has taken up residence in a winkle. We take great and unsuccessful pains to keep the girls’ trousers dry only to find that someone has put the coats down in a little puddle on the rock!
Beccy wants to explore the village but I start getting restless about making our way back - if the girls get tired I'm the one that'll do the carrying. We compromise by going as far as the line of shops which shut their doors some years ago but still have the cobwebbed trinkets and beachware gathering dust in the derelict looking windows. On a previous visit we were told that elderly siblings now resident in nursing homes had fallen out and couldn't agree over what to do with the properties.
Back in the tent, Imogen says "It's not as comfy as my bed at home!" but before long we are all asleep. At first light Jemima opens her eyes and says "It's morning" in a bell like voice that must have been heard across the field. But miraculously she listens to my explanation that "it may be light but it is certainly not morning" and goes back to sleep.
I get up a few hours later at 6.30 and it is freezing! Eventually the sun does its job and we look forward to a day of more rock pools, more chips, ruined abbeys and doughnuts before the journey home over the moors.
Sunday, 1 May 2005
It's the song that clergy hate to hear - if only it was true.
Especially when you first start, proper weekends are something that you really miss. That Friday evening feeling when another week is over and even if there is 'homework' to be done, you know that you can relax at least until Sunday afternoon if you want to.
As a Vicar, if you're lucky and Saturday hasn't got a wedding or two, by the afternoon your mind is gearing up towards Sunday morning and preparing for what needs to be said and done. Before having children I used to be up about on a Sunday getting my thoughts into more coherent order. If I try to do that now, I hear the little padding of Jemima's feet after a few minutes (no matter how quietly I have come down) and then not much more can be achieved - except perhaps an adventure with the 'Bob the Builder' toys.
Saturday mornings are okay; but if you've had a busy week they are more like recovery time. It is Sunday morning, after maybe a nice walk on a Saturday, that you should be able to hit the real relaxation zone.
My ideal would be to get up not too early but not late and then breakfast as follows:
Two traditionally smoked Manx kippers. (If you don't mind stinking the house out for the rest of the day grill them lightly for the best flavour, otherwise simply pour boiling water over them and leave for a couple of minutes).
Two free-range eggs (preferably collected from your own hen house while still warm from the hen) fried, boiled, or poached.
A handful of mushrooms (collected from the woods the night before if you know what you're doing) fried until tender.
Arrange them all on a warmed plate along with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a pot of strong tea. Put Classic FM on and find something good and easy to read and take it from there.
Once you have wiped the last juices from the plate with a slice of fresh wholemeal bread you’re ready for anything …
In case you haven't already heard, I will be resigning as Vicar, sometime in early September. We are still going to be living in Worsbrough and I am enrolled to start a teacher-training course at
. I will be training as a Secondary Maths Teacher; Maths having been the subject I did my degree in before going on to study theology. Sheffield Hallam University
Despite what I've written above, it isn't just to free up weekends, though with Beccy teaching and Imogen and Jemima at school now that is quite a big factor.
I've struggled with being a Vicar even from before I was first ordained. On the one hand I think it is that struggle that has made me effective at doing the job. It has forced me to think things through and try and make sense of them for myself and hopefully in some way for others; it has forced me to subvert and innovate in ways that attempt to make the experience of the church less boring and more accessible, enjoyable, thought provoking and interesting.
On the other hand, having worked my ministry through as far as I feel I can at the moment, it still leaves me unsatisfied and wondering if it’s really worth all the effort I have put into it. I think I need to step outside it and away from my struggle with it so that I can then see what I make of it from a more detached position.
All that might make it sound as though I am only going into teaching as an escape route. But that is not true. I could say that I felt 'called' to teaching before I was 'called' into ministry. (The 'quote' marks show my suspicion of the idea of calling - I think actually that we must take responsibility for our own decisions about the course of our lives and if we have a vocation in any particular field it will be shown by the fruit that we bear.) I remember a Christian Union meeting at
Nottingham when someone came to talk about the need for Christians to serve God by being teachers in inner city schools. I thought, "That's what I ought to be doing." But I knew at that time I didn't have the maturity and inner confidence to do it. (The pupils wouldn't have needed kippers - they would have eaten me for breakfast!)
It will still be a big challenge but I am looking forward to it with enthusiasm and, if I can hack it, I know it will be very rewarding to play a part in that crucial stage in young lives.
I don't have any regrets at all about the course my life has taken so far - how could I? I have gained such a lot from all my experiences and I hope I have given a lot. I mean it sincerely when I say that it has been a huge privilege to play a part in such significant times in people's lives as are marked by baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as the ongoing relationship with the regular attenders at our services.
And there must be something very special about Worsbrough - if all these ex-Vicars decide it's still the place to live!
Friday, 1 April 2005
Yesterday we brought Jemima home from hospital after 5 days on Ward 37 overcoming pneumonia. On the same day the news was full of the 2 day old boy who had fallen victim to the MRSA superbug. Jemima was really quite ill when we first got her to hospital, though it was only in retrospect that we appreciated quite how much she had been struggling. With that scare in mind our hearts go out to those who are bereaved.
It also reminds us of the fine balance that we often walk in this life. We are very grateful for the discovery and efficacy of antibiotics. It took about a day and a half for their effect to be noticeable on Jemima but thereafter she bounced back very strongly - from being a shadow of herself she became her usual larger-than-life character on the ward. At the same time we appreciate the need to use such drugs sparingly - even though we as a human race are capable of amazing advances we will never become omnipotent - we are always part of a delicate and complex web, where potential for good and for bad evolve just as fast as we do.
The worst moment for me during the last few days was when the first cannula came out of Jemima's hand and a new one had to be sited in her other. She was still feeling very unwell and she knew this time how unpleasant it was going to be. If her lungs had both been at full strength it would have been deafening! As it was I had the job of holding her and I felt the powerlessness of not being able to do anything to make things better except be there - one of the hardest things and most important things that ever has to be done.
We now have to give her five days worth of oral antibiotics. 5 ml four times a day doesn't sound too bad, except that each dose requires both my and Beccy's full strength and determination which still seem to be only about half those of Jemima. Only by getting the syringe right to the back of her throat can we have some faint hope that the sticky mess won't come straight back out again like some garish volcano.
Anyway, we will certainly have a happy Easter in our house - assuming we all catch up with our sleep on time - and we hope you all have a happy Easter and find yourselves full of the joys of Spring!
Tuesday, 1 March 2005
Going through my sock drawer the other day I found my diary from 1979. Actually, it’s the only diary I've ever kept and it peters out after 18th July. I remember around that time my sister, Naomi, kept a diary. She would have been 13 (I was 11 going on 12) and her diary had built in padlocks and I just got intriguing hints of all the romantic secrets that she inscribed there. As you can see from the excerpts below mine was much more prosaic. Whether because my life was like that or because I didn't dare risk my mum reading such things - I can't quite remember!
1 Mon We are at Riverside Cottage. It was quite bright but cold most of the day but started snowing in the evening. We found a mouse in a tea chest in the shed. We put him in a plastic jar with some food. In the evening me and Daddy caught a duck. We shone the powerful torch on it then I made it fly up towards Daddy he dazzled it so it hit a tree. We put it in the bath.
2 Tue It didn't snow today. I spent quite a lot of time collecting logs for a fire. We are beginning to clear the sheds. After lunch we let the duck go. The mouse escaped. We did a little bit of tobogganing. After tea we planned out what we are going to do with the island.
3 Wed It was quite bright again today. I collected some more firewood. I cut down all the branches of the willow tree which is next to the Hawthorn. A Robin flew into our car and did a mess. We came back to
. The Cambridge Cam is frozen.
5 Fri After lunch we went skating at Earith. I used Mummy's skates. Then we bought a 2 seater canoe. We have to put it together. When we got back it was -8°C
6 Sat We went skating near Mill Pond. We took turns using Mummy's and Daddy's skates. We took the ice hockey sticks and puck and had an ice hockey match with some other people. Daddy pulled us on the toboggan and the skies.
22 Mon We didn't have to go to school because of the strikes. We went to
, it snowed lightly. We made a big fire in the wood. The river was quite high. Riverside
23 Tue Didn't go to school because I had a temperature and a sore throat. I listened to records in the morning and watched Tele in the afternoon. I did a puzzle. It snowed very hard. There was about 4 inches of it.
3 Sat We went to
. The water had gone very high. The creek had overflowed to the stream. The river had overflowed onto the island and there were puddles all over the place. The lake was frozen. I dug some J. Artichokes. We are taking the Riverside over to the island and taking down the old one. veg. Garden
7 Wed I went to town after school. The archery sets cost £15-30
11 Sun I went to Church. After I went to David's house. We played tig with Tim and Jim.
12 Mon It snowed all day. We played football at break in the snow it was great fun. We couldn't have games. (I am sick of snow)
16 Fri At school the playground was very slippery. I went to David's house. We had a snowball fight with his dad and we threw snowballs at cars and people. David lent me some of his Queen records. I put £7.00 in my TSB account. I have £17.27
20 Tue Went to school. Most of the snow thawed. Me and Matthew went fishing. We didn't catch any fish.
21 Wed Went to school. After school we went fishing. I caught two roach. Matthew caught a shoe.
23 Fri It was sunny and very warm. I went for a run by the river.
5 Sun Went to church. In the afternoon me and Mash went fishing at Mill Pond. We didn't catch any and a dog ate half our bait.
7 Tue We are at Granny's house. We spent the morning playing and climbing trees in the wood. At lunchtime we saw some of Grandad's army medals and badges and we were able to have some. He had a gold medal for being best boy at school.
8 Wed Went to school. Matthew had a temperature. It snowed a bit but didn't settle. I got a 200 word essay for messing around.
1 Thu Went to school. In cooking I made fairy cakes. It was sunny and warm. I didn't do PE because of my cough.
2 Fri I should have had detention but the teacher wasn't there so I didn't. I bought some seed potatoes at Woolworths.
7 Wed There is a man staying with us called Clive. In science we cut open an egg. I would have had football training but I forgot my kit.
8 Thu Clive left today. I made toad in the hole in cookery. I had a go in the sidecar.
11 Sun Me and Daddy went out on the motorbike we watched some ducks.
12 Mon Went to school I didn't do games because I had a cough.
13 Tue After school we had a chess match. I won my game, overall we won 3-2.
15 Thu In cookery I made Fruit salad. I am playing in a soccer match on Sat. We had PE. We did running after gym. I came 2nd
16 Fri I had no violin lesson. It snowed in the night and was slushy all day. In science we cut up two rats.
20 Tue It is Matthew's birthday. He had a party. He got 5 pounds. I had a chess game but lost but Chesterton won 3-2.
21 Wed After School we went to the garden shop. Mummy bought a 2nd hand hoe for 50p. Daddy bought a gardening book.
22 Thu In Cooking I made baked stuffed Jacket Potatoes. It was pretty wet all day. We were going to get some pigeon muck but couldn't undo the tower padlock.
23 Fri I had a violin lesson. After school I watched the semi final cup replay between Chesterton and Manor. We lost 1-0. It was quite close.
24 Sat We went to
. At first the car wouldn't start. But we bought new spark plugs and two AA men looked at it then it started. It was sunny. We did more rotovating, we planted early spuds, I did a lot of burning. Riverside
25 Sun We were in Church today. Mum, Dad, Naomi and me had to read a sort of play. After lunch we went to Car's Dike. There was a good adventure play ground. We gave Mummy some socks.
28 Wed At lunch I came home because I had a stomach ache and diarrhoea. We bought 4 beds for riverside cottage.
30 Fri I Went Back to school. I had a Violin lesson. We cut up worms in science.
31 Sat We went to
it was mostly wet but it got a bit warmer later on. We didn't do any Gardening. We started building a house on stilts. All the rabbits and Pheasants are coming back now. Riverside
3 Tue I left school at lunch to go to the dentist and I had 3 teeth out with gas. On the way we went to the garden centre.
4 Wed After school we went to the school play. On the way home I bought some chips.
6 Fri Today is my birthday. I got £7 and quite a lot of presents. I got a rope ladder and quite a lot of books. Mummy and Daddy went out and a lady is looking after us.
22 Sun We are at
. We went to look at 2 churches but we came back and had our church in the barn. In the afternoon I spread some horse manure and did some rotovating. We went to the Riverside and saw Mr Tickner’s house. Anglo Saxon Village
8 Tue We came home from school at because of the teachers' strike.
19 Sat Went to Barnston for someone's Gold Wedding. I played with William on some bikes.
6 Sat We went out to
. All the vegetation is grown massive. My garden is also getting on well. Riverside
7 Sun We went to see an air display at an American air base. It was quite good. We bought some hot dogs in the afternoon.
9 Tue Played around.
30 Wed Daddy went to
Nottingham to have an interview for a job but he didn't get it.
7 Thu We started our first paintings in art. We voted conservative in the Euro election. The man is a Christian.
9 Sat At
we did some gardening and made a fire at the bunker. We also started clearing out the creek. There are a lot of golf balls in it. I found another moorhen's nest. Riverside
26 Tue We had our sports day. I won the 800m and was 2nd in the 400m. Trinity won.
27 Wed We came out of school in the afternoon to go to Grandad's funeral. Afterwards we had tea at Granny's house.
14 Sat In the afternoon we went to Kentwell Hall. There were people all dressed up and it was in the year 1588. They acted as if they were actually in that time.
18 Wed Today we got our school reports. Mine was good but not as good as last time.
… enough said!
Tuesday, 1 February 2005
Usually I sit down and try and think of something nice to write in the parish magazine but today I think I'll do the opposite and join the grumpy old men club. Things I hate …
I hate it when people do not clear up after their dogs. I hate not being able to enjoy the view when walking the kids to school because I have to keep pointing at the pavement and saying "mind the poo, mind the poo." It's only a very short walk but it appears with great frequency. If it's yours then please clean it up. The worst one was when I took the girls on the sledge across Ward Green Playing Field. Of course the snow hid the poo which then got on the runners and when I picked the sledge up and carried it over my shoulder …(it's awful when you can smell it but can't locate it at first) anyway, I hate it and I hate having to waste time in the unpleasant task of cleaning it off where it shouldn't be.
I hate it when people think that everything is someone else's fault.
I hate the number of cars that there are on the roads. I hate it when you drive (yes I'm a bit of a hypocrite) into a lovely country village with a green in the middle surrounded by quaint old shops only you can't see the square let alone the shops because the whole place is jam packed and lined with parked cars and no one can find a space and everyone is getting irate. And I hate it when people leave cars, lorries and vans running when they don't need to and the air is getting more and more infested with choking fumes. I hate it when people think cars are impressive and symbols of status. They are perhaps a necessary evil but we should play them down as much as possible.
I hate it when I see fruit and veg for sale wrapped in layers of plastic and packaging. I mean, God has given bananas a perfectly adequate wrapper already - it's called the banana skin. What do we think all that plastic is doing - making it fresher? Making it sweat more like. I hate the thought of all the unnecessary waste that we are giving birth to and almost straight away burying in what used to be the good earth. I hate to see plastic bag trees and multitudes of plastic bags caught in bushes and fences and the banks of rivers. I hate it that when I go to the supermarket I always forget to take old plastic bags with me and end up using new ones.
I hate the plastic smell of toyshops.
I hate shopping and especially I hate the way people's choices are manipulated by 'bargains'.
I hate the orange glow over towns and cities - in fact over the vast majority of our country. I hate all outdoor lighting that is not absolutely necessary. I hate it when you can't see the stars in all their glory.
I hate buying oranges that aren't juicy, onions that aren't fresh and potent enough to make your eyes water and any food which I don't know where it has come from or how long it is since it was alive.
I hate the increasing triviality of the newspapers and I hate it that people are willing to buy them and keep people in business who spin half truths into lies and dissect peoples lives and promote sensationalism and scandal.
I hate the thought that in the next generation or two the world might be a terrible place to live, that we might have spoiled it by our greed and immediate demands without thought or sensitivity to the wonder that we are destroying and those who will suffer the results.
I hate it when people say 'God bless
I hate all kinds and forms of religious intolerance and fundamentalism.
I hate to think that there are children who are not loved and valued within their families and have no security and stability in their lives.
I hate the thought that some lives end in loneliness and anxiety.
I hate it when people smoke when I am eating.
I hate it when you look forward to a meal out only to realise too late that the food is no better than a ready meal that you could have heated up in your own microwave at a fraction of the cost. I hate ordering a hot chocolate and find that it is made from hot water and powder or a cream tea and find that the cream has been served out of an aerosol.
I hate the way that everything good is eventually commercialised simply so that people can get to our money.
I hate the fact that I still see so many people using mobile phones while they are driving and I hate it when people overtake in ridiculous situations. I hate the fact that they think a few moments of their time are more precious than other people's whole lives.
I hate it when people think that violence is an appropriate response to violence.
So there you are! I'm now going back to bed so I can try getting out of the other side. But I hope also that the things I hate reveal the things I love - just like the darkness between the stars
Saturday, 1 January 2005
We turned left onto
Aldham House Lane (narrowly avoiding an artic. that was clumsily turning into Perfecta Beds). A few moments later we were pausing in the middle of the road, waiting to turn right into Smithley Lane which snakes its way past a couple of farms on the way to Dovecliffe and Wombwell Woods. From this point there is an end on view of the parish with Swaithe and the back of Elmhirst school being the first buildings in view before the eye is taken on and up towards the hills in the West. The orange of the sunset had been present since about (when it had been handed the baton by the gold of the dawn - the sun apparently struggling to get out of bed at all) and now it was making its final blush. Imogen, whose turn it was to sit in the front, said, "It looks like a line with a paintbrush." Then, "Look. It's like a beautiful painting across the sky."
The commonest of responses, but containing a profound thought. Does the artist look at nature in order to produce an image or can we actually see nothing until art (in the widest sense) shows us how? In a way all our life-world is art - we construct pictures, stories, social patterns, ideas, religions. It all evolves around us and we see the world through it. Or perhaps the world we know is indistinguishable from it.
The Christmas story is pieced together from really just a very few verses at the start of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke - yet it has the power to vividly grip the imagination. The mysterious messages, the willing self-giving of Mary, the overflowing of heaven together with earth, the uncaring shouts of No Room, and the vivid reality of the new born baby startling the months of dreaming and waiting. Then there is the bit we willingly forget - the savage night of fear and jealousy as the babies of
are dashed from the breast by the fury of the usurped king. Bethlehem
Some of you may have watched the series 'The Power of Nightmares' which was shown on BBC a few months ago. It was fascinating and disturbing and its central idea was that fear is now the motivating factor in so much of modern life - exemplified above all by the threat of terror.
I have just reread 'Lord of the Flies' in which the imaginary external fears of a group of stranded boys unleash the very real danger of the potent darkness within.
Sometimes it seems that the Biblical image most descriptive of humankind is that of the Gadarene Swine (Luke 5.13). Haunted by devils they rush headlong to their own destruction.
To be a Christian though is to believe in hope. Or rather to commit oneself always to realising life's potential for good above its potential for evil. It is to believe that the wonder and strangeness of birth is worthwhile and, though risky, love will forever be stronger than fear and hate. Beauty is always there waiting to be perceived.