Sunday, 1 November 2015


It isn't often that I post something sad. But I really need to at the moment. You see, my dearest, funny, sweet, loving sister has died. Cancer crept in and finished her off in seven months flat. Although it was probably a lot longer than that. Cancer tends to be very quiet at the beginning, and by the end it is deafening.
What can I say? Sadness is exhausting. We are all exhausted. And yet, amongst all of this grief and red-eyed living, there is something else. You see, I really prayed that she would get better. Some days my belief was so strong that I could almost taste the healing, and feel the happiness it would bring. I prayed that she would be totally healed from cancer. That she would never be a victim to fear or anxiety ever again. That she would grow old bones.
But she didn't. She died.
That should make me angry, shouldn't it? That should make me enraged with the God I was praying to?
Well, I'm not angry or enraged.
I'm deeply sad but I'm not angry.
What has happened is that I have come to know God in a way that I never knew him before. I have spoken to him, virtually every minute of every day, for months and months.
I have discovered that he is funny. Smart. Fearfully honest. Extremely loving. He doesn't give a brass farthing for rules and regulations if they don't suit him. He would prefer a party full of drug addicts in a squat to a smart cocktail party with the elite. He doesn't like it when people are judgemental, and he hates it when we are 'holier than thou.' He can't STAND social injustice.
In short, he is daring, fearless and ridiculously loving.
So why would a God like that kill off a sister like mine?
Impossible. He simply couldn't.
And so I have to re-think my thoughts about God. He clearly isn't someone who will immediately heal someone. Because he didn't. I still don't know why. But what he did do was to push himself RIGHT INTO my life, so that I could no longer ignore his gentle whispers or constant encouragement. And he pushed himself right into my sister's life, what was left of it. There was no ignoring him. That was NOT an option.
My sister is not here any longer. So where is she?
She's with that God I was talking about. That daring, fearless and ridiculously loving God that I have come to know. And that knowledge makes me...happy.
I'm sad, so sad, that I won't be able to talk to her in her kitchen, or wander around her beautiful vegetable garden with her, and sit on that little seat at the end in the sun, and chat about all of our children. We have eight between us. Quite a feat. When I think that I won't see her again in my lifetime it feels utterly, utterly bloody awful.
But I can look ahead. To after that.
Yes, I'm one of those crazy nutters that believe in Heaven.
And I'm very, very glad I do. I just know that we WILL be together again. We WILL walk about in a vegetable garden one day, with a little seat at the end. We WILL chat about our children and laugh about stuff. We WILL live and live and live. And there won't be any cancer because God and cancer cannot live side by side. And there won't be any worry or anxiety because God and worry and anxiety cannot live side by side.
And so there isn't really any need to worry, is there?
But for the time being I will have my red eyes, and I will cry a lot, because I MISS her.
Who wouldn't? She was the best sister anyone could ever have. The best wife. The best mother. The best daughter. The best friend.
And after I have cried a lot, and some years have gone by, I won't be so sad. We won't be so sad.
And always, in all of that, we will know that we will see her again.
God IS good. It's just that we don't always get to know him because we are either too busy, or he just doesn't seem that relevant to our world. Only he is. Relevant. Vital. Real.  And now that I am beginning to know that, I know that he would NEVER take a life. He would only give one.
Thank God.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I am Sailing

Have had simply marvellous fun sailing in the Mediterranean.
Well, not exactly Port Grimaud in large luxury Yacht.
More like very small 'Fun Boats', suitable for two people. Who are very small indeed.
But such fun!
Husband and I, plus Middle Son, Daughter and Youngest all holidaying in the South of France in the most idyllic of settings. Gorgeous pool, cicadas doing their thing day and night. Hot, sunny days lazing in the pool. Warm, sultry nights lazing in the pool.
After about ten extremely lazy days lazing by the pool. decided that Youngest was probably getting rather bored. This followed a conversation at breakfast (lazing by the pool) when he stated that holidays like this were probably more for 'old people'.
There was a brief pause.
'Are you saying that you are a bit bored?' we all asked, collectively feeling the punch of the word 'old'.
'Well, it is rather boring just eating and swimming and then lying down to sleep.'
Right, we thought...
And that is why we decided to go sailing...
Three boats (Fun Boats), all bright yellow and more like bath tubs than sailing boats. But they had sails on them and lots of ropes, so that was alright.
Husband was extremely excited and leaped upon the first Fun Boat, along with Youngest.
There was absolutely No Wind At All.
I clambered on to the next Fun Boat.
Middle Son and Daughter got on the third one.
Off we went!
Except that there was No Wind At All.
We sort of drifted around a bit, and occasionally there would be a tiny breeze that wafted us along rather nicely.
It was heaven. I sunbathed a bit more and we trailed our hands in the water and jumped off the boats a few times. Just because.
When we arrived back two hours later we had all decided that we needed to come back when there was a little more wind.
Which is why we returned two days later.
The only thing was that the wind was howling. Like in almost a gale. Like in Lots.
Beaucoup de vent, as they say around there.
The Fun Boats were available, every single one of them, and we clambered on board, this time swaggering a bit with our massive previous experience.
Within minutes our knuckles were white with the exertion of holding on to the flipping ropes, sails were crashing across (gybe ho) and we were SCORCHING across the water. It was marvellous!
The sun peeked through the clouds and then decided to come out completely and all was transformed. Sparkling water, a nice breeze and fast boats!
Well. It would all have been perfect if it hadn't been for a minor point.
Husband capsized. Not once. Not twice. Three times.
We never got to see the first capsize, as Husband very quietly righted the boat round the corner from where we were all dashing backwards and forwards across the water.
The second one was as Daughter and I were going at cracking pace across the same part of the bay. One moment there was Husband ahead of us, boat at jaunty angle.
"Hope Dad doesn't capsize!" chuckled Daughter and we shared a fond giggle. The next moment, Husband's boat goes from jaunty to jiggered and the entire sail disappears, with a small shout from Husband.
Daughter and I turn about (nautical terms coming out of our expert ears by now) and tear across to where Husband and boat are bobbing about. We are beaten there by Very Fast Rubber Sort of Boat with man from our sailing yard, who scoops Husband out by the shoulders and lays him flat, like a landed fish, on his Rubber Boat. Husband can't seem to get up due to tricky angle, so we see if we can help. Wind packs into our sail with a thump, and we are taken off, like a fierce tango dance, to the opposite side of the bay.
Daughter keeps reporting back.
"Dad is nearly sitting up."
"Dad has fallen back into the boat."
"Dad is being put back onto the Fun Boat."
Sort of thing.
Finally we see Husband flailing around with sails, but definitely the right way up, and in the right direction. Hooray!
With all sorts of shouting and sign language we decide that enough is enough, and that it is definitely time for a large Verre de Rosé for the adults and Lemonade for the children.
But not before Husband, with a tremendous roar of protest, capsizes for the third time, the boat whipping him off and into the water before you can say Domaine de Grange Neuve, Bergerac Rosé 2011.
With the deepest of shame I remember laughing heartily. So did Daughter. So did Middle Son. So did Youngest.
And after we'd laughed enough, we raced over to him, where Middle Son was extremely helpful and abandoned Youngest and their Fun Boat to assist his father in righting his wretched little dinghy.
For all their jumping up and down on the right bits, it didn't seem to be working, and so the very kind man who had already hauled Husband out once before, came dashing over again, and proceeded to do more hauling and righting of boats.
Youngest was now in a Fun Boat on his own, but with marvellous timing and grit, managed to expertly guide it back into the yard; this was no mean feat as the wind was feisty, to say the least. Daughter and I managed to get ours back too, and then we all watched as Husband and Middle Son brought theirs back. Would they capsize again?
Disappointingly, they didn't.
And we all piled into the car and drove to the nearest restaurant, where we partook of local Rosé and Lemonade, and laughed a bit more at Husband's expense. Who took it all on the chin.
"Shall we come tomorrow?' we all asked.
Husband looked a bit green. " I think we might leave it there for a bit," he said, slurping up a large mouthful of Bergerac Rosé 2011. And so we will leave it there. For a bit.
Looking forward to next time, when the wind will be kind and the boats will behave.
Even Husband's.

                                            (photo NOT of Husband, but very very similar!)

Friday, 31 July 2015

On taking sixteen bags to the Charity Shop

Staggered into local charity shop with ten bags of books this morning.
In bright voice to brisk lady behind the counter,
'Would you like these? I do have rather a lot.'
Realise that I sound like Margo from 'The Good Life.'
'I've only the two pair of 'ands,' says the brisk lady, who appears to be very cross. I'm not sure if it's my books, my Margo voice or the fact that she is battling with the price gun.
'Right,' I say, and think about asking where I should leave the books, or does she actually want the books, or should I sidle out again and try the other charity shop down the street.
I try again. Nice and polite.
'Shall I leave them here by the door at the back?'
'You can't go in the back. 'Ealth and Safety.' She glares at me, beady eyed,  price gun raised.
'OK, well, I'll leave them here, shall I?' I am determinedly polite, although my cheeks are beginning to ache with all the smiling. Perhaps I should just look as bloody cross as she is.
She doesn't answer, just crosses the shop and takes the bag from where I have put it on the floor.
I go back outside, across the road and down the street, where my car is waiting, boot gaping open like a landed fish.
I drag in another four bags, fingers cut through by the thin plastic handles.
'I've got some more!' I beam at the lady.
She looks positively fuming. Oh, dear.
I attempt to placate her again.
'Would you like me to take these books away? I don't want to burden you with them.'
She grimaces. 'We tike the yellow ones and put them out the back in the recycling.'
For a moment I feel rather like grimacing back. 'I don't think there are ANY yellow books in my bags, unless you mean, of course, Yellow Pages?'
She looks a bit blank.
Out I go. Across the road, down the street. My car boot gapes open, and I retrieve the last of the bags of books. There are six bags of Daughter's clothes. I pick up three. I hope she folded them all nicely. I can't be bothered at this moment to check. Back I go. Lady doesn't look up. I dump the bags and go and collect the last of Daughter's clothes and a brand new dog lead that we don't want. It's supposed to stop dogs pulling but kept getting in our dog's eyes. It is bright red, and very new looking. I hope that she'll be pleased with THIS, at least.
In I go. Heaving and panting with the last of the bags.
She barely looks up now, but grabs a bag from my hand and puts it by the door.
'Oh, I brought this.' I hold up the red lead.
'What's that?' she asks,' Is it a muzzle?'
'No, no! It's a dog lead that stops them pulling but it didn't work on our dog.'
'Does it go across their face and into their eyes?' she asks.
I am delighted. We seem to be getting on much better!
'Yes, yes! It goes over their nose and across their...'
She cuts across my explanation.  'Goes in their eyes. Very bad for them. They can't see.' And with that she walks away to the counter, grabbing the price gun, as if she would like to shoot me with it.
Well. Am by now feeling that I shouldn't have bothered carrying in sixteen bags of stuff but had thrown them at force through the door and scarpered.
I muster up the last bit of good will.
'Well, I'll see you soon. Bye! Have a good day!' The good will is almost killing me. I rake up a smile and nail it to my face.
She doesn't look up and I leave the shop.
For some reason I am filled with giggles. A lesser mortal would have clocked her one.
But needs must, and all that. I'll be back there with another sixteen bags next Saturday after clearing out another bedroom or two. Must make sure that one bag is heaving with yellow books.
And perhaps will take my own price gun with me. Pistols at dawn, and that sort of thing.
Might make the headlines.
'Charity Shop Drama. Local woman covered in £1.99.'

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It's been a long time!

Oh, dear, I've disabled my chicken.
I'll explain.
We had a rather nasty visitor the other night in the shape of a fox.
He stole into our chicken run in the dead of night, and I awoke to the most appalling sounds of terrified birds and carnage at 4 o'clock in the morning.
After fifteen rather unpleasant minutes of chasing a fox away, and comforting those hens who were left, I and Husband, (who had joined me after hearing me yelling rather rude words to the fox) retired back to bed, leaving the poor old girls shocked and battered in their shed. All locked up. Again.
Two hens had died, and so we went about getting two replacements, who duly arrived a couple of days later from a very nice chicken farmer who lives down the road.
Our two new girls are extremely nice; one is called Margot, and the other one Betsy. Just don't ask why. They just ARE, OK?
Margot has taken to 'getting out' of the chicken run EVERYDAY.
How? The wire is high, there are no holes in the fence. She is clearly a Ninja chicken.
And so we, my husband and I, clipped her wings. Grabbed her while she was enjoying a perambulation around the vegetable garden, and with the use of my nice bright kitchen scissors, cut a couple of inches of wing off. On one side. Put her back into the chicken run and slammed the lock across.
Good job, we said, as we went back in for a cup of tea.
Looked out of window ten minutes later. Could see Margot BACK IN the vegetable garden, having a right old go at the left over mouldy old carrots.
Out we went again. We examined her wing, and reckoned that we needed to take two inches off the other wing.
Out came the lovely bright kitchen scissors again. Off came two inches of second wing.
Back we went to have another cup of tea, chuckling away at our wayward chicken. Ho ho ho!
Washing up my mug a few minutes later BLOODY Margot was back in the vegetable garden.
Out we went, Husband and I, determined that this chicken should not escape from the chicken run EVER again. What did she think she was; an ex film star from the film of that name?
Off came more wings. By now the poor chicken was looking decidedly dodgy, with tiny stumps of wings on each side.
'That'll do it,' muttered Husband as he chucked the feathers into the dustbin.
'That'll do it,' muttered I as I threw the chicken over the fence to fly down into the run.
Oops, I thought.
The poor chicken, having no wings, plummeted down like a rock.
Oh, dear, thought I. Have killed chicken.
But up she got, and started pecking away at another imaginary insect.
Phew, I thought.
Back we went inside.
Only to glance out of the window at the rather lovely sunset only MOMENTS later to see Margot BACK in the vegetable garden.
Right. THAT'S IT, we said.
We stomped out and grabbed the chicken and remembered just in time NOT to throw her back in the run.
How on EARTH did she get out?
It had now crossed our minds that the poor chicken was not so much Ninja as getting through fence somewhere.
It turned out that the fox had made a hole in the fence just next to the gate in his mad dash for freedom on being discovered.  It didn't look broken at all, unless you stuck your nose a couple of inches away from it. Which I did.
Poor old Margot. She looks a mess. Tiny stubby wings like a new born chick.
Mind you, am very glad that we realised finally that it was a broken fence that had her escaping like a chickeny sort of Steve McQueen, and not her flying out again. Goodness knows what we might have cut off next.
All's well now. Fence is mended, and Margot is quite content with the chicken run.
Now we wait for a hen to produce the first egg since the Fox Incident. Am missing my boiled egg in the morning.
We'll keep you posted. xxx