All right, all right, I have almost let this blog die in the last four months or so (and was barely keeping it alive for some time before that). I’ve been thinking about what it’s for, and haven’t come to any world-shattering conclusions except that I would like it to remain a rag-bag of depression and its temporary remission, strange experiences I have had and funny things I have seen and heard. There may be a new, bigger, all singing and dancing blog emerging some time next year but first Christmas has to happen, and it won’t unless I make it (although The Grouch, bless him, does most of the Christmas cooking which lifts a great burden off my often tense shoulders).
In the meantime, I just have to share with you two recent Freecycle offers I encountered:
First, ‘OFFERED: Quarter size violin in case’. In case of what, I wonder? The sudden arrival of a midget violinist?
And second, and to quote Teresa May I am really not making this up: ‘OFFER: Two colourful poufs’. I could certainly do with those to brighten up my house! Can they come for Christmas and entertain my guests?
I am not saying anything about the riots. The world and her husband have something to say about the riots, usually at great length, and they are probably all wrong. So this is me saying nothing about the riots. OK?
1. A man standing in his front garden putting in eye drops.
2. Two chuggers on the pavement competing at juggling their folded umbrellas.
3. A large fat dog fast asleep in the window display of a small boutique.
And today, I read this on Freecycle: ‘I am giving away lots of Girls, jeans trousers, Jumpsuits,Tops and some shoes as well, they still have lots of life in them.’ Glad to hear the girls still have lots of life in them. Although I am a little concerned that they are being given away.
It just goes to show how important a correctly placed comma can be.
Well here I am again after a long gap – what’s new? We just had two lovely weeks in Austria, though The Grouch was ill the first week in Vienna because it was too hot, and Genius Brat was ill the second week in the mountains because he caught a cold. At least I had a good time! (actually so did they really when they weren’t being ill).
Funniest moment of the holiday, to match the menu on our last trip that offered ‘Tart of the House’, was the English menu which declared that its Carinthian cheese noodles (which are not actually noodles but a sort of giant ravioli) were filled with ‘cheese, mint and pot’. I think they meant potatoes… I was also amused by the toilet paper dispenser (with no toilet paper) that announced its name as ‘Triple Willy’. Nasty condition, that…
Nothing broadens the mind like foreign travel, though you should always ask for the English menu which is guaranteed to give you a laugh.
Meanwhile, we finally got some tuition in Maths and Physics for Genius Brat, just two weeks before we went away! I have asked for the rest of the 40 hours tuition we were offered to be delivered in the holidays, since we had waited six months and had to book our holiday without knowing tuition would be offered, but the borough has refused since it is their policy not to give tuition in holidays. However the lovely tutor has offered to come in this week (which brings us up to about half of our offered tuition time) and to see if he can do anything after that – but not next week as GB is going away again to gifted camp! (just like that humorous card – you know, the one where the extremely intelligent child is pushing on a door marked PULL).
The master (or mistress) plan for the next month or so is for me to spend the mornings working on some writing ideas and the afternoons doing clutter clearance. It remains to be seen how much of this actually gets done. A lot depends on the weather, as if we suddenly get an unexpected summer it may be too hot to waltz around clearing cupboards. OTOH I am booking some nice central London events which will only benefit from warm weather – including a rare opportunity to go up the BT tower (which I remember going up decades ago before it closed), and lots of lovely retro events at the Festival Hall, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, an event I would have liked to be at if I had not been aged minus two at the time.
What to say? The funeral went well, with nearly 100 people there, but I think we are all still recovering (especially The Grouch who had to plan the whole thing). Since then we have had our last church lunch at the London Mennonite Centre before it closes, which was painful; I have preached again on Bible characters facing change (Lot and Hagar this time); I have had several downs but always managed to get up again (cue Chumbawamba…); we have failed to procure home tuition for Genius Brat but we have got local authority transport to get him to school, which is a great relief as otherwise it would be two buses and two walks. And we have managed to get him at least twice a week to his voluntary work by dint of paying him for it (he is saving up for a new computer since his last one exploded, projecting ball bearings everywhere).
My sleep has been all over the place but this is largely due to my being a dirty stopout – I had three interesting musical experiences in as many weeks:
First was an Elvis impersonator who was quite good but very loud – we left at the interval. I’m not into Elvis anyway but it was a fundraiser for the local autism group and I thought I’d see people I knew there, which I didn’t (the audience seemed to be entirely made up of the Elvis impersonator’s fans, all women of a certain age…)
Second up was an evening listening to Botown, a group who do ‘Bollywood soul’ and who are mates of my Pakistani friend’s husband. Bollywood soul seems to consist of a soul-style backing with lots of brass, and Bollywood style Indian singing on top. Actually it was a surprisingly fun evening, though I was in a very small white minority in the audience! And it was too loud as well, though not as loud as Elvis.
Third (and best) was the opening night of the Meltdown Festival at the South Bank, this year curated by Ray Davies (he of the Kinks and the lovely legs). So of course it had to open with Ray and his current band doing all the old Kinks singles (and fining himself 5p for charity every time he said ‘Kinks’). Also too loud, but fabulous fun especially as he encouraged us all to sing along (which also happened at the Botown gig but I couldn’t oblige as all the songs were in some Indian language). Of course I knew all the words…
Why do all these events have to be so loud? They are all attended by a distinctly middle aged audience, and I doubt if any of them want it so loud. The music is so much better when you don’t have to stick your fingers in your ears… My friend had £150 ear defenders – I think if I continue to relive my youth at this rate, I will need some too.
So… I did have to preach a different sermon from the one I had originally planned. Lesley died in the early morning of Tuesday 17th and so when I started to write the sermon she was already gone. I chose to preach on Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11), one of the grimmest passages in the Bible. It came into my mind because it is about premature death, and also about a death that is anticipated so that the person has time to prepare. I think the sermon went well – at least I didn’t break down in the middle of it. I have known Lesley for almost 20 years and she has been one of the most significant people in the church for me, and for many others. Now her son Adam is left without any immediate family, as his father and sister both died within the last 10 years. He is only 26 – not an age at which you expect to be orphaned.
Since then, The Grouch has been extremely busy helping Adam plan the funeral, which will happen this Friday. It has been very stressful for him, and I have tried to support him as best I can. Meanwhile I have been called on to write a tribute which I will deliver at the funeral, to proofread the order of service, to find a photo for the cover, to give my opinion on our paid elder’s planned sermon, and in the midst of this to start writing Bible notes on Mark 1-4. Oh, and I have also been to a parents’ special needs day (very useful), a mini Shipmeet (delightful) , and an arts evening (see below) where I was selling the speaker’s books. I have also volunteered three times at my new voluntary job (one afternoon a week) doing admin at a local carers’ centre. Not much to do then… I’ve hardly had time to grieve, but I think the funeral will give me that.
The arts evening turned out to be a reunion with many people from my past, including a man ten years younger than me, on whom I had a crush approximately thirty years ago. He is still gorgeous, but also still queer as a nine bob note, so no more hope there than there ever was. Silly me.
…and I expect you know the rest. Death has been much to the fore in the last couple of weeks. First, I finally managed to meet up with my brother’s school friend, whom I had re-discovered in an extraordinary way through a conference brochure our tenant gave me. The connection with death is that my brother committed suicide in 1975. My mother had often wondered what became of his school friends, and it is really quite miraculous that we found this guy, and not only that but since I knew him as my brother’s friend, he has become a Christian and is involved in counselling with a Christian outfit. So a couple of weeks ago I met up with him and his wife and took them to see my mother, which was a strange but in some ways healing event (he confessed he felt he had not supported my brother adequately at the time, so maybe it was healing for him too). It is all so long ago and we were all so young at the time – he is now 63 and it is poignant to think Stephen could have been 63 now and had a wife, children and maybe a grandchild as his friend does. I found the whole occasion quite stressful but am glad we have made this contact.
Secondly, and much more immediate, is the fact that my friend Lesley has suddenly got much worse and is clearly in her last few days if not hours. About 10 of us from church went to see her in the hospice yesterday, had a little service of prayer for her and sang at her bedside, but she was either asleep or unconscious the whole time. In the last eight years we have lost her husband at 50, and her daughter at 20, both from the same genetic condition which can cause cancer. I am quite sure it was her daughter’s death which brought her own breast cancer back. Now her son, who is only 26, is going to be alone in the world apart from extended family who are all some distance away, and our church which he has grown up in but not joined. To make things worse, she did not manage to complete her will and was not able to sign a completed version the other day.
This is all intensely painful – she has been part of our faith community for over 40 years and of the congregation for its whole life. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for her son.
Life is really on hold at the moment, while we wait to spring into action for her funeral, but in the meantime I have to write a sermon for next Sunday and don’t know if I will have to change it at the last minute. And I also have a series of Bible notes to write by the end of the month. So hard to try to put aside the grief and get on with things.
Recently I have advertised several items on Freecycle (subsequent to serious clearing out of son’s room, at son’s initiative). One (or rather two) of these items were two brightly coloured plastic toy storage systems. One email response was from a lady who said she wanted these storage items because: ‘I have bits of my grandchildren everywhere’. I didn’t give them to her – she sounded altogether too sinister. I gave them to the lady with boy triplets.
This will be long. Just warning you.
1. Good news
1.1 I got the electronic version and the typescript of the book off to the editor. No response yet, but no news is good news.
1.2 Genius Brat went off to stay with his little friend and friend’s mum in Devon, and then they all went off to Centre Parcs (but not before Genius Brat had been picked up by an 11 year old girl in the park, which had been duly discouraged).
1.3 This meant The Grouch and I could go off for five clean days in Brighton, after I had led worship on the Sunday (which stopped us going for a whole week as soon as Genius Brat had gone).
1.4 All of us had a good time on our respective holidays.
1.5 Best news of all: we arrived back to find an email telling us Genius Brat has been awarded a place in the autistic spectrum unit at a mainstream school, which we had asked for. This is really a miracle, as they were only creating two 6th form places in the unit and there were already at least two other kids interested.
1.6 We had a very busy but good weekend: me at a book launch on Sat, with the couple from the US who founded our congregation (sadly not ‘funded our congregation’ as I typed first…!). Sunday, a church lunch, also with this couple, then a lovely service, then a question and answer session with aforementioned couple, who are very important to our church’s history. Then a party to celebrate 40 years of one very special lady’s history with the Mennonite Centre and the church. And lots of people from the church’s past attending one or more of these events.
1.7 I’m on Premier Radio on Friday morning, and speaking at Christian Resources Exhibition on 11th May, both about my depression book (Crying for the Light), of which I have discovered the publishers still have 500 copies so it’s still worth plugging it.
1.8 We have another busy weekend ahead, with a church awayday on Saturday and a civil partnership celebration on Sunday.
2. Not such good news
2.1 We weren’t sure till the last minute whether the special lady could come out of hospital to attend the party, as she is dying of cancer. The good news is that she was able to come and take part fully, and that we were able to sit round her and share memories of her, and tell her nice things about herself while she was still with us.
2.2 She has moved to a hospice today, and we don’t think we’ll have her for much longer. And her husband and 20 year old daughter, both much beloved of our church, both died of cancer within the last 8 years. As you can guess, our party with her was very emotionally moving.
2.3 Much less importantly, I weighed myself after coming back from Brighton, and I weigh as much as I did when 9 months pregnant. Time to engage in some Lenten discipline, methinks.
So today I revised Chapter 10, did a little tweaking on chapters 8 and 9, and wrote an intro which is much shorter and snappier than the original intro. Then I wrote a note on my attempt to use inclusive language. All I have to do now is one more whizz through for typos, missing bits and style errors, then print out a paper copy, change the electronic version into a Word file my editor can read, and send both off flying through the postal service and the ether* respectively, to meet their fate. All of which I will do tomorrow between seeing the osteopath and seeing the therapist.
After today’s efforts were finished and I’d had lunch, I went out for a walk and completely unexpectedly, at the end of my road, met someone I used to be, or thought I was, in love with. And discovered that I am not in love with him any more, and possibly never was. Which for some inexplicable reason made me feel very sad.
*All right, I did watch the second part of Everything and Nothing with Jim Al-Khalili last night, and I do know the ether doesn’t really exist. It’s a metaphor, OK…!