30 December 2013

Titbits... and other issues

CHRISTMAS... so much to look forward to, so quickly over. Ours was lovely. It started with a phone call from Australia and a later call from my son. Joe and I had Christmas Day lunch at Moor Hall, one of our favourite hotels. We go every year because we know we’ll get brilliant food and meet some nice folk. Afterwards we came home to indulge in cake and open presents. Now I want you to listen very carefully over the next few months because I’m sure you will hear me laughing wherever you are. Why? Because I am now the proud possessor of Series 1, 2, and 3 of Mrs Brown’s Boys plus a book entitled Mrs Brown’s Family Handbook. Already I’ve learned what to do with a tea towel!!!!! 

These should keep me out of mischief for a while, don't you think?

Thank goodness we have Broadband working again thus enabling me to send greetings over the Internet. It was awful not being able to get on line. It was like being deprived of a daily fix, which I guess was true. Heehee not only that but it could have meant you being deprived of Christmas gift viewing for a few days longer than necessary. Isn’t it astonishing how reliant we are on computers and other gadgets that keep us in touch with the world?

Joe never misses the opportunity to crack a joke. During a recent emergency visit to hospital with a suspected infection the following took place.

We went on the advice of the district nurse who was unhappy about there being so much blood in the urine. Of course, we had to go through A & E before being referred to a ward (now well known to us) to await consultation with a man who knows about these things.

The paperwork was in front of us and it struck me that it was exactly a month since our last visit for the same thing. When I pointed this out to Joe he remarked that it was like a monthly cycle and wondered if he was changing into a woman. Stick with me on this, folks, in case he was right and I need help!

I won’t go on, except to say that as yet nothing has been cleared up. Chemo is supposed to take place on 2nd January if the doctor will allow it. He didn’t the last time!

In the wisdom of the Correspondence Team they did not notify the engineer that nobody would be home on the Thursday, nor did they take any notice of my email in which I opted for an offered Tuesday visit ... thus when I got back home on Thursday I found a note from him to say he had called. He included a phone number in the note but it wasn’t his number ... it was one of those irritating-button-pressing responses to umpteen questions scenarios.  Fortunately the engineer had the sense to ring me to arrange another appointment. I explained about the Tuesday/Thursday mix up to which he replied that the Correspondence Team had not notified him of any change. He mentioned that he wasn’t surprised! There and then we fixed a future date and he emailed it back to CT. Pity he didn’t turn up!

28 December 2013

Weekend Pictures

A few pictures taken after the invasion of a pack of Redwing.

But first, spot the Bluetit!

What have we here.... aaah yes, cotoneaster berries.
Hi there. Yes, this is the first visit to Val's garden this year. Redwings visit at least once to pinch the berries. Well, it's no use going there when they've all gone, is it? 

Okay, chaps, you eat while I keep a look-out

Tails, up, folks, I got one!

Eeny Meeny Miny Moe!

Well, I'm all right, I found a sunspot! Excuse me while I sunbathe for five minutes.

You have to be a bit of an acrobat to reach some of the berries

 Back to back means you don't miss anything

See what I mean?

Look right...
No, look left....

Are you sure?

Yes... got it!

I've gone off the idea of sharing?

Look at that lot; eat, eat, eat, that's all they can think of. 
Good job they can't see my secret hoard of crabbies!

Oh my, an intruder!

A flippin' blackbird!


 Aww, take no notice! Let's eat!

One final pose before we go!

26 December 2013



The scene beyond the rustic garden gate was like a Christmas card. Outside the ivy laden cottage a robin was perched in a holly bush. A recent snowfall covered the thatched roof like oddly shaped clumps of cotton wool. Leaded light windows reflected the orange flames from the fire. Beneath those windows, a wooden wheelbarrow filled with logs.  The bare beech tree looked strangely out of place, dull brown when everything else was highly coloured. The cottage door, as red as the holly berries, was adorned by a festive wreath. The door was ajar and inside could be seen a Swedish Pine of mammoth proportions ablaze with twinkling lights. And the aroma that emanated from within was of turkey, slowly roasting.
In the snow-packed lane, an elderly itinerant peered over the boundary hedge, white unkempt hair wafting skywards in the biting wind. With ice-cold fingers he smoothed it over his crown then pulled his shabby grey coat closer to his chest. The motions were entirely mechanical for he was truly not conscious of the cold. He had no need of fires or Christmas fare, for his soul was warmed through with love for Jesus, who kept him safe and whose birthday they shared. 


(This story should have appeared on Christmas Day but the formatting was so terrible I removed it)

24 December 2013

Christmas Greetings

Christmas Greetings to all my friends
May the snow fall for those who want it
and the sun shine for those who don't
but whatever the weather
may your hearts warm through with festive cheer


23 December 2013


St Paul's Cathedral, Birmingham, UK

The sun shone on the frozen town, but it yielded no warmth to the boy whose occupation was to construct a cave. Diligently, in the quiet churchyard, he chiselled impacted snow with his boot, squatting occasionally to scoop chippings with his bare hands. He could hear the choristers singing: Oh Come All Ye Faithful. His favourite. Humming as he worked, he felt strangely ashamed that he did not know the words, but then he had never been encouraged to learn religious songs.

The Boy, in his ignorance, did not understand

Tiring of the pointless exercise, the boy adjusted his baseball cap. Hungry and cold, he shoved his numb hands into his pockets and considered going home, but the idea was discounted as quickly as it occurred. His Dad would be on the Internet and he hated to be disturbed when he was surfing. It was all he thought of, except when Sky Sport was on the telly. Christmas meant nothing to him; there were too many mysteries for his liking.

The Boy, in his ignorance, did not understand

Nor did he understand his mother, who sang so joyfully before she discovered drugs, and who believed the Millennium would be her salvation.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

A new carol began: We Three Kings of Orient Are. Leaning against the edifice, the boy banged his heel and bounced his head in rhythm. Suddenly, a shadow fell before him and he stiffened, fearful lest he was doing wrong.

The man whose shadow the boy had seen, a bearded man in a grey robe, came to stand in front of him. 'I am the Custodian,' he said in a gentle voice. 'Would you like to see our Christmas tableau?'
The boy remembered his father deriding the church's endeavours to recreate the nativity. This was the modern age, how could they reproduce what never existed?

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand.

Feeling the first stirrings of inquisitiveness, a yearning suddenly to see inside, the boy took the stranger's hand and allowed himself to be led away.

Festooned with berry-laden holly, the church was alive with Christmas atmosphere. There was a sweet smelling pine tree, shining with baubles and a silver cross, but it was the nativity display that caught the boy's attention. Viewed by hushed, reverent children, each one pointing to a thing of note, it was as wondrous as fairyland. The wide-eyed boy crept nearer, wanting to touch the blue-eyed baby in the straw-filled stall.

Without warning, from the depths of the church there came great crashes of reverberating chords, followed by a more peaceful air.

And the congregation sang: Once in Royal David's City.

The boy, in his ignorance, did not understand the passion he felt or the coursing tears as he joined in, humming when the lyrics eluded him. Unwittingly, he stepped back, not wanting to disturb the sleeping babe, and when the carol ended he turned and fled and did not halt until he reached the outside.

The Custodian advanced towards him, smiling, gliding almost through fresh snow. Not wanting to show his tears, the boy made off. It wasn't proper to cry, his Dad said.
'Peace be with you, the man called.
'Thanks,' hurled back the boy, and he sprinted away leaving a trail of footprints in his wake.
As he sped along, he reflected on the pleasant experience. He could hardly wait to tell his Dad.
Peace be with you, the man had said, and the boy, in his wisdom, understood.


Written by Valerie Daggatt for the Christmas Carol Service in Birmingham Cathedral
Copyright December 2000

20 December 2013


Picture courtesy of 
The magnolia-painted window-sill in the hotel bedroom was wide enough for Hilary Barnes to sit with her legs drawn to her chest, arms encircling her knees in a pose reminiscent of dreamy childhood days. The room itself possessed a charm that reminded her of the house she grew up in, but the view through the window was as bleak as her state of mind. It was Ted's idea to come away for Christmas, declaring that their house would be lonely and far too depressing. She was equally depressed here, even the virgin snow shrouding the fields and hanging from the branches of an elderly oak did nothing to cheer her. It only served to remind her of Greg's childhood love of coasting down the road on a makeshift sledge, annoying neighbours with his spirited yells of pure joy.
‘I'll be home before you know it,’ he said when he rang to break the news.
Would he? Or would he be maimed or killed.
She stared through the window, looking beyond her own reflection at the white hedgerow where houses now glowed, transformed by fairy lights twinkling in the descending gloom.

Christmas Eve. It wasn't a time for sadness, but how could she not be sad when Greg's regiment was this very day flying to war zones, where God only knew what might transpire. She ran a finger over a slat in the wooden shutter, suddenly driven to check the whole thing for dust as though some sort of action would make things right.

Then, for the first time, anger swelled within her and she pounded the shutter with her fist. How dare they whisk a young man into danger without any regard for his tender age. She sucked her knuckle, grateful for the hurt yet moderately stronger for having released some of her fury. In the corridor, the maid loaded her trolley with discarded glasses; remnants of celebrations. Hilary wiped her hand on her plaid skirt. Maybe tomorrow would be better, by then Greg would be installed in new barracks. However, no matter how long he was to serve there, she would never become accustomed to her teenage son being in the firing line.

The snow fell steadily during the night and by morning the landscape was an unsullied wonderland. Christmas Day. A day of celebration. A day to give thanks for life's blessings.

Hilary contemplated the white world, seeing a young couple trudging arm-in-arm along the lane, heading towards the church, two enthusiastic little girls following behind, slipping and sliding in fur-topped boots, their laughter-lit faces encompassed by red-striped pompom hats, matching scarves taking wing as they scampered in the drifts. As she watched, she had an urge to attend a Christmas service, to sing carols with Ted at her side, to pray for Greg and plead for his safekeeping.
Ted needed no persuading. As soon as she mentioned her intention, he opened the wardrobe and took out their coats. 'Let's get there early,' he said as he helped her into the yellow sheepskin. Understanding her need he made no mention of her customary absence of spiritual leanings.
Outside the hotel, Ted took her arm, guided her down the drive, circling the frozen fishpond and passing between barricades of newly-cleared snow until they reached the wrought-iron gates. Five minutes later they walked into the ancient parish church. It was alive with the atmosphere of Christmas. The grey stone walls were festooned with holly, an elaborately-carved pulpit decorated with berry-laden foliage. A colossal Christmas tree dominated one corner, adorned with gold and silver baubles, shimmering tinsel, and a gold star at the top. Hilary could smell the pine even from where she stood. To the right of the tree, reverent children viewed a glorious nativity display, quietly uttering ooh's and ah's as each one pointed to something of note.
Hilary and Ted slid into a side pew behind the buzzing congregation. Hilary breathed in, enjoying the sting of cool air entering her lungs, for her insides were aglow with the character of her surroundings, and she wondered why her inaugural Christmas Day worship had taken so long to achieve.

During the ceremony she joined in the carols and intently listened to sermons and messages. She prayed with others for compassion, for liberation, and good will, as well as for Greg and his colleagues somewhere in a distant war-torn country.
With the closing carol sung, she felt in her pocket for her sheepskin gloves. A few couples rose to depart, but the minister held up his hand and they sat down again.

A small group advanced towards the altar as the minister announced that a christening was to take place; he invited the congregation to attend. Hilary nudged Ted and looked at him enquiringly. He nodded and smiled, and squeezed her hand.
The christening was soon over, a quiet service which could barely be heard at the back. After a final hymn, the minister toured the entire church with the child in his arms, her fingers clutching the stole around his neck, her shawl draping the front of his surplice, her residence in his arms making him beam with pride as he introduced her to everyone as Christine Beverley Anne.
'How do you do,' Hilary said, when it was her turn to be presented, automatically reaching out to move the dribble-damp shawl from the baby's chin. Christine Beverley Anne transferred her grip to the minister's immaculate surplice and, as the baby gurgled, Hilary began privately to celebrate Christ's birth, as they were glorying in the birth of this baby, as she and Ted did at the christening of their only child. In that instant she knew that Greg would return unharmed. Through this small being Jesus had decreed that it would be so.

Blindly, as the baby was carried away, charged with a sense of supreme well-being Hilary groped for Ted's hand. 'All will be well,' she whispered as a quivering smile crept over her face.
Ted put his arm around her shoulders. 'He'll be home soon, like he promised.' And with that he gently hauled her to her feet. 'Lunch calls,' he said. 'Presents to open.'
For the first time since Greg's worrying phone call, she felt happy. Not only that, she was suddenly hungry for the Christmas festivities, the repast which the hotel predicted would be the best ever tasted, the Queen's speech, a quiz before tea, and, later on, a fancy-dress ball. Leaning sideways, she kissed Ted's cheek. 'Merry Christmas, my dear. And to Greg, too.'

19 December 2013

Thank you

Thank you everyone for your comments on my recent post and please forgive me not responding to them. Truth is that I have been without internet connection for a couple of days, although it seems more like a lifetime. Finally our broadband provider found there was a fault in the area. Honestly, Joe and I both felt cut off from the world and what a relief when I had that telltale ping on my phone that told me 'you have Mail'. So now I play catch-up and visit a few blogs. Catch you all soon.

18 December 2013



I went to two Christmas events this year. One was a very nice Christmas lunch at a local hotel, organised by my WI, and the other a relaxed meeting at the TG with Christmas carols and a bit of food. The relaxed meeting was held because the Chair lady had been in hospital and wasn’t fully recovered.

The final WI meeting of the year was normally a relaxed one with cards and a lucky dip present to open or save depending on the preference of the receiver. This year was different. At the November AGM, in the absence of an official overseer, the President overlooked the necessity to hold an election for her own position which means that it had to be done at the Christmas meeting in the presence of a WI Advisor. I could understand the woman’s dilemma, after all who wants to conduct an election on their own position? The problem was ... she didn’t consult or raise the question.

Members were somewhat overheated by the lapse in procedure, rightly so, and this led to a committee member inviting me to accept nomination for the President’s job. So, after a lot of thought and consultation with Joe, I was all geared up to accept when I got a call from Federation to say no WI Advisor could attend and that the election would be carried out in January. Duh! I shall still go for it, though. I might not win but at least I will shake up the ailing attitudes and but a bit of excitement in the place. 

16 December 2013



The latest news on the Joe front is that he will commence chemotherapy on 2nd January. The consultant kindly allowed us to enjoy Christmas first. I know he will be relieved when treatment commences since he has been plagued by hospital appointments and tests plus a couple of small operations (1) change the tubing to his nephrostomy and (2) to remove a stent ... although in the end they didn't do that. According to the guy in charge it wasn't necessary to remove it. One thing he did say though was that the 'good' kidney was in fact in very good condition. That means chemotherapy can go ahead. Good news, or what? 


In the wisdom of the Correspondence Team they did not notify the engineer that nobody would be home on the Thursday, nor did they take any notice of my email in which I opted for a Tuesday visit ... thus when I got back home on Thursday I found a note from him to say he had called. He included a phone number in the note but it wasn’t his number ... it was one of those irritating button press pressing replies to umpteen questions.  Fortunately the engineer had the sense to ring me (though how he knew my mobile number is a mystery) to arrange another appointment. I explained about the Tuesday/Thursday mix up to which he replied that the Correspondence Team had not notified him of any change. He actually said he wasn't surprised! We fixed a future date and he emailed it back to CT. All I want now is for him to be able to fix the machine but I'm not holding my breath.  


The latest problem our Government has to deal with is Dementia. No, I don’t mean parliamentary members are suffering with it, although sometimes I wonder. Apparently the number of people with the condition is growing at an alarming rate and will affect our Health Service for years to come. Is it any wonder, I ask myself, when old people are reaching the hundreds. No longer can we expect life to end at 70 or thereabouts but we can and will add on another thirty years. At great cost to the nation and indeed the world!

Why is this? Well, it’s my belief that the medics have excelled themselves by finding cures for everything. We can have transfusions and transplants and new body parts to keep us going to ripe old age and beyond.

The mounting problem of elderly folk living lonely lives goes on. They are alone, often unloved, sometimes unwanted, and doctors will make sure they stay that way by offering some form of treatment.

The time WILL come when there are too many people in the world? And what happens then? Will euthanasia be introduced as a means of righting the planet? Can you image it? No one permitted to live beyond a certain age? Ethics be blowed, there will be no such thing as moral values because principles will be too costly.

Now, when I say I don’t want to live to a great age, will anyone listen? Or will they allow me to struggle on regardless, coping with medical treatment and possible loneliness.

Will I have a say in my own destiny?

15 December 2013

Sunday Scenes ... Still Life

A few years ago Joe studied photography and by way of a change I thought I'd show some of his still life pictures