Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Celtic Advent (started two weekends ago!)

I travelled to Glasgow on the first night
Of Celtic Advent:
Forty days and forty nights like Lent.
A Lenten fast in winter.

I journeyed beside three sad men.
A nephew had died, and they were pilgrims
To pay tribute,
Laden with grief, bearing friendship.

I too journeyed with gifts,
But of wine, chocolate and curtains to be made.

There was indeed a star,
Shining warmly,
Over the table of hospitality
Where my journey ended.
And lo! Glad tidings
Of many things were shared.

And as the three sad men
Travelled home unseen next day,
I was pondering all these things
In my heart.


Sunday, 27 October 2019

Not the darkest day

Last week many of my friends, Prince Charming, included, changed their facebook profile picture to black #darkest day. I didn't. Not because I disagreed with them: just the night before the boys and I had discussed the imminent new marriage and abortion Northern Ireland legislation and the impact it would have on our little society. Or perhaps on Christians in our little society. My perspective was that not often are you aware that the fabric of society is changing, but last Tuesday was a milestone.

The reason I didn't change my picture, and I did think about it, was because my reading the night before had been from Psalm 118:24, "This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it". I'm working through Warren Wiersbe's Prayer, Praise and Promises book, and this is what he writes, "The psalmist was going through battles and difficulties, yet he was able to say, 'If God put this day together, I'm going to rejoice...'" And so I felt that, like Corrie Ten Boom in her lice-infested bed, I should give thanks and strive after faith. I told the boys that in this new chapter my plan was to live a life of hospitality and sacrifice. I wasn't entirely sure what I meant myself! I wondered if the sacrifice would be putting aside what others thought of me in this brave new world.

It's finally half-term, and today I am slightly hysterical with joy! I have bronze toes and a new sofa in the sunny spot and plans plans plans to embrace all things orange and to breathe deep deep deep of this gorgeous season. The year is slowing down, and in the cosy darkening we can burrow slow down into what sustains us. Now and through the wintry times.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Hunkering down

 When the strawberries were littler, there were many movies we watched over and over again. They loved, much to my amazement and delight, the Kiera Knightly 'Pride and Prejudice'. They called it 'The Man and the Lady'. Baby Mattman lived for the scene in 'Prisoner of Azkaban' where Harry Potter flies off on the hippogriff. "Buckbeak", Mattman would demand quite quite clearly before he could say much else. Later on, we all became a bit obsessed with the terrifyingly exciting 'The Day After Tomorrow', and that's exactly what I said out loud when I read this article on-line just now! I know that we're all divided by the contentious subject of snow, but just look for little Ireland in the picture above.... She is completely covered with it!

I read Greta Thornberg's little book of speeches last week - 'No one is too small to make a difference'. This week I'm reading William Morris' 'Notes from Nowhere'. I think Greta would approve of Morris' Utopia, where people live and work and have their being productively, but in tune with Nature and each other.  I hope Morris would approve of our slowly returning respect for the way things were done not long before our age of plastic and consumption. Reading 'Notes from Nowhere' is uncanny actually given the environmental concerns of today.
 I was blaming MK wrongly this week for sending us Storm Lorenzo! She was obviously wholly innocent of all charges. We've been lashed by wind and rain, with no choice but to light the fire and crochet pumpkins. If a very cold winter is indeed about to roar up to the doorstep, I'll hope that we'll stay snug, rest up, and be very grateful for the blessings of a home and a hearth. Hunkering down and able to do so. Lots of tea, lots of books, lots of projects!

The importance of thanks-giving has been much in my heart over the last two months, having been in and out of hospital very briefly, grateful for results so clear that everyone was delighted, and having loved time at home as my body knit itself back together. So I'm very gradually putting out my pumpkins like Ebenezers: 1 Samuel 7, "Then Samuel took a stone... and named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us."

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Enormous Turnip (Pumpkin)

 Everything seems to come down to fairy tales at the minute here! This week I've been remembering one of my very favourite stories from when the strawberries were really very small indeed. We loved the repetition of the list and the final triumph and joy. Why I remembered this one this week was this:
I had promised myself that I would buy the very first pumpkin that I saw this year, not really expecting to find it on the 27th September! Usually they only appear in supermarkets here for Hallowe'en and you need to buy one before they all sell out. But they are never quite as beautiful, or as huge, as this sublime specimen! This is the most wonderful pumpkin I have ever had. It is hugely enormous, and just as perfect. It makes me ridiculously happy. And it was the smallest of the three sitting proudly outside the grocer's shop last Friday!

It has given us lots of pumpkin curry, lots of pumpkin soup and a tray of pumpkin seeds, which I burned. Oops. And you can see from the carving that in fact it could have yielded still more, had I not been worn out from scooping and watching the clock for last night's boy activity taxi run.

Raggedy Elf #2 was fifteen today. When I first started blogging he was pre-school and waddling out the front door of Strawberry Land in his father's too big shoes. I seem to have said, back then in 2009, that I caught a glimpse of what he would be. I think I'm still only cathing glimpses...
Happy Birthday, young man of mine. And happy October to us all. Autumn must surely be the season for which blogging was invented. And in the northern hemisphere, it's here!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Edinburgh, and thanks for Pam, Sandra and Catherine

For some frustrating and completely baffling reason, I can no longer leave comments on some blogs. So, Pam and Kezzie, apologies that I never seem to visit. In fact, I do, but I leave no trace. Which my father would deem most uncharacteristic, having spent all of his parenthood wondering why one so small could make so much noise going up and down the stairs. Fifty-one years later and I do still make lots of noise going up and down the stairs.

Anyway, if I had been able to comment on Pam's blog I would have waxed lyrical about her hospitality; and about Holyrood Palace; and about the time we four strawberries went to Edinburgh and drove to South Queensferry looking for somewhere to eat and got lost and ended up passing that huge shopping centre that hides the Royal Yacht Britannia and then gave up and ate lasagne back at the hotel, which was situated at the height of irony and right next to the Forth River Bridge...
I would also have said that next summer I'm hoping to get to the Edinburgh Book Festival, since this summer I managed to do a bucket list thing and spent a wonderful day at the Edinburgh Fringe. I had gone to Glasgow to spend the weekend with Catherine, ostensibly to climb Goat Fell. At another height of irony I'd sent half an hour driving right past it on the coach from Cairnryan, but when I arrived and C suggested that the Edinburgh Festival was on, there was no choice really. I was beyond excited. This was the week before the Book Festival, Pam, or our paths may have crossed again!
It has been quite a gift to have been in Edinburgh three times in the last year. Catherine's living in Glasgow has allowed me two trips crossing the Scottish inland by train for the day, and Sandra's amazing tour of the Highlands gave me a whole weekend in the capital as she arrived to start her odyssey.
I still haven't ever been to the Botanics, Pam. That's on the bucket list now, with the Book Festival. I think that Catherine's experiences of the Yarn Festival may be as close as I vicariously get to that! But for anyone who didn't see the hilarious Foil, Arms and Hog at the Fringe, or who has not yet discovered them on farcebook, here, at yet another height of irony, is the genius Irish trio I got to see in Scotland!

Friday, 6 September 2019

What I think the Bible says about knitting (and the emotive subject of the womb)

I think that knitting is hard. I have to think very hard, and count very carefully and take lots of time. What does God think about knitting?  I've been looking it up this week. Knitting is mentioned twelve times in the New International Version of the Bible which is the translation I mostly read.

Nine of those references to knitting all come in the same chapter. It's chapter 13 of that weird and wonderful book of Leviticus. That catalogue of what to do in every circumstance of life when you're living as part of a nomadic, camping community of thousands of people in the desert a very long time ago.

This rule book for desert roaming has just dealt with the problem of containing leprosy and has now moved on to mildew. Knitted clothing is mentioned nine times, along with leather and woven materials. If the mildew is spreading the article is destroyed. If it washes out, great, wash it again; if cutting out the rotting piece stops the spread, great. The commentary I read on this passage talked about trying to protect the property of the community, but also about mitigating the cost to poorer members of the community. The needs of the people were considered.

But ultimately if this thing, made presumably mostly by women, is diseased, it should be destroyed in the interests of the greater good. So the conclusion I draw is that a knitted, inanimate object is disposable if it is going to rot anyway. That's all there is about literal knitting.

However, knitting is used as a metaphor for something else in three other places. Two of them are in the book that tells the story of a long-suffering, disease-ridden, family tragedy-afflicted man called Job. He's been arguing with God, and his friends, about the cruelties he faces without having done anything to merit them. At the end of the book God finally speaks back. It's worth the read. God describes a creature that apparently could be the hippo:
Look at the behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength he has in his loins, what power in the muscles of his belly! His tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are close-knit... He ranks first among the works of God, yet his maker can approach him with his sword.  

This time we've got a living, grown creature instead of an inanimate object. The knitting metaphor reinforces the author's desire to communicate great pride in the deliberate, careful creation of a marvellous animal. The implication of the wider passage is that, even though God could destroy the beast if He wanted, Job could do nothing against the might of a hippo. In the same way he can certainly do nothing about the moral decisions that the God of the big picture takes. The knitting is God's craft, not poor Job's. The design and its carrying out, all God's.

Job has ironically acknowledged this himself much earlier in his narrative, when he begins to plead with God about his condition:
Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you moulded me like clay. Will you turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
We have a  person being created in this extract. It is a reference to the womb. The knitting is again a metaphor for careful, deliberate creation and my commentary talks about the lavishing of painstaking care as the unborn Job is poured out, curdled, but put together by God. There's life, and kindness, and watching over.

Finally, there's the same reference to what happens in the womb in Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb; I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
 There's the same wonder and the same implication that the unborn child is precious. Again in the wider context the question is what will God not do for the child he has put together with every intention of watching over.

Now I suppose this is where we divide. Because we know that life goes badly wrong. We know that God can be read as the cruel afflicter, like at the start (and indeed middle) of Job's story. We know too as feminists that a woman's body is precious and her own, and is not the political terrain of men. I'm going to state clearly my opinion that women must have recourse to legal abortion in certain carefully considered circumstances. I in no way advocate a return to back street abortions and the deaths they caused.

It's just that I believe too that, like knitting, babies are stitched together carefully by a God who also mourns this state of potential sickness in which we all live, who detests crimes committed against the women he carefully crafted, but who retains the right, as the God of the big picture, to be the one who gives life and takes it away.

Knitting is hard. My knitting is far from perfect. But I believe in knitting. Psalms again, "He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord."

My in fact very old commentary is Inter-Varsity Fellowship's New Bible Commentary. I was reading Leviticus 13:47-59, Job 40:15-19, Job 10:8-12, Psalm 139:13-14, and  Psalm 102:17-18. Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright c 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Fairy Shoes for Freya

Goodness, is it already September? I didn't ever tell you more about my weekend of Edinburgh blue skies that turned out to be a most blessed time with the outrageously generous Sandra of Thistle Cove Farm. Of course you will have read all the detail over at her place ages ago!

Well, from the blue skies of May to the purple shoes of September. A friend is celebrating the arrival of her first grandchild and, despite the fact that I studiously avoid making baby presents due mainly to my utter ineptitude, I thought I would flick through all my books and rifle through my basket to see if I could "cobble" something together. I found a pattern for booties in Marie-Noelle Bayard's Crochet!, and had just about enough yarn left over from the only other baby present I ever once upon a time made.

I have time for just such a whimsy as this as I am currently at home from work knitting myself together after a very little medical thingummy in August, which may also explain why I found myself back downstairs at 2am the other morning, wide awake and ready to "cobble" a tad. The little shoes, the midnight hour, the need to have not a wrong stitch, all reminded me of one of my favourite Ladybird books from my childhood.

So there I sat feeling somewhere between the cobbling elves and the wife from the storybook. It made me smile that the picture that stands out most in my mind forty years and more since I read and re-read this book is the one of the woman sitting making a little thing. Obviously I had aspirational hopes of crafting greatness even in the bleak days of Northern Ireland in the 70s!

It's all still ineptitude and aspirations of greatness, or at least of not very many wrong stitches, but here are two little fairy shoes for Freya! I know that her grandma, who has neither great big ears nor teeth, will like them! I'm putting a copy of this very edition, re-released by Ladybird in with the shoes. Grandma will like that too!

All of which really just makes me think of my high octane suns, the strawberries for whom I never made a single thing because I just wouldn't have had a notion sixteen years ago. Blogland has everyone looking so very marvellous, so very A*, all the time. My two boys are more raggedy elf than anything else, but they are becoming very wondrous young men, and here in the once upon a time of the Meadowplace it's all about them really, all the time.