Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Second Pause in Advent: Peace

 There isn't a jot of peace to be had in my world! I got the essay handed in, I got prepared for Preparing for Advent (and it was a lovely evening), I watched the fabulous DVD lent to me by a very long-suffering friend from church. The tree is up, the lights are on, the Amazon order is placed. Lists are written, including Mattman's exam revision timetable which started last night. This all sounds very good and glorious when set down in type.
 Along with the chocolates in our Advent calendar this year I have put a challenge a day into the pockets. I stole this idea from Ang. All the best ideas come from Ang, and all you other, better than me folk! Because we take a day each, it means you get four days to complete your challenge. This is just as well as although I gathered together my books to take to the charity shop, they are still here in a pile. Manana. Which is when I will be leaving happy notes for someone to find. I might start under some pillows tonight...
So I suppose in the midst of it all I could sit down and clear my head, but I am afraid to because many sad things are all around us this winter. I fear there is not much peace to be found. Last Thursday night at Preparing for Advent we thought about how we need in this dark world to wage peace, hope, love, joy as assiduously as the world wages war and despair. Admittedly we did end the night with a thought from Rend Collective's blog: "The message of the manger isn’t that we need to make sure everything is right before Jesus comes, it’s that he makes all things right WHEN he comes."

Shalom x

Monday, 30 November 2015

Advent Hope

Oh dear, I was so hoping to do my first Advent post actually on the first Sunday in Advent, 
but now I'm just hoping to squeeze it in before the end of Monday!
I am sincerely hoping to get my 1500 word essay finished tomorrow,
as I am also sincerely hoping to be ready for Thursday night's Advent event.

I am hoping that Jo's cold and very sore nose will get better,
and that no-one will need a doctor this week.
I am hoping that we all get out to work and school
on time
for the rest of the week.

I am hoping that now that Jo's transfer test is over, over, over
he can get back to enjoying school,
but I hope that I will not forget to help him with his craft homework
and I do so hope I can do that and finish my essay and get
ready for Advent.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Hoping that all you lovely American folk will have a precious day off with family, regardless of pastry and pies and roast beast. You are already such a daily example of thanksgiving to me x

Sunday, 22 November 2015


 Look at the height of those suns. That's my eye level looking mostly at their eye level. 'Twill soon be Mags in the Land of the Giants as oft I have feared. I realise that you're not looking at their eyes, and that indeed you are looking deliberately at the back of those precious heads. Soon they will be old enough to smear themselves all over the Sinternet, but until then their story is (mostly) safe with me.
Today we were by some stroke of divine humour actually stirring up on Stir Up Sunday. In went the wishes. They were very long wishes. That's a worry! My position for much of today's baking was actually on that there stool in the top corner, with my cup of tea. After the Christmas Cake (not Pudding) was safely concocted Jo made his first entirely single-handed cake. And very fine cake it is too. I sat on that there stool in the corner with my cup of tea and thought things. Mostly to do with boys who get bigger.

Ang at Tracing Rainbows is, as you all know, running another wonderful year of Pause in Advent, when so many wise women of the east, west, north and south of wherever ponder all sorts of things in their hearts. I love Advent!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Our daily bread

 Mattman baked his first loaf of bread this week. It was Savoury Irish Bread week in Home Economics this week and he came bolting out of school brandishing his box and a smile. There were three mouthfuls left! Two were buttered and left for Jo and Dad.
 I have been soaking lots of fruit in lots of brandy and ginger wine for Christmas cakes, but I haven't got much further than that, despite today's great plans, because Prince Charming has had the fire lit in here all day, and it's very hard to leave!
 Jo did the second of his three transfer papers for Big School this morning. Two down and one to go, and then it will be Christmas! So we're all at very humble stages of getting things done this week- all very ordinary, common activities that don't set the world alight, but that are nonetheless filled with lots of personal satisfaction. They're the sort of things that warm the house in gentle ways.

This weekend winter wanted to make sure that we knew it was here. We had lots of stormy snow last night, that didn't lie, but left us with low temperatures and the stark beauty of November in all its fullness. I do continue to love November! It is my time of my getting ready, quietly, gently, humbly.

What I have discovered this month though is the website of Our Daily Bread. The photography is lovely, the resources are extensive, and the readings are very helpful indeed. Love to you all, and to you all a good night x

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Trusting the National

 We rely on the National Trust for many things in this house, not least the vast apple orchard at the entrance to Ardress House at this time of the year! Not sure that they should trust us when we arrive for windfalls enough for a crumble!
 I looked up "scrumping" on t'Internet and The Wall Street Journal talks about how this is a "a fast-growing trend in urban London and throughout the U.K". I am surprised. I thought it had been de rigueur for centuries. A Robin Hood formula equating the haves (apple trees)  and the haves (apple trees) not. The WSJ continues: " These women are part of a growing army of guerrilla fruit pickers" who have their own group called Abundance. Here in the Frozen North we're just Trusting the National!
 Our favourite October spot is The Argory, just down the road from Ardress. We have been leaf admiring and conker collecting here for whole Autumn seasons of small boys to bigger boys. Though no conkers to be seen this year- not at the Argory and not even on our own new to us chestnut tree- apparently the wet summer and warm, dry Autumn have combined to confuse nature out of this particular abundance. Our blackberries are very late in ripening too- much to Mattman's disgust with all his jam-making plans.
 Mostly what we trust the National Trust to provide for us is all year long opportunity to run and walk and play and just be outside. Last year at The Argory they expanded their adventure playground- just in time for two high-octane suns of mine. The "who is that trip-trapping over my bridge" bridge was getting slightly too small for my own burgeoning harvest. Now there is even more scope for running and jumping, high and far.
 I confined myself to the swing. There was energy to be preserved for scrumping... (Don't tell!)

Friday, 9 October 2015

In which my bookroom reveals itself to be, in fact, a sloth

At least two years ago we had a Hungry Caterpillar calendar. Full of inspiration I photographed every month's picture come year's end with full and firm intention of blogging monthly on my reading accomplishments. Sigh. Here I am just about managing to mark last month's end, and what spectacular accomplishments do I present?
"A Woman in Arms" by Russell Braddon: The story of Nancy Wake. This is a book written for older children. Just about my level of intellectual endeavour these days! I have actually been much struck by my need to reawaken the little grey cells. Last week I decided to inspire myself to spiritual creativity on the domestic front, and virtuously took The Hidden Art of Homemaking to bed. I managed two paragraphs before conceding that I have a concentration span worse than either of my suns. On a bad day. This discovery has not at all been much dissipated by my being on a twilight course for work this month. There is the prospect of an essay ahead. An essay! I haven't written one of those in...

I digress. Low concentration. Nancy Wake. This is a story that needs read in adult format. Far too much Enid Blyton cavorting in woods, admittedly with machine guns instead of ginger beer. She seems to have preferred copious amounts of champagne. I was conscious the whole time of a darker, grittier tale beneath. A woman in her twenties, leading thousands of French Resistance guerillas in the months following D-Day? Much more to be unearthed, if I only had the grey cells.

I found the story in our school library. Somehow I have had the glorious fortune to have been assigned to helping there two periods a week. One hour and twenty minutes of tidying the shelves in what is a quite superlative collection. So I'm afraid there may be more young adult books ahead!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Taking the hump

 I know it's not Wednesday anymore- it's very nearly not even Thursday anymore in this Frozen North time zone! We are, however, mostly all advocates of Wednesday Hump Day in this house. 75% of us breathe a great big sigh of relief as we come back down the other side of the week towards the weekend. Not Jo. He has the not beloved violin class on Thursday, so he doesn't breathe his sigh of relief until end of play today!
In a great display of maternal support for my younger sun, I took myself off to our craft group last night, my own sigh of relief well in place. We had a special decoupage session led by one of our members who is a passionate advocate for all things napkin covered. Jo would have loved it: a beautiful brush, a pot of glue and lots of ripping and sticking. And tea. Shame about that old violin practice...
I did include it in my medley of family life. Lots of noise, two superheroes, an airplane for my aeronautical engineer, and berries. Our home on a Wednesday, and any other day of the week. Weekend, here we come!

Monday, 14 September 2015

My grandfather's chairs

 My maternal grandfather was a docker. In those days, in that Belfast, this meant that he worked at Harland and Wolff's. Everybody's grandfather worked at H&W's, maybe even their fathers too, if you believe them. Both my father and my grandfather did really. I'm not sure that they both worked on Titanic, which everybody's male predecessors also did. That's probably an urban myth too.

I'm sure that it is another urban myth that all these men were taciturn, tattoed and emotionally reserved. It just  happens to be really true of my grandfather, though I think the tattoes dated to his Navy days in WWII. It is true that he served on the Murmansk Convoys, and I think it's true that he survived the sinking of one ship in the Indian Ocean. I wish I'd recorded all this properly.
 This was my grandfather's chair. It sat in the living room window of his house, and he sat on it, and Max the dog sat on him, and the three of them weathered into one silent character in the story of my childhood. Sometimes Max would bark. I remember one speech that my grandfather gave. He was strangely at our dining room table, railing at God for having taken his wife so young and leaving him with six children to raise alone. I imagine this is when he left the Merchant Navy and joined Harland's.

His chair came to live with us last week, because my father got himself a recliner.I must take pictures of something in our house that hasn't come from someone else.

 But not yet, because here is the only other remaining chair of my grandfather. I remember when they bought a new dining room table and chairs- made of teak, with black leather seat covers. Very modern, very expensive. The seat came to me when my aunt sold the house. It was my desk chair all through school and university. And it has trundled along through three houses since. The leather ripped long ago but it took a Jo to demand repair.
 New foam, new material- beach boy, my Jo. X really does mark the spot now.
 No longer does he need to slide about on the hooked cushion that my mother made once upon a time. Now he has my grandfather's chair at his desk whence he can go to sea too. I'm hoping that they'll survive many shipwrecks.

Friday, 11 September 2015

One Weekend

It's Friday, Friday, Friday! It took me a ridiculously substantial amount of time after going back to work five days a week to realise that I was working five days a week, and that it was thus acceptable to feel the Friday feeling. First full week back done.

There are wild strawberries up that tree out there. This is not to imply that they have no homework, oh no. But it is not raining, it is not cold and it is not yet (completely) dark and there are two very happy wild strawberries up that tree.
Did you hear David Nicholl on Bookclub this week? He was lovely. He talked about how his title for One Day would have been St Swithin's Day, but that the marketing panel had insisted on One Day. It makes me think tonight of the one weekend we have each week, and of how life moves on slightly each time we put school uniforms into the washing machine, put away the lunch-boxes and breathe.

We're breathing with Brownies tonight. The fabulous Niqi was incredibly clearing out some scales and now they live with us. As does her little black stove, which currently gives gracious home to the tomato plant and will very soon give gracious heat to homework sessions. Cooking Catherine's bread machine lives with us too. We're most accommodating here at the Meadowplace! Hospitality as a sign of the Kingdom- obedient living which Europe seems to be embracing in a much less facetious way than us.  Bon weekend x

Sunday, 6 September 2015

We're going on a Ring hunt

 What an utterly glorious day it was yesterday. Blue, blue skies; too blue for the planned excursion to an indoor trampoline paradise! We parked the car at the banks of Belfast's River Lagan and wound our way up the edge-of-farmland-path towards the Giant's Ring.
 Not to be confused with the Giant's Causeway, though we did have our own personal giant as chief guide and bag carrier.
 Can you see it? Obviously I forgot to take a better picture that wasn't covered with wild strawberries! It's  a Neolithic henge ring with the stone remains of a passage tomb. Much better pictures are here!
 You enter the ring by one of the paths cut through its huge enclosure. It's a place for dog walkers and parents of energy-filled children- there is a vast amount of unrestricted space to race across with high and unrestricted vantage points for the static!
 We picked all the ripe blackberries we could find on the way home. Not quite enough for a whole pot of jam, but Mattman is determined to make some- so we'll push through our own brambles at the back later to see what we can find. It is definitely and quite suddenly Autumn here in the Frozen North.
 And here is my disappearing coffee in Waterstone's late yesterday afternoon. I was very taken with the persevering heart x

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Happy New Year!

I have spent forty-three years of my life in the school year. So 1st September feels much more like my new start than the food-fuelled, wrapping-festooned 1st January ever does. Today the summer blue skies wrapped themselves in a thin layer of crisp chill and welcomed the new term.

Admittedly all three of us have been back in school since last week, but we had our annual leave-taking of the body-boards on Saturday and are ready for Autumn. Our suburb is already swapping green leaves for golden, and it won't be long before thick tights cover my legs at least! Homework certainly hasn't taken long to make itself comfortable at the table once more..

It's been a glorious day, indeed a glorious summer for us home and away, and I wish you all a brave, new start to your own September x

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Working back

 I have no idea whatsoever how far to work back on my camera to find a possible starting picture for my tank top. Probably about as far back as the point where I did any regular blogging!
 It amazes me that you only have to work back to yesterday to see proof that we have experienced sunshine here in the Frozen North this summer. Certainly today it is all mythical, mystical Ireland once more.
 Yesterday I was barefoot in the garden, and had moved my chair deeper into some shade. On the table you can see the recently completed back of my attempted tank-top, and on the hook a nearly completed front. Prince Charming seems to have taken the picture. You can see how relaxed I am whilst in a state of crochet!
Alas, these balls stand testimony to too inaccurate a counting of stitches at some fatal point and are all that remain of said front panel. Working back to work forward this week! It struck me, while pulling out row after row, that the model of said tank-top looks very likes Rodin's Thinker. She too is obviously deep in thought as to just what skinny size Nicki Trench has in mind when she says 12...

Friday, 10 July 2015

In which our protagonist puts her hope in a tomato plant

 Way back when last I wrote we were in quite some commotion of hospitals, medication and trying to maintain some semblance of working life. Thus it was that, walking through the village one sunny afternoon, I took the uncharacteristically horticultural decision to attempt to keep a tomato plant alive. There it was outside our local florist's looking healthy and burgeoning. I'm not doing a very good job with humans. I thought; maybe I'll scale down and concentrate on this.
 Somewhere in the recesses of my more than slightly addled mind I wondered if success with tomatoes might give me some hope for the strawberries as well! So I tended with watering, feeding, and the occasional chat. Very similar attention to that bestowed upon the poorly, if I'm honest!
And indeed, as the weeks have worn on, both strawberries and tomatoes have ripened into health and strength and vibrant redness of face. Well, Jo got a tad too much sun at tennis yesterday, but the suncream is out now.
So here we are, at the start of our summer holidays, marked as usual by a birthday. The Meadowplace is back in its happy place, the sun appears to be doing its Irish best to shine, and tomatoes continue to grow. Thus far!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

May update

I was Googling for some images to go with that fabulous verse from Samuel- setting up a rock as a reminder that thus far, the Lord has been good to us. I liked this one, but it doesn't have the words.

Thus far in May I have, would you believe, really just nipped out and cleaned my car. I barely believe it myself. Having had an extremely unwell strawberry in said car at the weekend, I took a brief moment of non-nursing duties on Monday to just nip out and sort the damage. So, while I was there with lots of soapy water anyway, I thought I would just do that thing. You really can just nip out and clean a car. Who knew?

I have also been better at eating less nonsense, wasting less time on nonsense, and we have all been getting out for lots of fresh air. It's the worrying bit that has caught up with me. In the last five days all three of my men have been briefly in hospital.Not for long, and one is much better now! The other two are making progress.

All this just to say that it is good to look back with resolution and remember what God has done. And then to (try to) look forward with renewed confidence.

Blogging will be even more erratic than usual for a while- so love to all and to all a good night x

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Momentous mantra for May

I know I'm contravening someone's copyright somewhere, but I took this from farcebook so maybe that will be acceptable? This fabulously talented woman and bloggiste shared it last week and I find it eminently sensible. So I am adopting it as my mantra for this month, which you already know is making feel me feel more than slightly uneasy. So many months passing by. So little achieved!

I'm not sure that I'll manage to pray for twenty minutes twice a day. I am quite sure that there will be no thirty minute exercise session every day. For TV I should read farcebook- now that my Lenten successes are long gone. The rest, however, I could most gainfully employ.

We did have lots of time in nature today and it was lovely. We went to Springhill in County Tyrone. (Goodness, I think its Tyrone..) So many daffodils and bluebells. So much imaginative use of wood in the new adventure playground! Then Mattman and I sat outside on the back step for a while tonight. End-of-year school exams in two weeks and he's feeling the pressure. It's all very hard when you're twelve. I struggle at nearly four times that!

So from the strawberries in the meadow- we wish you all a May week of fresh air and juicy fruit xx

Happy St Patrick's Day!

  I hope you've had a lovely 17th March! The weather was glorious here today, and legend tells us that this must be because St Patrick h...