Sunday, 26 November 2017

An end to ordinary time

 The Ophelia tree-gauge is now well and truly bare. I see her every day through the kitchen window, and she makes me think. I was watching her today as I listened to the devotional app I use quite often. Today, as I'm sure all of you already knew, was the Feast of Christ the King. Now this immediately made me smile, as we loved and adored, and loved and adored in, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King when we were in Liverpool at half-term. So, I decided I needed to know about Christ the King, because we Presbyterians from the frozen North are not entirely renowned for our mutual understanding, and there it was.

The Feast of Christ the King- and I am going with the very rudimentary research I did this afternoon, based on the broadest interpretation I could find- marks the end of Ordinary Time. Now, my app usually talks about such and such a week of ordinary Time, but to be honest I have been hitherto just far too lazy to look it up. When I did today, I was entranced. The first period of Ordinary Time begins just after Epiphany and lasts until the start of Lent. The church then celebrates the whole of the Easter season- right up until Pentecost, when it enters the second period of Ordinary Time, which ends- well, today was the last Sunday of Ordinary Time because next week we will begin our Advent journey.

How wonderful! We live the seasons of ordinary time between Christmas and Easter. Then we live Christ's birth, the Spirit's arriving, Christ's death and His glorious resurrection. We live them every day. I know this. I live this. But today, in this strange last week before It All Begins, I found it profoundly God-full to mark the last Sunday of my year's Ordinary Time. To give thanks for all that I could think of, and to acknowledge that my year is dying as quietly and as darkly as the days. To allow the advent of Advent to stir my soul.

Jo and I studded some past their best clementines with the rest of the jar of cloves. They are hiding at the back of the hotpress now, waiting quietly and darkly to share the perfume of their thoughts when the time is right. I am very excited!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Happy Pumpkins

Might I be honest? Could I tell you what I really think about Thanksgiving? Divulge my secret from across the wide Atlantic sea? Well, presuming your affirmative reply, I shall whisper quietly, lean in, that it's all about the pumpkin pictures. I fully understand and admire the looking back on past Ebenezers, and hasn't the Lord been good to us after all? I fully understand and admire the gatherings of family and friends without quite all the trappings of materialism and tinsel. I also fully understand and admire the recipes and the pies and the feasting and the more time off work.

However, what it does for me, here, in this little and frozen Northern land, is prolong the visual pumpkin season. We only see pumpkins for those weeks before Hallowe'en. Very few of them are grown here; indeed I imagine that only recently have any of them been grown here at all. But you, y'all, you have pumpkin fields galore; I know; I've seen one, once! In Indiana many harvest moons ago now...

All this to say- obviously Happy Thanksgiving to all you fabulous American bloggistes who make my screen shiny with love and life. But more importantly for me, thank you for all those glorious pumpkins x

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Paddington 2

 Friends invited us to come along to see Paddinton's big screen movie sequel last Saturday. Oh, it's just beautiful. It's all golden and shiny and full of wholesome ideas. We all laughed and laughed, and we all cried and cried too. Admittedly we laughed not just at the script, but also at our friend who guffawed outrageously at Phoenix Buchanon's lines. Quite soon we were guffawing in anticipation of his guffawing. It was all fantastically delightful, but would be even better if you decide to leave it until the holidays. Perfect Christmas viewing. (Certainly better Christmas viewing than any of the other Big Store Christmas mini-films this year, I would propose. Although Marks & Spencer have scored the goal of the merchandising year in this little bear!)
 I did love Mr Gruber's shop and, on the subject of merchandising, PB's hat. If M&S were selling red fedoras with a South American ribbon, I'd be right there. We have, I must confess, already bought their PB tree ornament and some of their PB wrapping paper. This from a woman who bans all discussion of Christmas until after the first of its month, and who doesn't get her children to write Christmas lists. Yes, M&S are doing a very fine job. I'm amazed they don't have PB marmalade in the food hall. Do they?
 I was concerned at PB's incarceration. I wasn't at all sure that this was a plot twist with potential. I was wrong. From the blessed pink sock, redeeming all of us who have ever dyed their manly menfolk's clothing pink, to the pink-spectacled transformation of the penal system, all was well, all was well, and all manner of Oliver Twistian reference was well.
 Speaking of Dickens, Hugh Grant was a gloriously dirty Magwitch, alongside the whole catalogue of his felons. I'm not sure how much he enjoyed the gamut of Phoenix Buchanon- on Graham Norton two weeks ago, I thought he seemed decidedly cagey about his involvement.  And actually, I enjoyed the catalogue of other actors, token or main, so much more even than him. It was a treasure trove of faces, popping up everywhere, like that gorgeous book at the centre of the plot- Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Joanna Lumley, Eileen Atkins, Ben Miller and Tom Conti. It made me think of a whole queue of darlings lining up to be allowed in to play with Hugh, Hugh and Julie.
 Here are my two top stars, though. Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles nearly broke my heart! Did you see him as the guard in The Guard? The first thing I am going to do when my boys turn 18 will be to watch The Guard with them- it is too, too rude to put before them now, but if you haven't seen it, love Ireland, and are not easily shocked by expletive, you might want to watch this. You have been warned. I missed him in Hampton with Diane Keaton. I might want to watch that.
However, Sally Hawkins: the beautiful, creative, flowing, funny Mrs Brown. Does every mum in the land want to be like Mrs Brown, and live in a house with a cherry tree mural growing up the stairs? And not minding her seventies kitchen? I was the same with Maggie Gyllenhaal in Nanny McPhee 2, after which I wanted a Shetland tank top to wear over a tea dress in my bright green living room. I was also the same when I watched Margot in Despicable Me- tweed jacket, glasses, worried expression. It's very clever what these movie people do- although I think Louisa May Alcott did it just as accurately in Jo as well.

A friend thought PB2 quite political- I found it less so than PB1. You could undoubtedly write an essay on how both movies argue against a Brexit stance, and/or any harsh immigration policy. Certainly, Mrs Brown's final adventure leaves one in no doubt about what the producers think about all that. Our guffawing friend was very much in favour of the film, and he is most vociferous when it comes to "Down with things like this". Indeed, he spotted the ten commandments in one of the songs? I was sorry I'd missed that, so if and when you do give yourself one of the greatest possible treats of this strange and not-yet Christmas time of the year, do listen out for that!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Ubi sunt?

 We went to see a specially commissioned Game of Thrones tapestry at the Museum just before Hallowe'en. It stands in tribute to the contribution made by the series to the Northern Ireland economy! From the Stones and Thrones-like bus tours to the Dark Hedges and Giant's Causeway to Castle Ward's becloaked archers, this little country has made a serious amount of money from books and TV far too graphic for me to encounter beyond marvelling at the gory tapestry scenes! Right now though, it's not so much that winter is coming, because winter is well and truly here. Cold!
 It was on one level quite the usual autumn here in the Meadowplace. Pumpkins, berries, cosy times. Finding that someone had raised an Ebenezer long ago in their home, as I endeavour badly to do here! There have been exceptional moments too- the small matter of a little hurricane for one. On that other level of things outside the norm, I was so glad to read MK's recent post about how the reality behind Blogland can bely its pictures. It's been a tough season here in many respects. When I walk out of our friends' new house to see that old Ebenezer sign it does me good to remember that thus far God has indeed helped us. I pray that He is helping you too x

 I finished an anthology of Emily Dickinson last week. My! That is a hard read. Possibly one of my hardest. I did, however, love the idea of ubi sunt literature. Writing that voices our questions over where the values of the past are, where the things that we have lost are. This articulated for me all my approaching fifty angst- where are the things that I had/did/aspired to/achieved? Then, thankfully, I had a little Epiphany.  What if I asked not,"Where are?" but, "What now?" What if I did do not very much with my education, my thin body, my opportunities to do this, that and the other? What now? What next?
Yesterday Mattman and I climbed one of our local hills. He wanted to keep on going and walk down the other side. I think he could have walked all day. My forward-facing teenage man and a clear, cold November dusk-coming sky. Not so much ubi sunt, as ubi ergo!

Time stands still

 Hello! Sending you all lots of love from Northern Ireland, where nothing much changes just as everything changes, as usual. Time has stood ...