Thursday, December 30, 2004

Christmas News

Dear friends,
I haven`t posted for a few days, as my DD1 gave me some news on Christmas Day, by phone from Colorado, which she wished to disclose to the rest of her family in person when she got back to the UK.....and of course, I was bursting to write about it, so it was safer NOT to blog, in case any of the family read it here first :-)

Having been sufficiently cryptic, and caused you all to fall asleep, I would like to announce that my eldest and beloved daughter is engaged to be married !
Matt popped the question and gave her a lovely diamond ring on Christmas Day, which was very romantic :-)

I have spoke to his mum, and his family are delighted, as are we.
We think Matt is a great young man, and they think DD1 is a wonderful young lady, so all parties are happy.

I feel so much better now I have written it.
Normal copious posts will follow over the next few days !
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Friday, December 24, 2004

The Feast Approaches......

The presents are wrapped, the kids are excited, and the house continues in chaos.
Ho hum.
We are now confined to four of us sleeping in one bedroom whilst the re-wiring continues apace, but in a day or two, we will have no lights in kitchen or bathroom either.(ie no ceiling or wall lights anywhere in the house !)
So we are celebrating the Feast in a similar way to folk 150 years ago, which is rather nice. In some ways, it makes Christmas more special, because it has removed the manic impetus to get the house decorated and perfect for Christmas visitors, rather than looking at the real meaning of the Feast...

Christ is Born !
Glorify Him !
The blessings of the Feast be yours :-)
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004


This is DD4 inside the Ragdoll shop. It has fantastic themed play areas for the children and an awful lot of merchandise.....groan.Thank goodness they both had money from relatives for Christmas !
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This is myself and DD3 and 4 outside the famous Teddy Bear Museum....
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This is the other window of the Ragdoll shop, showing Tots TV
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This is the window decoration of the girls` favourite shop in Stratford, The Ragdoll Shop, home of the Teletubbies, Boobahs, Rosie and Jim, Brum and Tots TV...if you have young children, at least one or two of these will be familiar :-)
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I`mmmmmmmmmmmmm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack !

Stratford was just awesome :-)
This is the fourth time we have been to Stratford in the last two years, and we love it.
The hotel was super, scenery lovely, weather very very cold. Brr.
But we all had winter woollies !
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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Stratford, Here We Come !

We are off to beautiful Stratford upon Avon, home of William Shakespeare, on Sunday, for a three night break.
I have to say, I am looking forward to it - especially being able to turn on light switches in the hotel :-)

At home, work continues on the re-wiring, but it is a very messy and labour intensive task. I am finding the chaos , dust and the appalling mess just so stressful, I feel sick.

Add to that one 6 year old daughter who is so excited about Christmas that she is bouncing around like a demented mechanical toy, and a 3 year old who is now fully recovered from her illness and is her usual delightful, demanding, frustrating, argumentative self.

Also add the fact that I am sitting in near total darkness typing this, and that there is not a single light in the house adequate for me to read by, and my frustration reaches mega-heights. Deprive this woman of books, and you might as well be depriving me of breath...

I tried to pack stuff for the journey this evening.
Bad idea.
Have *you* ever tried packing by torchlight, when half the things you need are scattered in rooms all over the house, in weird places, because the bedrooms have been stripped of their contents so floorboards can be lifted ?
It`s a fruitless task, believe me . I have given up till daylight dawns tomorrow, and I can stand a sporting chance of finding essentials like underwear - oh, and shoes !

And I am missing my D1 !!!.
She has been away for six whole days. I am attempting to keep up a stiff upper lip, but I`m not doing a brilliant job, as you might have gathered.....

Speak to you all on Wednesday, folks !
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Friday, December 17, 2004

Normal Service Is Resumed

Well, nearly normal service :-)

D4 is finally recovering after a six day bout of high fever and no appetite, and has at last eaten something.
Admittedly we had to take her to the Domain of the Golden Arches to tempt her, after all else failed, but it was worth it . She wolfed down a bacon cheeseburger, hash brown and a large part of my pancakes with syrup.
It is so nice to see her eating again at last.

The next stop was the garden centre to buy a new artificial tree, but of course we got sidetracked and ended up buying a lovely 3 feet tall fibre-optic tree as well.
This wasn`t such a needless extravagance as it might seem, as we currently have no ceiling or wall lights in the living room due to the re-wiring, so we just have one bedside lamp plugged into the wall socket.

With the new fibre-optic tree and our ordinary Christmas tree with fairy lights, we have substantially increased the amount of light in the room.
At least that is our excuse and we are sticking to it :-)
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Nativity Play

The Nativity Play took place last night.
DH stayed at home with D4 who was still running a fever, so my mum and I went to see D3 being an angel.
The play itself was a modern re-telling of the classic Nativity narrative, and was beautifully done, with some super songs.

It made me decide to stop rushing around like a mad thing, trying to get my shopping and chores "done" for Christmas. After all, what was truly necessary has been done for us, glory to God.
It was a blessing to have attended it.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Eagle Has Landed .....

I`ve **always** wanted to be able to write that :-)

DD1 phoned me at 01.12 am UK time to let me know she had landed at Denver safe and sound, and met up with Matt and Lisa at the airport too. I was delighted to hear her sound so happy.
So everything went well for her, Glory to God !

D4 is still running a fever, at 40.3 C but seems quite bright. She is drinking plenty of fluids, though she doesn`t have much appetite as yet. Ho hum.
I do hope she feels better soon, or I shall cancel our 4 day trip to Stratford upon Avon on Sunday. It would be no fun for her at all if she is still feeling poorly.
When you feel ill, there`s no place like home, is there ?
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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

D-Day

Well, my baby left for London at 04.00, and her plane was due to leave Heathrow at 12.55. I checked on the BA website and her flight left a few minutes late.

It seems so strange not to hear her clattering through the front door shouting "Mum, I`m home!" after she gets home from college.

Sniff, sniff. And yes, I did cry all the way home in the car, after waving her off on the coach to Heathrow !
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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Countdown......

D1 leaves for London at 04.00 tomorrow.
Last night she was ill, but is now feeling a bit better.
Today DH is ill...so we didn`t end up getting to Liturgy.
At least D4 is *much* better today, thank God.
Asking the intercessions of St Spyridon for their ailments, and for D1`s safe travel to the USA....
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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Home Front News

It`s tummy bug time again....sigh.
DD3 and 4 have both had it in the last few days, hence the lack of posts !
They are recovering, but whether my poor washing machine will ever recover is another question.......

We are preparing for D1`s imminent departure over the Pond to the USA for Christmas.
She leaves in the early hours of Monday morning to travel to Heathrow Terminal 4 by coach, which is a 4 and 1/2 hour journey to start off with.
I am going to miss her *so* much.

D2 is already sulking because she doesn`t want her sister to go as she will miss her so much. DD3 and 4 won`t get upset till they say goodbye and realise it really is going to happen :-(

As long as our small people are better, we will be going to Liturgy on Sunday en famille, and Father will read the blessing prayers for a journey over D1, who is a catechumen, and bless her new icon of St Tatiana of Rome (her patron) which she is taking on the plane with her, as well as her beloved icon of St Nicholas, Protector of Sailors.
I am starting to be tearful already, so I will stop typing and blow my nose :-)
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Thoughts About Prayer

This thoughtful gem was posted on a non-O mailing list to which I subscribe, and I thought I would share it ....

I asked for Strength - and God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom - and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity - and God gave me brain and brawn to work.
I asked for Courage - and God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for Love - and God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for Favours - and God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted...and everything I needed.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Nativity Play News

There was dissent in the ranks of the parents picking up children at school today.......each family is limited to three tickets for the Nativity Play, and these will cost £1.50 each.
Apparently the money raised will go towards underwriting the cost of special events for the children at the end of term, but we don`t yet know what the events are.
Hmmmmm. I am intrigued.

I still think three tickets per family is miserly. My mother , my husband, D4 and myself will all want to watch, and that makes four of us. If my ex-husband (D3`s father) and my other daughter want to go, I can see World War 3 being a possibility.
Ironically, the Baptist Church where it will be held can hold at least a thousand people in the pews, and there are only 180 children in the school.
The reason given for number rationing is the need to adhere to Fire Safety Regulations, although there will be no naked flames, no candles, (they`re not Orthodox, after all !) and there are no less than three separate exit doors around the Church. Not to mention the fact that the Fire station is less than one minute away.....

Peace on Earth...
except when choosing which members of the family can go to the Nativity Play !
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

St Nicholas ....

Yesterday, the girls enjoyed their St Nicholas Day gifts.
On Sunday night, they each placed one of their shoes by the living room fireplace, before evening prayers.
On Monday morning, each found a bag of chocolate coins in gold foil, and the young ones had a copy of the Life of St Nicholas in verse for youngsters.
Larger people received a copy of the new 2005 St Herman Calendar.
We read the story of the Life of St Nicholas, and talked about it too.
It was lovely.
Next Year I hope to add a small service in honour of St Nicholas.
Eventually I hope to build up to the Akathist to St Nicholas..........

Our town at last has another Orthodox Christian, who celebrated her Name Day, and we met together for the first time.
Many years to the Handmaiden of God, Nicola !!
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Monday, December 06, 2004

Bird of the week

Introducing a new feature :-)

Bird of the week

The most interesting bird to be seen in my garden this last week has been a lovely Grey wagtail, which appeared much to my surprise !
These birds tend to live in hilly areas, particularly where there is running water, as they are insect-eaters.
Quite what this dear little bird thought might be of interest in my garden, I am not sure, but I am so pleased that it decided to visit me.......
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A photo of a Grey Wagtail which I found on the web; I wasn`t quick enough to grab my camera and snap the actual bird in my garden !
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A Very Sad State of Affairs

Matt commented that he thought Britain would be more of a Christian country than it appears to be.
The Queen is the Head of the Church of England, and nominally Britain is a Christian country, yet in many areas, council-run public facilities such as Libraries are not allowed to display posters advertising Christian events or services in case they offend non-Christians who may use the facilities.......

Britain has become a nation of people where 48% of the population claims to be Christian, yet the churchgoing proportion of the populace is only 7.5%.
That`s right, 7.5%

A poll run by New Scientist magazine in 2002 found that 55% of the people surveyed do not believe in a Higher Being (ie God)

In 1984, there were 111,248 weddings in the Church of England, in 1994 this had dropped down to 86,000.....only a third of all weddings performed that year.
Between 1990 and 2000, the Church of England`s number of Sunday communicants dropped by 18%.
Even more worryingly,
"A report on youth published for the General Synod Board of Education in 1996, which says that 'the total Sunday attendance at Anglican Churches amongst 14- to 17-year-olds is 60,739', a drop of 34.9 per cent since 1987. [...] If the same rate continues to apply, there may be no young people at all in the Church in twenty years time. The report goes on to say that this does not just apply to church services - a similar drop has also been observed in church organisations."
C of E: The State It's In by Monica Furlong, p210.

The lack of knowledge amongst the non-churchgoers who profess to believe in Christianity is quite frightening; in 2003 a survey found that only 55% could name even one of the four Gospel books, whereas 60% could correctly identify the sacred book of Islam as the Koran.

Many folk say they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and know the Lord`s Prayer, but that is probably as much as they do know. I know quite a few people who honestly think that even if you never set foot in church or say a prayer, as long as you haven`t actually killed anyone, you are going to be let into Heaven because Jesus is a good guy and wouldn`t keep anyone out of Heaven unless they are really evil, like Hitler.......

For lots more statistics, check out http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/rib.html

It is quite sobering reading.
Interestingly, Orthodoxy is identified as having a continuing growth in numbers from 196,850 members in 1975 up to 275,805 in 1992 . I am sure that more recent statistics would show a greater increase again.


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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Countdown to Christmas

We have a beautiful Advent calendar this year; it is an icon of the Mother of God of Tenderness, with twenty-four windows forming the frame of the icon.
Behind each window is a snippet from the Magnificat, which gives D3 and I something fresh to talk about each day :-)

The two young ones also have a chocolate Advent Calendar each, which has a Nativity Scene.
True to form, Abby has ripped hers to shreds and devoured the chocolates already, but D3 is rather more disciplined at the age of six and half, and opens hers daily.
I have to say, I wish I were that disciplined !

Patience is **not** one of my virtues, as any member of my family will affirm.
Which brings to mind a little rhyme which I have sung with all my children...
"Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace,
Grace is a little girl who doesn`t wash her face!"

They may not understand it, but it always makes them smile :-))
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Friday, December 03, 2004

Christmas is Coming...Oops, "Season" is Coming

I have had to buy clothes for D3`s Nativity Play.
She is going to be an angel (!), and this year, the angels are going to be bright angels in multi-coloured clothes.
So a bright non-logo`ed T-shirt and black trousers are the order of the day:-)

I am counting our blessings that the school is run by a Christian head, and that we still have a Nativity Play, because the way multi-cultural Britain is headed, soon it may be compulsory to have a Seasons Greetings concert in order to promote cultural inclusivity, or some such politically correct drivel.

It really upsets me the way that just about every culture or faith or belief must be respected offically in Britain, but Christianity is a fair target for criticism, hostility, blame and outright derision by Authority.
Christianity could at least be afforded the same level of respect as other Faiths in Britain......
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Dreams......

On Wednesday night, I had a really unpleasant dream.
I dreamt that I was in London, with people who were obviously my work colleagues in that scenario, although I have never met them in real life.
Not far from St Margaret`s Church , Westminster, (pretty much next door to the Houses of Parliament) we heard a noise, looked up, and saw a helicpter with damaged rotor, spinning wildly out of control, whilst dropping a black canister of what looked like poison gas, before crashing.
At the end of the dream, I was summoned to describe to Sir John (some bigwig in a tall office building) what I had seen......
It was such a vivd dream that I woke up terrified.

Please God that London will not be the focus for terrorist attacks in the run-up to Christmas, when there will be so many people sightseeing and shopping...........
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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mum`s Memories

I went up to my Mum`s for lunch today, and she started to reminesce about her early married life...... she and my Dad married when she was 17, and my brother was born when she was 21.
Mum and Dad`s first married Christmas was in a pit house in a mining village in South Wales.

The Mines owned a large number of houses, and rented them out to the pit workers. (My Dad worked underground digging coal, a dangerous and unhealthy job which precipitated health problems which eventually killed him, but that is another story.)

Mum and Dad could not afford to buy a Christmas tree, so Dad went out into the woods, cut a huge branch off a holly tree, and filled a bucket of frozen earth from the garden to put it in.
Mum decorated the tree with a few precious blue glass baubles, and they sat on the sofa, admiring their "tree" all evening.
The next morning, to Mum`s horror, the tree was on the floor and the glass baubles all smashed.
Dad hadn`t thought about what would happen if the branch was wedged in frozen earth which was then left overnight in a room with a coal fire ! Once the earth de-frosted, the bucket was full of mushy mud which couldn`t support the weight of the branch, and disaster struck.

As Mum said, life was tough then, but they appreciated every material possession they owned, and were thankful for them........

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Sainthood

I am reading a truly wonderful book about St John Maximovitch of San Francisco at the moment.
One contributor remarked that he vividly recalls seeing St John lovingly venerate and make a prostration before each icon in the Cathedral before leaving after each service, and when reaching home, he would, on entering his study, venerate each icon there too, as an act of love and devotion to God and His saints.
What devotion, reverence and respect !! And what awareness of the presence of God and the company of Heaven in his life..............

The book is Man of God, published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society. It is a collection of people`s encounters with St John, with a collection of his sermons and an account of the uncovering of his relics.
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