Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
What I Learned While Editing My Life
By Donald Miller

This is a *fascinating* book.
The author, Donald Miller , was invited to collaborate in adapting his best-selling memoir into a screenplay for a film. The adaptation rapidly took on a very different slant to the life he originally wrote about.

Within a very few minutes of opening this book, I began to think I had made a serious mistake in reading it. The emphasis on re-writing one’s “story”, re-writing one’s life, initially seemed utterly artificial and false to me, and then I remembered a Jewish story about God asking one man why he had spent his whole life striving to be more like one of the great rabbis, when instead he could have been trying to simply be himself to the best of his ability.
This is the essence of Miller’s book, that we can – and should - always strive to be more authentically us.

It is almost impossible to even describe this book, let alone do it justice. It is a complex, soul-searching, at times desperately sad book, with many “aha!” moments which I realised I could apply so easily to my own life, if I took my courage in both hands and made a decision to take a risk, rather than always going with the safe option.

Do I recommend this book ? Yes, without reservation.

The only thing that did disappoint me was to find two typographical errors on one page, which was a shame when the story itself had been so beautifully crafted by the author….

If you are interested, sample chapters can be downloaded here.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Rick and Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage

Rick and Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage
By Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey

Living on the other side of The Pond, I had never before heard of "Rick and Bubba", but the book looked rip-roaringly funny and I decided I simply had to read it. I wondered what their take on marriage would be like.

I most certainly was not disappointed.
The format of two guys swapping comments and anecdotes about their own experiences of marriage led to a highly entertaining read and the accompanying CD was also a delight.

Much of the book is written in a light-hearted vein, (particularly the wonderful “Book of Blame” chapter) but there are many deeper truths hidden just below the humour in many cases, and very explicitly stated in other cases.
The chapter dealing with how Rick and his family dealt with the death of their youngest son was unbelievably poignant, particularly when you consider how many marriages fail to survive after the death of a child. They have managed to grieve and to become closer despite their tragic loss.

The hard work involved in maintaining a marriage, and keeping God as a focus in marriage is never under-estimated, and I really enjoyed the book. It has given me much to ponder on how I can strengthen my own marriage.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Memorial Cards

After spending several hours struggling over designing memorial cards and being dissatisfied with the results, I was smiled at sympathetically by my two eldest daughters (and one lovely boyfriend!), who went click click click and managed to do in ten minutes what I had laboured over for nearly a day and a half !

I have now just finished printing out, glueing the sheets together, cutting them out individually and finally laminating the 120 memorial cards for my brother's funeral.

A friend is kindly going to "guillotine" the laminated sheets for me tomorrow.

It has cost a fraction of the price of having them professionally produced, and kept me busy. Today, whilst I was cutting, glueing and laminating, the lampada was burning in the icon corner and I was praying the Trisagion prayers and Memory Eternal

I am really pleased with the result, as they look nice and will be a keepsake for those who attend the funeral. It is a photo of my brother at his bubbliest and happiest, when he was much younger, and it makes me smile each time I see it :-)

I just hope I have made enough .......
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Having A Bad Day

Today is a bad day.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I spent running around like a headless chicken, getting all the funeral arrangements and legal paperwork etc done, as well as dealing with phone calls and correspondence for Mum.

By last night I was physically and mentally exhausted.

This morning I was looking through some files for photos of my brother to make a display at the gathering after the funeral, and I found one of DD2 as a toddler, my brother and one of his daughters.

That was it.
I simply fell apart at the seams and howled and howled. It was the first time I had really had time to grieve for him.

Luckily the girls were in school and DH was home to hug me and comfort me. And then take me out for a huge breakfast, which I demolished and which made me feel lots better.

I came home and continued to search for photos of Mark and found loads of lovely ones, from the time he was a baby only a few weeks old until about a few months ago.

I may well make a tribute page for him, I think.

The only things I can manage to pray at the moment are "Holy God, holy and strong", Our Father, and the prayers for the dead. I'm pretty much on auto-pilot and adrenaline, and will be till after the funeral the end of next week.

Kyrie, eleison.
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Updated to add:
Meg, that's what I first thought, but the messages were all from people I had already told of his death. A very 21st century thing, I suppose......

I brought my brother's mobile phone home with me from the hospital after his death, and have kept it in my bag ever since.
And no, it most definitely won't be washed or wiped or cleaned, or anything else :-)

I was so surprised when, a few hours after his death, text messages kept arriving on the phone. I opened them and read them, and they were from various people saying they loved him and would miss him etc.

At first I thought it was rather bizarre, but now I find it very comforting and rather sweet.

Is this, for non-Christian folk, the modern-day version of praying, I wonder ?

Have you ever come across this before ?
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What Is It About Us Orthodox ?

What is it about us Orthodox and relics of all descriptions ?

My brother had a lovely fluffy blankie on his bed, which Mum bought for him to use in hospital. It was on his bed when he died, and his hands rested on it all day.

DH and I collected it from the hospital on Monday, when we picked up the medical certificate to register his death, and took it to Mum's along with my brother's other belongings.

Imagine my horror when I went to Mum's yesterday and saw the blankie all folded up on one of the chairs, and Mum calmly announced that she had already washed it.

Washed it !

One of the last tangible things we have which my brother had touched daily for months :-(

I would have wrapped myself up in it for comfort and consolation, not washed it.

But at least I have his mobile phone......
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

End Of The Indian Summer

Our glorious Indian Summer ended abruptly today , with drizzle and then frank rain. Apparently we may get a few nicer days towards the end of the week.

Definitely Autumn now; it is hard to get up in the mornings when it is dark as the alarm clock rings........especially if you are a bed-loving dormouse like me !
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Pausing For Breath 2

After a frantic few days, I have now made all the funeral arrangements for my brother. The funeral will not be till the end of next week for logistical reasons to enable many of his friends to travel down, so only now I can actually pause for breath and take stock of the last few days.

Parts of this may be very distressing, so I will understand if you wish to skip this post........I apologise for any typos; I wanted to post this tonight but am feeling weary and probably haven't seen my mistakes :-)


The Phone Call on Saturday morning was not unexpected.

Mum and I had been with Mark on Friday evening, and he was struggling to find the strength and to actually be able to formulate any words. He was just about able to whisper to my Mum that he loved her when she kissed him goodnight and that was all.

By the end of our visit, I noticed that he was starting to exhibit "posturing". This is never a good sign, indicating quite major brain deterioration. If you want to be technical, he was exhibiting decorticate posturing. When we got home, at 9pm, I said to my husband that Mark would be dead within 24 hours, and he was :-(

The Phone Call came whilst we were at the Big M's treating the children to breakfast. We just bundled up all the food and sped back home so I could pick up my prayer book and the holy Oil from St John's shrine, and drop off the young ones at a relative's house, then we raced off to get Mum and head over to the hospital. All I could think was how incongruous it was that the weather was utterly glorious when my brother's life was ebbing away.......

As is absolutely typical of Murphy's Law, I had plenty of talk-time paid for but my mobile phone battery suddenly went from full to virtually empty. Mum's phone was fully charged but had no talk-time left, as she had recently bought a new phone instead. Luckily we found this out before we started the journey to the hospital, so we were able to go back to her house to pick up her other phone so we had both functioning battery and paid for calls. It was not the time to be without a phone to make calls to relatives !

At the hospital, we were so glad to see that my Mum's favourite staff were on duty. Mark had been moved to a private room, and they told us that although he was unable to speak, he was still aware that people were with him.

I don't think I will ever, ever forget my poor mother, hobbling over to the bed, wailing "Oh my son, my son. My beautiful son!"

It was a truly Biblical lament, and our grief was overwhelming.......

We talked to him, held his hands, rubbed his chest when his breathing became laboured, and I asked the staff for swabs and Vaseline to be able to moisten his lips, mouth and tongue to keep him comfortable, which I continued to do throughout that long, long day. His eyes were open but he was now showing decerebrate posturing and his gaze was completely non-focused.

I phoned various family members and friends; DD1 and 2 and their boyfriends hastened over to be with us, and one of Mark's close childhood friends came too, which was a comfort to us all.

By 12.15 he groaned once or twice, and knowing that he had been written up for diamorphine, I asked the staff to give it to him. He had been promised by the medical and nursing staff that they would ensure his passing was pain-free, and they were true to their word.Within one minute he had received pain relief and he settled almost instantly, though his breathing became more noisy and his secretions were increased.

Family continued to arrive, and the nursing staff said there was no problem with however many of us wanted to be with him. There were never less than two of us with him. He was never left alone for a moment.

As the nursing staff went off shift, they all came to say goodbye to Mark, stroke his cheek and also hug Mum, who has visited him daily for the 21 weeks of his hospital stay. They truly are an amazing and wonderful group of people, and more than one of them said to me that they considered Mark to be part of their family too.

By 4.12 pm he gave a few groans again, so his diamorphine was repeated. His breathing was much more laboured now. By 6pm, staff came in to change him and the bed, and they also changed his position to make him more comfortable, so he was now lying on his left side, facing Mum, rather than lying propped up on his back. I anointed him with Oil from St John's Shrine lampada.

By 7pm, his breathing was no longer loud and causing the pillows to move with each intake of breath, rather it was calmer, quieter, and it was obvious to me that he was shifting far less air into his lungs with each breath. His body was beginning to cool significantly and his skin colouration to change. At no point was it scary, just sad to see him quietly slipping away from us.

I said to DD2 that he would not be needing his scheduled 8.15pm dose of pain med.

He didn't.

By 7.30 his breathing was slowing significantly, and becoming ever shallower. By 7.45 he was only breathing seven or eight times a minute, by 8pm he was only breathing three or four times a minute. Gradually, the gaps between breaths lengthened to 45 seconds, then to a minute, then to a minute and half, then one last tiny gasp, and he entered into his final rest at 8.15pm.

Words cannot express our grief and feelings of loss. He was my beloved big brother, upon whom I could always depend, and he always made me aware of how much he loved me. He would do absolutely anything for me, and it was so ironic that when I spoke to the doctors about the possibility of me being a living liver donor to him, many months ago, I was told that it was simply not possible to operate due to his desperate fragility.

Even more ironic was the fact that I was not compatible to donate to him, though he would have been able to donate to me if the situation had been reversed, due to our respective blood group antigens.

I hope he knows just how much I love him. I prayed so hard for a peaceful ending to his life, painless, blameless, unashamed - and God in His infinite Mercy granted this.

I continue to beseech God that he may have a good defence before the Judgement Seat.

He was brilliantly clever, articulate, funny, kind, compassionate, so big-hearted that he could not ever leave anybody unhelped who needed help. He never said a harsh or unkind word to or about anyone at all, and would give someone the clothes off his back if they needed them.

Everyone he worked with or met loved him dearly, as has been demonstrated by the multitudes of cards, letters, emails, text messages, phone calls and visits he has had from legions of people since he came home in December. He lived the Gospel, although he was not religious in the conventional sense. In fact, he understood and lived the Gospel on a level that I certainly am very far from achieving.......

Memory Eternal, my precious, special, wonderful brother.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sad News

Just to let you all know that my beloved brother Mark died very peacefully tonight, Mum and I were with him constantly for the ten hours of his final illness.

I have just got home and am too wiped out to write more; I will post more details tomorrow.

Thank you all for the outpouring of love, prayers and support. It has meant so very much to me.

To the servant of God Mark, Memory Eternal..............
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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Shofar

This weekend sees the start of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the shofar will be sounded as part of their ceremonies.

I did laugh when I saw this video clip, as we have a dog in the neighbourhood who makes exactly these types of sad dog noises. Our own dog (who has only barked six times in almost four years) just looks puzzled when he hears the heart-rending howling from a few gardens away.....

I would not have thought it easy to play a tune on a shofar, but it can be done :-

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Thursday, September 17, 2009


that I don't think this will replace the komboschini just yet.......
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"My Prayer Book" - A Review

“My Prayer Book” is another extremely special book from Potamitis Publishing.

This is a very attractive large format, 62 page hardback book, illustrated throughout with full colour iconographic pictures.

You can "flick through" sample pages by going here.

The introduction highlights the nature of prayer and the reasons why we pray and when we pray. The basic Trisagion prayers in traditional language are introduced, followed by one Morning Prayer in modern English.

The prayer to the Mother of God “It is truly meet….” is illustrated with a truly delightful picture of a group of children decorating an Icon of the Theotokos and Child with flowers, and assisted by birds carrying flowers to add to the display. If this could be produced by the publishers as a print, it would make a beautiful greetings card!

Prayers for before and after lunch and supper are given, as is the Nicene Creed. One of the Akathist hymn prayers is given, the “To you my Champion and Commander”.
A prayer before sleep and the prayer to one’s Guardian Angel are lovingly and attractively illustrated, and a particular delight is the inclusion of prayers before and after receiving the Holy Mysteries. It is never too early to teach children to pray before approaching Communion.

For Great Lent, there is the Prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian, and Hymns for some of the Great Feasts are given, namely the Annunciation, the Nativity, Theophany, the Elevation of the Cross and Great and Holy Pascha.

Pages 44 – 62 are devoted to explaining the prayers and hymns in detail. A section on how to make the Sign of the Cross is included at the beginning, and the diversity of translations of prayers in use throughout the Orthodox world is also mentioned.
Each prayer and Great Feast mentioned in the prayer book is explored and given a thoughtful commentary.

This section of the book is ideal for children and adults alike who want to know more about their Faith, and it lends itself well to introducing discussions with children of all ages about the prayers and why we use them. It will be extremely useful for parents, Godparents and Sunday School teachers.

My daughters both loved this book. My eleven year old was familiar already with the prayers but she particularly loved the commentaries and found them fascinating. My seven year old just wants to pray the prayers and enjoy the illustrations at the moment, and it is an ideal prayer book for them both.

I think this book will rapidly become an invaluable resource to all Orthodox families. It is particularly ideal for those Orthodox parents who wish to be able to explore the deeper theological meaning of the familiar daily prayers in order to be able to say them with heartfelt sincerity and understanding themselves, and to enable their children to do the same.

On the back cover it says :
“How then are we meant to find the time to teach them about Christ, Orthodoxy and prayer? Do we know what prayer is? How do we pray?
This book will help unite your family in prayer”

And it succeeds admirably, in my opinion. When I am blessed with grandchildren, each grandchild will receive a copy of this book from me.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Updated to add :
The wind did drop later in the afternoon and it did reach the projected 20 degrees C by teatime.

At the moment it is 7 degrees C / 45 degrees F, and is projected to warm up to 12 C / 54F by lunchtime and 19 C / 66 F by 4pm.

the early morning and early evening temperatures are likely to be fairly brisk in October, so I would recommend bringing a good mix of lightweight clothes and cardigans/light jackets for the occasional warm afternoon and some really warm clothes for inclement days. It will be getting seriously chilly here by the end of October.......

You can access the online weather forecast for Ormskirk here.

Although we have glorious sunshine at the moment, there is a strong and very keen wind blowing and I am absolutely freezing !

The weather forecast said 20 degrees C today, but they must be kidding........
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An Absolute Delight.

From the creator of this video, Jarbas Agnelli

"Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the very same newspaper."

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

My Brother......

My brother appears to be failing fast tonight.

I am so glad I was able to remind him of God's love on Friday, when he was still able to understand and gain comfort and consolation from it.

He is very confused indeed today, and was trying to phone my mother using the bedside phone console even though Mum was sitting right next to him, talking to him :-(

My mother is breaking her heart.

Please pray for a quick and peaceful ending to his life: painless, blameless, unashamed, and a good defence before the Judgement Seat of Christ.

Kyrie, eleison.
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Joyous Feast !

A joyous and blessed Feast to those celebrating it today !

Whilst hunting for an icon to illustrate this post, I stumbled across this :

A lovely cloisonne enamel decorated Romanov icon relating to the Feast of the Elevation can be seen here.

The detail is awesome......
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Family News

Edited again, to thank you all for keeping us in your prayers. It means a great deal to know you are praying for us.....

Edited to answer Dionysios's query - my brother's name is Mark.
Sadly he is not Orthodox, but does have faith in God.
I would be so thankful for your prayers for him.

My brother was very poorly when we visited him tonight.

He veered between being agitated, confused and completely lucid. When he was completely lucid, he whispered to me that he was afraid of dying. I reassured him that we loved him, that God loved him far more than even we could, and that he needed to put his trust in God and to remember that he has many loved family members who have already made the journey through death, and that he would not be alone.

I cuddled him, held his hands and prayed so very hard for a peaceful ending to his life.
The nursing staff were happy to let us stay an extra two hours after visiting ended, so we could comfort him and calm him before we left to come home. The staff assured us that if he becomes distressed or if his condition worsens, they will phone Mum and I immediately and we will go straight back in.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.
This is all so hard.
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September 11th

No words are needed, except "Memory Eternal" and "Kyrie, Eleison"
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"My Warrior Saints"

"My Warrior Saints" by Dionysios & Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis.

Published by Potamitis Publishing, and available from www.OrthodoxChildrensBooks.com

It is possible to "flip-through" some of the pages of this book at the Publisher's page.

This beautifully produced large-format (A4 size) 70 page hardback book is an absolute treasure-trove for Orthodox parents. The book is printed on high-quality glossy paper, and is lavishly illustrated with full colour iconographic pictures on each double-page spread.

I have two daughters aged 11 and 7, and was curious how they would react to a book specifically about male warrior saints...... I need not have had any concerns, as they both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Each chapter is exactly the right length for a bedtime story session, and it has become the highlight of our evening. So much so that once we reach the end of the book at our bedtime story sessions, I have been told I have to start right from the beginning again, and they never give a higher compliment than that !

Some of the Saints were familiar, some were not, and it was lovely for me to make their acquaintance as well as being able to introduce them to my children. The Saints' lives are presented in a warm and engaging manner, using a nice mix of colloquialisms and reverent, slightly more formal language where appropriate. The stories are appropriate for all age-groups, though parents might want to re-phrase or edit some of the details for younger children.

Children aged 7- 8 and above would very likely be able to read the book largely unassisted. Young children will really enjoy pointing out and talking about the very detailed pictures, showing birds, animals and sea-life according to the Saint being illustrated. My seven year old was full of "Oooh, look at that !" on almost every page. It really is a pleasure to look at this book.

The Saints included are :-

St Mercurius

St Theodore The Recruit - I loved this chapter, dealing with the Saint's adventures battling the "dreadful serpent dragon" !

St Artemius

St Eustathios and the stag

St Callistratus and his companions

St George the Trophy-bearer

St Procopius

St Constantine the Great

St Menas

St Niketa the Goth

Sts Sergius and Bacchus

It would have been nice to have the stories in the order in which the Saints' feasts appear in the Church Year, but this did not in any way affect our enjoyment of this very special book.

I sincerely hope this company will go from strength to strength and have many more years of publishing these delightful books for the benefit of Orthodox adults and children alike !
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Holy Water

I really like this 1882 painting by Constantin Dimitrie Stahi :-)
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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More On Vefa's Kitchen

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Happy Book-buying !

I read about this book on the Web. I drooled over the recipes. I longed for this book. "Vefa's Kitchen". Sigh. I resolutely put it out of my mind as a needless expense.
It is a mammoth, encyclopaedic tome, devoted to Greek cooking. And I wanted it so very badly........
I saw it in a book shop in the Big City. The only copies they had were not, in my opinion, perfect copies., although they were shrink-wrapped. If you click on the bottom photo showing the top of the spine to see the large version, you can see large lumps of glue from the binding process. I was really sad, especially as I had recently found some unspent gift cards for use at this very same bookshop in the Big City........

I do not know what prompted me to be so forward, being a very shy and retiring character :-) but I pointed out the defect to the sales assistant, who agreed it was not perfect. I asked, very politely, whether it would be possible to have a small discount on the book, given that it cost £25. I was immediately told that I could certainly have a 10% discount and was that acceptable ?

It most certainly was, and I only ended up paying £8 after I used the gift cards.

And yes, I did do the Happy Dance all the way home :-)

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Big Foot !

DD3 has big feet. There is simply no getting away from it, however hard we try. Although they are not technically large, as she is only a UK size 5, they are *very* wide. She is currently a "H" fitting, and most people are only a "E" or "F".

We were able to get her school shoes at a local children's shoe shop with little difficulty, but getting her trainers for school sports has been..... difficult.

Actually, scratch that, it has been darn near impossible. On Wednesday last week, I took her on yet another shopping trip and after we had tried no fewer than 6 different shops with no success, we conceded defeat and agreed we would have to go to the Big City on Saturday.

On Saturday morning, we left home with a light step and hope in our hearts. The prospects grew even brighter after we found a wonderful sports shop which effortlessly provided us with well-fitting jogging bottoms, sports shorts, swimming costume and swim cap.

This shop had an incredibly extensive array of trainers and sports shoes, with prices ranging from the inexpensive to the "Gulp ! We need to mortgage the house!" type price tags. Did *any* of these shoes fit ? Nope. A senior manager was called to offer his advice. He was most aploogetic at being unable to accomodate our problem, and told us a few other places to try, which we did, to equal lack of success.

In desperation, we tried a cheap shoe emporium. They had a pair of trainers which actually were moderately comfortable. And inexpensive. Admittedly they are rather lurid, but they FIT Big Foot !

She and I are both happy. So is my purse !

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I Cannot Believe It

DD3 came home from school yesterday with the news that she is auditioning for a part in her school's production of Annie.

My baby ! I am so proud of her auditioning !

The downside is the fact that of all the musicals, the one I loathe most is.....Annie.

And now DD3 wanders round the house singing the songs ad nauseam and playing the video clips on YouTube, LOL.

Aaaagh ! I am torn between pride and the very real terror of having to endure Annie songs for months.....
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Fit To Drop

Today I was on a busy schedule, needing to go to my mum's house to make some urgent telephone calls on her behalf and to deal with a mini-mountain of equally pressing correspondence.

This afternoon I had to go to mother -in-law's to deal with correspondence that she didn't quite understand, before picking DD4 up from school.

Having only a very limited number of hours at my disposal and an even more limited amount of cash, which precluded my using public transport, I was cogitating how I would manage to cram it all in.

As the sun was shining brightly, I decided to drag out my cycle and cycle helmet from the garage.

I have not ridden a bicycle for more than a minute or two at a time for well over twenty years, but today I managed to haul myself , albeit fairly slowly, for the whole two and a half miles (including hills) up to Mum's, and two and a half miles back again. I then walked from my house to mother-in-law's and back, then down to school and back.

I am still alive and kicking, though my legs are aching :-)
Heartfelt thanks are duly recorded to St Nicholas and my guardian angel for their intercessions :-)
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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Happy Feast !

Wishing you a Blessed Feast of Our Lady's Nativity :-)

Most Holy Mother of God, pray for us !!!
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"Fearless" by Max Lucado

"Fearless" by Max Lucado.

I settled to read "Fearless" with keen interest.
Fear can lead to reliance on drink, drugs or rage to numb the fear. Left unchecked, fear can dominate our lives instead of faith. Just about everything that can cause us to be fearful is mentioned: violence, illness, death, fear of not protecting our children, of disappointing God, and even financial worries and global economic collapse.

The book is engagingly well-written, humorous in many places, but the very brevity of the chapters gives the book a feel of being a collection of vignettes.

There are some good ideas - I especially like the reminder of clearly identifying a need and taking it straight to God, like the Virgin Mary did at the wedding in Cana. Sometimes we forget the simple but effective approaches of dealing with our fear !
The worry diary is another excellent idea, with the reminder that we need to differentiate between needless and legitimate worry. The first achieves nothing except anxiety and stress, and the latter is what we should concentrate on and pray about.

The book contains many Bible quotes, though the Bible versions used are often unusual to British eyes, and it works well as a " pick up and read a bit" quick devotional book, but it has no strong meat.

I was disappointed, to be honest.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program.
I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers


From a particularly Orthodox viewpoint, I don't think this book will have much appeal to Orthodox readers, and equally limited appeal to most Anglican/Episcopalian/RC readers of my acquaintance.

Chapter 7 caused me major disquiet, dealing with Max's ideas about Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. I did not like the Bible translations used, especially the Amplified Bible and the Message. The idea that Jesus was the recipient of God’s wrath is at variance with Eastern Orthodox doctrine, IMO :

“God would unleash his sin-hating wrath on the sin-covered Son. And Jesus was afraid”

Chapter 7 really did spoil the book for me, though there was a nice quote from St John Chrysostom at the end of the Chapter:-)

If any of you read this book, I would love to know your opinion - is it just me being overly critical?

Edited to add:
Welcome, Pam ! To answer your question, the term "heathen-jelly" made by a commenter is a reference to "evangelical" .......

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Monday, September 07, 2009

News From The Home Front

Sorry about the dearth of posts; things have been complicated within the family.

My brother is deteriorating, slowly but steadily.

Mum is finding it increasingly harder to cope with this in specific and life in general. She is pretty poorly herself at the moment.

A member of the extended family is embarking on a course of action related to my brother which is morally questionable as well as legally dodgy, so I am having to get my brother urgent and appropriate legal protection. Obviously I cannot divulge more than this here........

I seem to be either spending half my life listening to Mum crying, or crying myself. Listening to Mum is definitely worse :-(

DH is well, the children are well, praise God, and I am physically okay apart from stress.

DD3 started Comprehensive school last Thursday and loves it. She is managing the solo bus trips to school just fine, and seems so very grown up now ! DD4 started back this morning and was raring to go at the crack of dawn :-)

I've spent the morning on the phone, washing, making beds, tidying up, filling in paperwork for Mum and I still have a book review to post which must be done today.

I had better get on with writing it fom my notes :-)
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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Never Judge By Appearances !

This man, Dic Jones, looks a quiet, unassuming, everyday Welsh farmer, concerned only with ekeing out a livelihood on his remote farm.

Wrong, wrong and thrice wrong.

Wales is so very often "lumped" with England geographically, but their contemporary cultural lives are widely disparate both in quality and quantity. One thing the following article does not making explicitly clear is the fact that Dic's award-winning poetry was written in Welsh.

He reposed on 18th August 2009.
Memory Eternal !

A video clip courtesy of BBC Wales:


Read the following article, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph:

Dic Jones: face like an undertaker’s shovel, but the mind of Byron

Recently deceased farmer-cum-poet Dic Jones has left a vibrant legacy in Wales.

He looked every inch the weather-beaten countryman, hunched over the small tractor, a flat cap rammed down on his gaunt features, ploughing the reluctant Cardiganshire earth into a keen westerly wind. Dic Jones was the archetypal Welsh farmer, spare of frame and sparse with words.

But he was much more than that. He was a poet, esteemed by his peers as one of Britain’s heavyweights of the past 50 years when he died weeks ago at the age of 75. His life and work also offers an insight into a fascinating and unknown world, just an hour away from England. For Welsh poetry is not just surviving, it is thriving and it’s fun.

Jones’s work is all but unknown beyond Wales, because understanding it means overcoming formidable obstacles. He wrote in Welsh, and he was a master of the strict metrical discipline of cynghanedd, with its complex rules for the internal rhythm and rhyme within each line, as well as within the verse.

Dic Jones left school at 15 to work on the family farm in west Wales. His main themes were the land and the seasons, though he was more than just a pastoral poet. Two years ago, he was appointed Archdruid, the ceremonial head of the country’s National Eisteddfod.

An English writer once described him as having a face like an undertaker’s shovel, but this dour countenance was misleading. He had an impish wit and one of his trademarks was the humorous limerick, composed on the spot on radio and in public contests that had hundreds convulsed in laughter.

The word poetry in England perhaps ranks only with the phrase “Arts Council” as the deadest phrase one can write in a newspaper nowadays. This is not so in Wales, where poetry is an art form practised and appraised in public forums. Its heroic status and its rules and disciplines are unchanged since the Middle Ages. There can’t be many other places in the world where a whole nation gathers every year to hail a poet as its champion. It sounds like a concept from classical Athens, but it happens every year at the Eisteddfod, where a literary champion is hailed with all the enthusiasm of a Cup Final crowd.

The clamour goes unnoticed in England of course, where the cultural spotlight is fixed on Edinburgh. Marvellous stuff, no doubt. But the Edinburgh International Festival is avowedly a huge importer of talent. Wales nurtures its own and has such an abundance that it exports the stuff.

So how did a farmer come to be writing poetry? Poetry in Wales is not a rarefied art. For those lucky few that have the knack it is a regular part of life. The art of poetry was handed down to Jones by the Cilie clan, a local family who were practised poets, honing their natural talent, passing it on.

There are complex rules so there is no room for slackness or pretence, offered by the “freedom” of modern English verse which produces so much dreadful bathos that passes for poetry. Then it needs practice… at the pub. An acquaintance recalls going to a bar in the far west where three friends had a three-hour conversation in cynghanedd. Then there is competition.

Jones recalls he was spurred to write by competing at “socials” run by the Young Farmers and the Urdd, a youth movement which has been a driving force behind Wales’s cultural revival. He won the Urdd poetry chair five times before winning the National. And no way is poetry the province of old men, youngsters are now setting the pace. Before he died, Jones mused modestly if he were competing for the chair today he would be in the third rank.

Finally, there is Ymryson y Beirdd, a poetry-writing contest that has run for more than 40 years. It is more popular than ever, thanks to presenter Gerallt Lloyd Owen, for me Wales’s greatest living poet. He chairs the show, encouraging with finely judged adjudication – a one-man national poetry coach. He says the standard of cynghanedd poetry is as high now as in its 15th-century heyday.

Edinburgh, not the Eisteddfod, might grab all the headlines, but Welsh culture is alive and kicking.
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