Nearly, very nearly…

Now, even the lounge is a pile of empty furniture surrounded by drying paint. The only space to work in is sat on the double bed. The vinyl looks great and the carpet arrives tomorrow. Friday is the first anniversary of this blog… and by God’s grace we might be celebrating the total completion of the project and be “moving in”  – so please excuse me if I don’t do an anniversary posting!

In the meantime, my sanity is lacking (I just know I’m going to loose the calm exterior of “coping” at any moment) my family are fantastic and my vicar is brilliant – taking pity on me and agreeing to preach yet another sermon this Sunday (I’m meant to take the work-load off him, not the other way round!) It’s a shame – this weeks lectionary readings are fantastic ones, especially for services with Mothers’ Union links (we will be welcoming new members into the Mothers’ Union at our 9am and 11.15am services- including my husband!)

Amidst it all, the Diocesan Mothers’ Union newsletter ‘Archway’ is moving forward as are my postings on their website to inform members about our Wave of Prayer Diocese. The latest features include Kajo-Keji in southern Sudan where peace as well as literacy is needed, and Masasi in southern Tanzania.

A briefing birding highlight from Tuesday was a Wren, a Cole Tit and a pair of Siskin on the garden feeder – but since then I’ve not been in a position to look!

Improving relationships

Whilst the decorator is busy doing what he’s being paid for, we continue to live in chaos following our extension. There is a rumour that we can start “moving in” to our own home in ten-days time – but in the mean time live in it! Painting in the extension is complete, the vinyl floored areas will be complete by tomorrow, and the carpets for the other new rooms arrive next week. Getting to know the decorator is interesting; just we discovered a kindred interest in cricket, so I look at the score from Johannesburg and wished I hadn’t – rolled over for 180! Boys what ARE you doing?!

So in the midst of all this, I’ve been ‘working’. It’s the beginning of a new triennial in Mothers’ Union life, with people taking on new leadership roles, including in my case, Head of Marketing and Communication for Mother’s Union in the Diocese of Winchester! (Sounds grand, but till the last essay for University is out the way, I won’t really get to grips with living it out!)

Amongst the stuff I’ve been uploading to our Diocesan website, is a load of stuff to get us thinking about our relationships, as this years theme for Mothers’ Union is “Relationships Not Rules”. Much of the material would be really good for all sorts of home, prayer and Bible study groups, as well as some that just to help you take stock of your own personal relationships. It might be produced by Mothers’ Union but that just means everyone can use it! Do go visit the link and make use of it.

Mothers’ Union also have something called their “Wave of Prayer” which is also all about relationships – international ones! Each Diocese in which there are Mothers’ Union members  has a prayer support relationship with several other diocese, and once a year that little group form the centre of all the prayers of Mothers’ Union members (in 78 countries) worldwide for about 5 days. So I’m gradually updating the information we have about Winchester’s links which include the area of Kitgum in Northern Uganda – as they struggle to overcome nearly 20 years of war, they are struggling against drought, but still working to support family and community relationships by developing a seed bank.

I miss relationships. One of the most significant issues with both Reader Training and our extension, is that we’ve not had time for people, except to ask them favours (and there might be a few more of those asked in the next few days as I’m going to need a light fitting changed, and a radiator dropped for the decorator next week!) It will be really good to start using the new spaces, welcoming people for meals and generally having time for people again. Soon…

And my relationships with wildlife: well, walking the dog shows that there are still at least one Wrens alive on the heath, yesterday produced a lone Stonechat, and today an immature swan flew over heading towards Fleet Pond. There are also still some Fieldfares and Redwings along the lane. However, tussock field is a slog to walk round in the snow at present. I’m looking forward to more time with the wildlife too!

10 weeks not 10 years

A dove from the Forest Stations by William Fairbank (Lincoln 2007)

Catching up on emails, blogs and such like in an exhaustion break from decorating, which itself fills a break from preaching or leading services this week.

I haven’t reflected on the last decade, nor on what the next might hold. I just keep looking at the next 10 weeks – ish and looking for my dove of peace.

Will we ever get decorated, carpeted and straight I wonder? There are folk that are stepping in to help in different ways to whom I’m very grateful, but at present the control-freak in me wants to return to complete the final piece of work and start ministry ‘properly’ is losing the battle against a tide of clutter. After three years of study and 6 months of domestic chaos, the appeal of my old crafts and gardening habits is becoming stronger, but less and less possible.

How can we get straight when

  • a small area of damp has seeped into a newly painted wall in Cs room, after several attempts by the builders to eradicate the problem possibly connected with the parapet above it
  • G has a pile of coursework marking that will restrict the time he has to help after tomorrow to nearly ‘nill’ except on Saturdays
  • my next two Saturday ‘family days’ are full of important church things (working on the parish vision at the end of our Week of Prayer, and the next ‘Growing Leaders’ day session)
  • starting work on my Independent Study Module (6000 words) that I met my tutor about last Thursday and which I need to submit the paperwork to the Uni for by next Friday (due in end of March)
  • there is lots of exciting things to do with celebrating marriage and encouraging couples to get married in church and undertake marriage prep which I need to focus on in the parish, especially in the run up to Valentines Day (a Sunday this year)
  • [Update – and I’ve just realised I’ve ‘Archway’ to produce for MU this month!]

I was struck just now by Andy’s New Year greeting and image about the path of faith being a wavy one: my path is very very wavy (as regular readers will have realised), and at times it feels like I’m a long way from that empty cross, then something happens that resurrects my sense of the faith that I never lose but sometimes gets hidden under the piles that life forms on top of it. At present, it’s back under the piles of life.

Hopefully the new term, the return to a regular regime of prayer and ministry, and some resolving of technical decorating issues, will make the next 10 weeks fly past towards some resolution of these things, rather than more of the same and continued chaos.

My hope is that your New Year is a little calmer and less fraught than mine.

A talkative angel… at Christmas

An angel in the Compton Window in the South Transept of All Saints, Minstead
An angel in the 'Compton Window' in the South Transept of Minstead Church

It’s funny how sermons can change… I barely mentioned donkey’s on Christmas morning!

And I’d been led to believe the smallish congregation wouldn’t have many kids… and of the nearly 40 people 18 were children… at least 8 of them grandchildren visiting one set of grandparents!

What I actually shared was the idea of looking in the face of God (including a brief quotation from Trevor Dennis’s “Three Faces of Jesus”… thanks to a Licensing gift) and the idea that there was lots of talking in the Luke 2:1-20 Christmas Day reading, and on a modern Christmas Day. But what are you talking about this Christmas?

It was in fact a re-hash of something I did for an assignment back last Christmas (though even then partly with Minstead in mind), but had never been used as a live sermon outside tutorial. It was a little autobiographical especially to the venue, and getting the kids to blow a post-horn was quite fun.

With Thomas-the-Tank-Engine being used to remodel pews, and a Jack Russell tied to a tombstone on a long-line but sat barking in the church porch, (as well as suffering from a cold) it was a difficult service and sermon to deliver, but it seemed to get a reasonably positive response.

If you want a read of what the notes said (which wasn’t totally how it was delivered, but hey…) please click to download: Christmas Morning 2009 – Talks

The occasion was also the first since licensing when I wore robes – I was jolly glad of them as they kept me warm! Though without them, I’d have worn more layers… I didn’t want to look too fat!

The back of Minstead Church - Christmas Morning 2009

The Christmas round of visiting parents has been a welcome break from looking at the decorating work that needs to be completed. It has been good to have family time with the folk we are closest too. Everything from walks watching Fallow Deer near Mogshade in the New Forest, to playing ‘Hare and Tortoise’ was much enjoyed. As was Uncle’s always excellent champagne. It’s a pity that the oldest is now to frail to join us, but she wasn’t left out, though I think our brief visit was tiring. Sometimes people feel they’ve just had too many Christmas’s and want to move on.

The young man of the family has delighted everyone in different ways, and been chuffed to bits with the presents he got – a very Ray Mears themed Christmas this year, and he’s already completed one lovely rough spoon in a piece of old oak he had been dreaming of working on.

Between journeys we’ve made a start and tonight completed the painting his new high ceiling bit of his room! Tomorrow we have a date with a lot of walls!!

I hope you have had something good from God to talk about this Christmas.

Technical problems and questions

I’ve been a bit off-line for the last week.

Firstly it wasn’t helped by the laptop developing corrupted Windows. Was it a virus – even the shop it came from wasn’t sure, but a complete overwrite was necessary, so woops there goes everything on the hard-drive! Fortunately hero husband had managed to back everything up onto our PC as it died, so no loss, just lots of hastle time re-loading stuff when we got it back, though it has helped to concentrate the mind about what to put back on it!

Here’s the first question then: We run Norton antivirus currently, have done for several years, and this is the first possible virus we’ve encountered. The shop we got it (and the laptop) from, now reckon that Mcafee is far better and cheaper per machine. For those blog readers who dare to use Windows… what is your current experience of either Mcafee or Norton (or anything else) for anti-virus software?

(And yes, I know if we ran a sensible operating system we wouldn’t have the problem… but needs must… )

So on the PC I managed to complete my final Reader Training essay, and submitted it yesterday. All I have to do is complete 6000 words of extended essay by Easter, but I discovered today my ‘tutor’ for it is a man I’ve got to trust and like during training, so I at least know I’ll get good guidance.

The other technical issue that’s exercising the brain is this. We’ve started using Google Calandar as a family to keep track of what each of us is doing and be able to see each others commitments. BUT it means that my old PDA Palm Tungston E which I’ve used with great joy for several years, isn’t getting updated regularly, thus my portable diary is er… out of date. Not helpful – and I don’t carry my brick of laptop around in my handbag whilst I do carry round my Palm.

Family budget constraints (see ‘extension’ tag!) mean that buying an ‘all singing, all dancing’ phone isn’t an option for the foreseeable future (and I’m quite happy with Nokia clamshell with the internet disabled so I still ‘pay and go’). So, (how) can I get GoogleCal to talk to a format that talks to Palm? (I don’t think Palm talks to Outlook, least it didn’t last time we looked.)

Or am I just too big a dinosaur?

In the meantime, today  I started on Chris’s room… sanded all the new plaster on the walls, and filled the odd discrepancy that resulted, plus the crack between the skirting board and the walls, with builders caulk. All dress in a very old flying suit I was given for decorating in, many years ago. I was impressed it still fitted.

Will try and catch up on some less boring, less technical thoughts over the next few days, but have plenty else to do – ’tis the season to be busy… 3 services in the next week to fit in the planning for round decorating.

The Alpha and Omega of our extension

It’s been a while. What started on 3rd August finally finished on Wednesday 2nd December – 4 months exactly. It’s over, the extension is complete. The porter-loo finally departed yesterday! And, it’s quite a transformation as you can see from the piccies.

The beginning...

I have to say that M & P D’Santos have been fantastic: Mick, Paul and Joe plus Ben in the early weeks and all the various sub-contractors recently, have been great. They have worked really hard, provided their own facilities, coped with my inane questions and taught me much. I can’t say I miss them, the peace was wonderful on Thursday morning, but if you’ve got to have builders, they are good to have around.

... and after!
...and the end!

They have even provided me with the inspiration for tomorrows sermon – I’m preaching on the Advent 2 readings of Phillipians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6 at the West Hill Chapel of HMP Winchester… a more evangelistic style than my usual – I’ll post it tomorrow! (Part of my ministry as a Mothers’ Union member, if you’re wondering.)

So they’ve done the really hard work, making everything ready for us (spot another Advent theme) and all we have to do now is bring the project to completion (like the Kingdom of God being ‘now but not yet’?) with the addition of some sanding, some paint and some furnishings! Nice gentle winter occupations then 🙂

I have to admit, we’ve not strained ourselves this weekend – I think we’re just enjoying the end of this building phase. We did however do some desperately needed cleaning in the kitchen – condensation had caused an infestation of mould behind the houseplants on the window sills which we attacked on our return from showing a great-gran photo’s of the home improvements!

Even Honey-dog is beginning to relax, a bit, slightly. I think she’s even more pleased to sense the return of normality than I am, though she is fascinated by these new rooms that she has to explore in. As we all wander through on odd errands a few minor niggles are becoming noticeable (the utility door needs tweeking slightly) and the electrician re-appears briefly on Monday to sort the new front light fitting (either we’re being ditsy, or the wiring’s not quite right) but we’re really pleased with the finish inside, and just hope we can make it as cheerful and welcoming as it deserves to be.

Chaos in the house

Honey on holiday in the River Barle
Honey on holiday in the River Barle

Currently I am feel more surrounded by chaos than I have for at least 11 years – that will be when we moved house to Yateley in 1998!

The builders are working hard, all the walls are prepared for plastering, and the plasterers themselves appear to have nearly finished in Cs extended bedroom, and we’ve started working out how the landscaping at the front of the house will work (for which read, which bits will be paved, which gravel!)

Dog and I are confined to the kitchen dining room during the day. Sunday’s All Age talk drafts litter the table (the Church as Bride of Christ: Revelation 21:1-5) along with the tiles catalogue etc. Everytime a workman moves through the lounge to go upstairs (on the otherside of the glass door) the doors bang in the draft from the open front door, and the dog goes berserk. Even our favourite field is in chaos: men have torn out the old barbed wire and left it lieing around while they re-fence – will there be stock let out there afterwards? Honey, with all this going on, is therefore going away next Monday for a few days break in the New Forest with Dad.

The front door is the biggest nuiscance – firstly it didn’t come with the rest of the windows, then it came – with a crack, but no letterbox. Neither builder, nor double-glazing supplier are best impressed with the manufacturer who was meant to make to order! Otherwise everything is great – I look forward to all the new plumbing, tiles and electrics being fully fitted.

I have had to postpone the last assignment of Reader Training – I am grateful to our tutor for today agreeing extra time for me: there is simply no space, physical or mental to put together a reflection on the formation of my ministry over the last three years. The new hand-in date is 18th December.

Hopefully next week there will be enough space in life to blog something a little more useful and reflective.

What a difference a week makes

Obviously it wasn’t sensible to advertise our absense in advance, but we actually got away from the builders completely last week by going to Withypool on Exmoor. We spent the week at Bridge Cottage, literally on the banks of the Barle.

This is the fourth cottage we’ve stayed in around Withypool since we were married, and actually my 5th cottage as I’d previously been with my parents! Jake is still running the bar at the Royal Oak 21 years after I first went there… though he was on holiday this year, and was missed! (The Royal Oak is totally recommended, but you have to be able to cope with the hunting/shooting/fishing lifestyle, on the working end of which I grew up, so no problems for me!)

Pinkney Pond, source of the River Barle near Simonsbath
Pinkney Pond near Simonsbath - a headwater of the River Barle

It took a few days to wind down, and then just as I had, it was time to come home. However we had some really good family time. We took a Sunday ramble round Withypool hill as usual, spent a day at Porlock Weir (travelling via the rather exciting Worthy Toll Road), another walking from a layby west of Simonsbath to the source of the Barle, and significant amounts of time sitting around. It’s amazing how fire lighting can become a competative family activity – and I’d taken the last of those chestnuts with me which we toasted, along with marsh mallows for nommish puddings. We saw several Buzzards, Snipe, Curlew and three groups of Red Deer during our various rambles. Also, since it was largely mild, quite a lot of Red Admiral Butterflies – impressive given the date.

On the way home we visited lovely friends in their tiny retirement cottage in Tiverton where she is almost avoiding heavy involvement in Mothers’ Union, and he (retired from parish ministry in Southampton) is making the most wonderful furniture to fit the rather special nooks and crannies of the house… including all the kitchen cupboards, shelves, bookshelves… I think I need to go repent the sin of envy again.

It was good to get away and I think I feel better for it, but it really wasn’t long enough – a week never is for me. I didn’t read a lot, just sat and watch the river or fire depending on the time of day. Except for Trevor Dennis’s “Three faces of Christ” which was wonderful. I can forsee making use of it on Christmas morning and in a few other places beside. G read “The Shack” as well, and commented that possibly the former could have inspired the latter, as some of the imagery (God up to her elbows in flour baking) is very similar.


Here at home all the internal walls came down, the windows went in and the new floor was laid! And Virgin Media managed to leave us without any form of communication which wasn’t rectified until this Monday! Not even the TV worked when we got home! To say we were cross was an understatement, but “Lee” has worked hard to get it all sorted out this week… and now just needs to finish fixing the neighbours set up!

This week is just mad here, with the plumber and electrician all working and the house constantly being wandered through. I’m having to take the dog everywhere with me, else she wouldn’t be safe. Walls going up, is easily as noisy as the ones that have come down, the nail gun is just plain scary, and I know more about wiring and how radiators are fitted than I thought possible.

And the biggest news – ALL the builders and contractors work will be finished by the end of the month! Then the real work starts… (she says reaching for a Homebase colour chart!)

Extension – the action moves inside

DSCN0665cwThe building work has definitely turned a significant corner today. The roof is complete and structurally we’re all there as you can see. The only reason the scaffolding isn’t down is because the firm it belongs to, can’t come till Monday.

The plumber came today, and started to re-route gas supply ready for the new boiler, as well as discussing the finer points of the new cloakroom fixture and fittings. Cs old radiator is already on the spoil heap so the lads can start taking his old front wall out.

I also went out and bought the external light fittings, as the sparky is due next week to start all the new wiring and move the consumer unit (the thing I always call a fuse box!) We’ll have a nice shiny modern one soon.

So next week is noisy and messy: they want to take all the walls we don’t need out, and get the new floor level laid – some concrete with fibre in it laid over polystarene insulation blocks I think – time tabled for next Thursday or Friday (so we’ll be using the back door then!)

What was the back of the garage - starting to be 'plumbed'
What was the back of the garage - starting to be 'plumbed'

Currently all is quiet and we’re looking forward to some family time over this coming half-term week, with some good days out while the lads make a noise. I handed in the latest assignment today (well, I gave to the friend whose handing it in on Monday) so I can afford to chill out for a bit which feels good. If I have time tonight I’ll try and offer a few thoughts that might be of interest, certainly to locals.

Shan’t probably do much reading though – I need to put all Cs Scout badges onto his new shirt, as he’s grown out the old one. He got promoted to Patrol Leader on Wednesday which really pleased him.

Autumn bounty
Autumn bounty

Autumn is definitely here: there are lots of chestnuts on one favourite tree (or there were, many have been utilized in various stews over the last couple of weeks) and hazel nuts, beech mast and acorns galore. This means that there are lots of squirrels around, and to dog has just been going mad, so she’s having to spend more time on the lead… she fails to notice the rusty barbed wire fences when chasing squirrels!

Saw a Sparrowhawk in the field NW of the Red Cross Centre today. Second time in the last week, plus there has been a significant increase in the number of piles of pigeon feathers on that field recently! Hopefully this week will mean we get to see a bit more wildlife.

Here we go again… builders and assignments

DSCN0659wThere has been a lull in the building works (conveniently) over the last 10 days, but we think the guys are back from their holiday tomorrow, and with a great weather forcaste this week we’re looking forward to progress. They did start to get tiles on before they left, so it will be finishing them that’s the first job, and then the scaffolding comes down and the windows go in I believe! Then the tough bit will really start, as they’ll come inside to take down the existing front of the house and make new walls, which I have to say I am dreading.

I’m also back to assignments… need to come up with 3000 words of reflections on mission and evangelistic activity in my parish. Encouragingly this won’t be purely an academic exercise, because obviously it will relate directly to my ministry here in St. Peter’s. However it is especially timely as our vicar has announced in our ‘Crucial’ magazine that the PCC in November will be ‘re-visiting the vision process that we began in 2007’. Since November will be the first meeting I will attend as a Licensed Minister, along with my two collegues licensed with me 10 days ago who are doing the same piece of work as me, hopefully we’ll have something useful to contribute. Don’t worry though, we’re not normally all going to go to every PCC meeting… the general intention is to ‘rotate the strike’ to use cricket terms! I might post a few thoughts as they progress…