Category Archives: family

Reflections and thoughts from family life.

Notes on My Spiritual Journey 1 – Home Church

Since the beginning of lent, I have enjoyed and valued reading Chris(toph)’s reflections on his spiritual journey.   As I recently was challenged to review mine as part of my local preacher training, I thought I’d share some of them for posterity over the next few weeks (given how frequently I blog).

Home Church

I was one of those children, like many, for whom questions were great but never easy for the suffering adult to respond to, and it is down to my ‘what’s that *for*?’ question that mum ventured into the local URC. At the time there were a group of other people around my age (preschool) and so a firm bond was established. The minister, during these formative years, was a great orator who could command his congregation, and thus was highly respected. His passion and commitment was clear and so I found myself willingly swept up in this family like environment. It also meant that after he’d moved on, and I hit my teenage years, I felt able to take the break I needed from the church.

What makes the church all the more significant is that it encouraged me to grow beyond, and subsequently leave, its walls behind. As I was preparing to head off to university, in the final year of my work placement and A Level, I got inexplicably buried in a very complex and difficult situation with a friend and her mother. The experience pushed me to the limits of my pastoral experience and willingness to offer unconditional love and support to those around me. In this feeling of being out of my depth I turned, for the first time in years, to the church which had supported me as a child. I had ample respect for the minister at the time (with whom mum had continued to worship), and especially in pastoral situations, that I turned to him for a listening ear. He provided the support I needed and encouraged me to persevere with the situation, but he also offered me an unexpectedly marvelous opportunity. He offered to pass my details to the chaplain at my university. While this rather unused resource was new to me, this offered me the hope and opportunity to find communities I could explore at university. Having worked, rather than studied, before university, I felt more like the mature students than those of similar age. His great gift enabled me to make that contact, and thus move onto the next stage of my spiritual life.

The other specific incident from this church occurred a couple of years later, and was equally as transformative but is based in a very different interpretation than the one intended. After my time at university, I found I had moved away from the teachings of the URC at home, but didn’t have the courage to look for an alternative place to worship while there. On this occasion, the visiting preacher was using an analogy of Christians being magnets, and I found this imagery very, very helpful. While he was emphasising the links and continuing path back to Christ as we all stick together, I took a rather tangential approach. If Christians are like magnets, as he says, then eventually those at the end of any one chain will be repelled by those on another. As such, I understood, it was important to find those fellow Christians with whom you can find that unity, fellowship and companionship. If that is not in the congregation you’re currently in that is not the end of the world, it is encouragement to keep looking until you find somewhere you can make your home. So I left, and went to a local Methodist church where I continue to choose to worship when at Mum’s.

Moving forwards

Since Grandad died we had as marvelous a celebration as we could for ‘christmas’ yesterday.  We raised our glasses to him and watched ‘Strictly Ballroom’, one of his favourite films.

The next series of activities, decisions and paperwork is now becoming apparent.  The Coroner has confirmed cause of death, the undertaker has been appointed, the executors discovered and the service of thanksgiving is being considered.  The last of those, perhaps mostly by me.  I have agreed to lead the service – my first funeral, and I hope the challenge will not be too great for me.  I’m pleased that my boss has already been some help in providing me with guidance on what I need to do, and what needs to be discovered.

The meeting with the undertaker will be tomorrow, and I don’t envy him dealing with 6 emotional adults but am also grateful that the 6 of us will all be here.

The next few days and weeks are likely to be a whirlwind – particularly as I currently still intend to be back at work for christmas, preach on Sunday at workchurch and head further north for new year.  Of course my priority is and remains with the family but it will be nice to have some me time too as well as some time with the Mrs.

Whatever comes next, there are a good number of us here to share it.

To my grandfather

Yesterday I had the great honour to spend some of my afternoon at a local care home.  Along with the majority of my family, I had gone to share in the Christmas party for my grandfather and his fellow residents.

He was visited by a Santa who ensured that there were no gender exclusions on who got to don the red suit and beard.  His face lit up on being given a mince pie, and he even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.  We selected for him a wooden bowl to store his chocolates and biscuits, and he got the second last prize of a wine rack.  Something I have willingly inherrited.

A lovely afternoon was had by all, and it marked a great change for the better since I had last seen him.  On my last visit he had moved to his new home and was, understandably rather tired so slept lots.  Over the intervening months he enjoyed a fabulous Hallowe’en party, got visited by a donkey, adopted the house cat met his great grandaughter and fought with her over a biscuit, and went to the garden centre.  Not bad for a man in his mid-eighties no longer able to talk or move easily on his own.

It was really great to see him yesterday and my aunt made the experience all the more unique by presenting each resident and guest with a home-made fabric christmas hat.  The photos of them all are great.  Everyone seemed more than willing to embrace the spirit of the occasion so all the staff were wearing them too.

The whole event was really lovely and thanks go to all the staff who organised it.

It turns out that it was Grandad’s last party – but then eating a mince pie and drinking glass of wine seem no bad way to spend your evening, whether final or not.

This we were phoned to say that he’d died suddenly, after being lethargic all day.  It’s been about 3 years since he got properly ill and 5 – 6 years since his first major stroke.  And, by unexpected co-incidence, nanny finds herself surrounded by all of her children despite the usual thousands of miles which separate them.

Tomorrow we mark Christmas as was planned, and we’ll raise a glass to Nanny’s late husband – much loved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.

Proper update

In November I mentioned that life was moving on, and I’d hope to write a little more frequently during a short intermission. As it happened the intermission generally led to a greater lack of internet than the one I had in November. Life has moved on again, and with it my internet connection.

Way, way back many centuries, well months, ago… I got myself a new job. In fact, I got it around the time I last blogged but couldn’t really say a lot. I’m now the Community Leader for an exciting new project in Birmingham at Carrs Lane, a well known local church. My role is going to involve setting up an intentional community and, now I’ve furnished the flat (rather very nicely), is to recruit members to join me. It is going to be interesting to see who comes forwards to be part of this community and where it will be going.

The new job meant that, after a stint as probationary co-hab, I returned, for the second time to this midland city – it’s becoming a little repetitive. The returning, that is, rather than the city. My new job is going to involve spending a lot of time in this fair area. It seems a little entertaining that, given my last job required me to travel right across the UK, that my new one wants me to focus on a small(ish) area of just one city. It’s good though.

Right then, this new job. The background to it, in a general sense, can be found here: Carrs Lane Developments and, if anyone’s suitably interested, the document about applying for the community can be found here: Information for applicants. It’s going to be a little of a challenge to have a wonderful fair trade shop immediately under where I live, the local markets 5 minutes walk away and not even that far to the stations. I fear I make be called upon to put people up from time to time, but at least I can get good and ethical food to feed them with.

With the return to Brummieland, came a little more certainty in life and thus I have returned to preaching. I should probably a) do some homework fairly (very) soon and b) blog some more sermons. Entertainingly enough, due to diary suggestions I’m booked up in November and December but not so much between now and then (not that I’m complaining in the least).

Over the next few weeks and months life will settle down into something of a very different way of life. Sharing in a community life in a very different way to previously experienced, and getting to know the inner depths of a city I’ve lived in for a fail while but never really got to know. This opportunity, for that’s what it is, will (I expect) offer challenges, rewards, difficulties and many things I cannot predict. The first of the challenges will be to find the members but I’m interested to see who comes forwards and what they bring. It may not be easy but it should be worth it.

And all this marvelous journey (which has been kept rather quiet over the last few months), kicked off properly yesterday. A collection of my friends and family came to join me as I was commissioned for this role. It was a really lovely service and my thanks go to all involved (especially to those doing the catering – we were very well fed). The flat survived the guests – there were seven of us in total and there was even one bedroom with nobody sleeping in it and no one needed to sleep under the stairs. The kitchen survived well too, but slow cooking does indeed live up to its name! The sofas and kitchen knives went down well with all who saw them and the church members who looked round the flat seemed pleased with what I’ve done with it. Even with all this happening we still managed (just about) to mark two birthdays and mothering Sunday. Special thanks go to the Mrs and C for helping me get the place sorted: for the lifting of furniture; the successful wielding of power tools; the chopping of excessive numbers of vegetables and much, much more.
However great the service and the weekend was, I’m rather pleased not to be going through it again any time soon. It will be very nice to be settled and to have the opportunity to create and maintain a home, with a group of other people.

So, what else has happened over the last few month – I found more grey hairs and got another year older, we went to another wedding (which was very nice) and I averaged a 1000 miles a month in a wonderful little car which now has be passed on to a careful lady owner (maybe doing slightly less miles than me). I’ve spent a fair while on the M1, far too many hours in Ikea and a wonderful time with friends and family. It’s been a great interval, and I’m very glad it’s over.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be settling into a new routine of prayers, frantically trying to get my local preaching homework done, preparing for a wedding (not mine, just to clarify), community members to find, holiday to have, Holy Week and Easter to mark and a new flat to settle into. Good to see life’s slowing down a little. 😉

But for now I should wish my mother a happy birthday and acquaint myself (again) with the delights of the kitchen.


I’ve been thinking about driving a lot recently as it appears to be the main activity during my week off (this week), Rambling Folkie and another friend have passed their driving tests.

I took my mother on holiday to the end of the country today – or at least it felt like it. Okay – the journey there was fine. We stopped in the Eden Project on the way and it was really cool. Last time we went, all 5 of us (family) visited but we couldn’t really go round the humid biome for very long, so we started there… It was a really lovely.

After dropping mum off, and getting her settled in a bit I turned round and came back. About half way through the journey I decided I was too tired to keep going and needed to find somewhere to stop. It took me an hour and driving over large chunks of Dartmoor before I found somewhere sensible. In the end, the journey was only about 30 miles longer on the return than the outgoing journey. It did, however, take twice as long as the original route seemed to. It was also interesting the effect that Dartmoor, a couple of days worth of reminiscing, darkness, and driving on my own makes. I suddenly remembered all the myths and legends (well – probably not all of them) that I learned when I spent huge amounts of my childhood exploring the moors. It was a little spooky and that seemed really silly! At least the recollections of the moor also provided me with enough knowledge to get back to where I wanted to be… without the use of maps.

Anyhoo… I’m tired now and need to sleep. Tomorrow I’ll be taxi service for my grandmother and on Monday I’m going to another fair city – about as far away from where I am now as mum’s holiday location but in another direction.



I’m not often angry but today I heard a story that made my blood boil. I’m originally from a sleepy little backwater and my family still live there. I generally am a little condescending about it but love it really. Anyway, it always disappoints me when my condescending remarks are proven to be justified.

My family have lived in the same house for, ooh, 30 years… almost since the house was built and my sister and I grew up there. There are very few families left from that long ago and we’ve seen the area evolve – not necessarily in a bad way but evolve nevertheless. It is normally quite friendly and until a few years back, everyone knew everyone. Today I hear that one of the residents (identity unknown, probably in more ways than one) called the police on my sister! What was she doing? Drunken debauchery, dealing from the front garden, making excessive noise, threatening to kill people? No (to the best of my knowledge she doesn’t do any of those things) – she parked her car. On the pavement. Yes it’s annoying. No it’s not the end of the world. She currently works shifts and gets in at I don’t know when in the morning. Occasionally she discovers that the antisocial neighbours appear to have randomly discarded their cars all over the allocated parking spaces and there is nowhere left for her. At 3 in the morning, even in a sleepy little backwater, I wouldn’t suggest wandering around on your own, having dumped your car miles away. It’s not even that someone had a gripe that bothered me. It’s that someone had a gripe and took it to the police. What happened to, say, leaving a note under a windscreen wiper, or waiting to see who owned the car and coming and talking to them? Well, I suppose in order to do either of those you need to have at least some semblance of a spine! So the police phoned my sister, she tried to explain *why* it had happened, got told if she does it again she’ll get fined.

What happens to the neighbours? Well, not a lot. They can wallow in their self-righteous, ‘superiour’, cowardly, shallow selfishness. My sister won’t kick up a fuss but is deeply upset at what happened – and understandably so. I’ve threatened to do all sorts of things – the more serious of which includes dropping a note through each letterbox on the street asking people to park considerately. If everyone used their drives (where they have them and are safe), and parked considerately there would be no problems. Or at least considerably less. Another plan is getting in touch with the councillor. Maybe if there are viewed to be enough problems maybe people would agree to paint (or at least somehow mark) parking bays on the road. I doubt it though. If those don’t work, I suggested that she writes to the local press. If that doesn’t work, I will! (And so many of the locals (and for that matter my new locals) wonder why we leave ‘such a beautiful part of the country’ – oh let me count the reason!) It should be admitted that there were a fair few less sensible suggestions like getting my sister and mother to see how much of the road they can legitimately park over. I’m guessing the equivalent of 5 spaces with their two cars. I also think that the situation would not be improved by that.

Anyway, should the stupid neighbours accidentally happen upon my blog (and stranger things have happened), I would like to suggest that next time they have some consideration. Also that talking to my sister generally doesn’t kill anyone 😉 and she’s more than willing to listen to complaints and serious suggestions about ways to improve the situation. She’s lived on that road, and in that house for over 20 years. She’s a considerate soul, which is more than can be said of you!

Disgusted (formerly) of Devon – Ottery St. Mary.


All this talk of convents has got me thinking. I don’t think that I ever got round to writing a proper reflection on my time in the (not the one on the telly) convent. I wondered if people thought this would be worth reading. It’s two years, almost, since I left so I have had plenty of time to think.

Also, prayers would be appreciated for my grandad who is particularly weak and frail at the moment. I get the impression that folks at home are worried. It’s also a year since he had his stroke and it is almost time for my sister and nanny’s birthdays too and it would be nice if they could celebrate without worrying about Grandad so much.


Nice things

I’ve been on holiday from w*rk this week. Normally when I’m on holiday I can’t forget about w*rk and end up thinking about it all week no matter how hard I try. This week has been different though. I went down to Devon to see the tar barrels (see below) and they were great but I was still really sad and was in bed by 23.30 despite the last barrel not being run until midnight. My sister said it was mad as the square (town centre) was so full. She almost got squashed by the barrel and that’s not normal – even by tar barrel standards.

On the Sunday we just took it easy but it was nice to spend time with mum and my sister, well, mostly. On Monday my grandparents moved into mum’s house at the start of a 2-3 week stay. They’re having a new bathroom fitted as grandad is not mobile enough to cope with the current one. Also the old one is a fairly unique shade of vivid but not pleasant pink. It’ll be great when it’s done. Mum wasn’t well enough to go to school that day so all five of us got to spend some time together then we had a bonfire in the evening, complete with sparklers. It was really nice.

On Tuesday I spent the day with nandad and made them lunch which was something of a shock. I was supposed to come home that day but, for the first time in my memory, I decided that I’d had such a nice time that I stayed another night. On the whole, it was a really lovely time.

Wednesday was cool too – despite getting up at an unearthly hour of the morning. I met up with a couple of friends for lunch, did a little shopping then came home and did some painting. Okay, that makes it sound more exciting than it really was. I painted some canvasses in solid colours. There’s really nothing special about them other than that I painted them the colours they are now. I’ve not really painted in about 10 years so that was a surprise too. I’m also trying to extend my knitting repertoire as I can only do stocking stitch which makes me feel really crafty. Also something rather unusual.

All in all it’s been a really nice week with some lovely lie-ins, great opportunities to catch up with friends (it was also a friend’s birthday party tonight) and get to know some of them better, to do some crafts and generally chill out. It’s been really quite a good week.

Could do with more time though. I always say that I’ll sort my flat out during my holidays and never do.

A Stern telling off and Greenbelt (not related to each other)

Never Conforming, you are hopeless. You have successfully failed to go to the post office for more days that you care to remember and your poor WISE partner is waiting for her presents. It’s just not good enough. You must do it! I’m sure you can come up with a million and one (legitimate?) excuses but that really isn’t the point.

Anyway, I’ll post it. I will. I promise. I’m sorry.


Life appears to have been turned upside down lately. At the weekend I’m going to embark on my third trip to Devon in the last two months. I believe this to be somewhat excessive – when I was at uni, I tried not to go more than three times a year. I would really have appreciated some time with my flat as we have such a terrible relationship most of the time ;). It feels like I’m never here. I got in at 8.30ish tonight and that’s joint earliest I’ve got in for weeks. I know that if I go to the gym, cinema, friend’s, party etc that’s choice but even so. I really need to give my flat some time. Maybe then I’ll work out where all the giant spiders live and I can get rid of them. I have also met another person from my building and we got on very well. She’s a bit older than me – possibly by as much as 70 years but she’s great and I’ve been invited to pop in and see her which I’ll do. Sometime after I’ve been to the post box. :embarrassed:

What has been more productive is that I’ve written lots of a worship guide on the theme of HIV/AIDS which will be produced later in the year. (I’ll link to it when it goes online, yes it’s got my real name in it but I’m not the only writer and what’s privacy anyway(?!)). I’ve also been to the gym twice!! I meant to go today too but didn’t get round to it. I’m not convinced that it’s a great plan to have R n B in the background. It’s one of very few types of music that is really distracting and annoying. What’s wrong with a good bit of Kerrang! style music? 😉 Apparently, what I need is an MP3 player. Anyway, getting back to what I’ve done. I’ve also been involved in planning some events for Greenbelt. If you’re really unlucky I might tell you about them too…

I’m really beginning to get quite excited about Greenbelt, even if I’m a little nervous too. It will be the first time I will have officially worked for it and there will definitely be more to do – a stall in The Pulse and two workshops (not on my own). I went through the online programme today and I think it sounds like there will be some interesting talks and other sessions. On the last two occasions I’ve been it never occurred to me to look at the programme beforehand, so I was inevitably blinded by science (and ignorance) so decided to do not a lot. This time I have bigger plans. Despite this, I’m sure I’ll end up spending a lot of time in the Tiny Tea Tent contemplating what I’m missing. I’m now trying to work out what to take. I know it’s unrealistic to take some things like a camping stove because I just won’t use it – however good my intentions. I’d better write a list sooner rather than later too. I need to keep the amount of junk to a minimum as I’ll be sharing a lift with other people. This year I also need to take a tent that’s bigger than me. Last year I took the wrong one – one designed for children that was not actually big enough for me to fit in except in a very strange position that I certainly couldn’t have slept in. It also collapsed after the first night. Thank goodness for friends who were good enough to lend me the spare wing of their tent. I think I’ll deal with all that when I get back from Devon though. Sorting things out a month in advance would probably be a good plan, but would also be somewhat daft.

Anyway, I’d better get some sleep otherwise I’ll forget to go to the post office again. 🙁

Has it really been that long?

It’s hard to believe that it’s two weeks today since Grandad went in to hospital. So much has changed and so much hasn’t.

Grandad had a stroke that has primarily affected his memory and has now been move to the rehabilitation unit for people who have had strokes. He is still very confused and feels fine so when he’s aware he’s in hospital wants to escape. He has also been looking for the family under the bed and things like that. At other times he seems really with it and understands what has happened.
Both my uncles arrived with my grandparents safely and have subsequently returned home. It was really good to have them all together. Mum and her brothers realised they hadn’t been together, just the three of them, in the whole of their adult lives! That in itself was a good thing. They’ve discussed the future and have many ideas about how they could possibly progress depending on what Grandad needs. Nanny is trying to be prepared for a number of option too. She and mum went to look at a new house this week so they could (Mum, my sister and Nandad) all live together but both decided this is too soon as we don’t know what Grandad will need next.
It was nice to actually be able to get to know my uncles a bit better too. I had some really nice chats with both of them while I was at home and one of them dropped me back at my flat on the way past. It meant I could have a new duvet from nanny. She has a spare double duvet and mine’s really quite cheap so I’m going to swop them over. Yeah for me.

Anyway, this is one of my two days off this week. Yesterday I went to the nuns and it was great but today I have far more mundane things to do like unblock the bath – Arti’s cunning method doesn’t work here. 🙁 I also need to write to a friend from uni who’s going to do a Camp America type thing and I meant to write to her ages ago.

I also need to try and find a cheque. Lots to do and the idea of going back to sleep is just sooooooooo tempting. 😉