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- Page 5

  • Downtime

    Today has been busy but fun - morning coffee with a friend, who had baked peanut butter cookies specially and then home to bake another large batch of cupcakes - two dozen to go with me tomorrow to meet some friends, and a dozen to go with me on Saturday to my Mum's (the latter being kept in the fridge).  Lots of train rides through lots of familiar stations, some new people to meet, lots of laughter and food and friendship to be shared.

    So, a week of mostly downtime - which feels rather good.


    Some of the cakes going tomorrow - apart from the choc ones, those for the weekend have totally different decoration even though the flavours are the same..

  • In Suburbia...

    Today's church visit took me west along the A82 into suburbia and a lovely little Baptist chapel that stands practically on a crossroads. 

    I enjoyed my visit, which seemed to combine some blasts from the past (cannot recall quite when I was last in a church when one Deacon did the 'prayer for the bread' and another the 'prayer for the wine') with some contemporary aspects (nothing that was sung was more than a decade old, and some considerably less).  We were welcomed and gathered with scripture and prayer before singing a couple of songs back-to-back.  I was surprised, given the large number of young children, that there was no 'all age bit' and they seemed rather restless until they left for Sunday School, but it was lovely to see so many children.  The Bible readings to which the sermon referred were pretty scant - three verses from a psalm and three from an epistle (less than had been used in the call to worship) - and, for my preferences, the sermon overly consisted of anecdotes and illustrations.  The message - about cultivating sincere gratitude to God, and that this should inform our entire lives - was a good one; I'm just not convinved it justified forty minutes.  Communion was simple and quite meaningful, though one of the deacons' prayers showed they had no idea what they were about (note to self - what do I assume that people know when I ask them to do things in worship?).  Alas, as is so often the case intercessory prayer was conspicuous by its absence - not even any 'inward looking' prayer.

    Post service refreshments were served in a bright hall as far from the santuary as the building permits - that had a degree of inevitability, but did mean you had to be determined to get there.  To add to the complexity, the kitchen was even further away so the coffee and tea had to be transported on a trolley - all credit to the people who make this happen week in and week out.  The tea was OK and there was a good choice of biscuits and cakes (so long as you liked/could eat chocolate).  The Ship of Fools 'standing around looking lost' trick was very revealing - I was left on my own studying a noticeboard before one of only two people to speak to me invited me to join her outside in the sunshine (and we had a nice chat).  It was not that people were unfriendly, it was just that they were too ycatching up with their friends.  Given the size of the congregation, I was hardly invisible so it did make me wonder how a 'real' visitor might have felt (one of the people who spoke to me already had a good idea who I was!)

    I think there is a difference between suburban churches and rural or urban ones.  I have a suspicion that the 'dormitory' nature of suburbs can rub off on to the 'character' of congregations.

    So, once again, lots of good stuff to ponder, and overall a happy experience.  

    My one real gripe lay with the final sermon illustration used by the visiting preacher.  He began to recount the example of a woman who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, and I knew where it was headed... her graceful acceptance of her lot, and her assurance the night before she died that she had a real sense of peace.  Good.  I am glad... but this kind of story, to me, if a bit like the more 'dramamtic' conversion stories becuase it centres on 'extremes'.  It also puts a lot of pressure on other Christians to do likewise...  I remember visiting a lady, a stalwart of the 'chapel' who was diagnsoed too late with either thyroid or oesophogeal cancer; which it was, is not relevant.  Her faith was not thwarted, but her anger and sense of injustice were very real: "what have I done to deserve this?" she asked me.  In the end, she did die peacefully, and did find a sense of accpetance if not resolution.  Let's avoid making it all too neat, Christians are people too, and anyway, I don't recall Jesus having much peace the night before his death....

    Next weekend I will be away visiting family, so probably not in church. 

    Whilst it is nice to arrive ten minutes before worship begins and have no responsibilities, it would be very easy to become rootless and adrift without the 'anchor' or 'harbour' of a regualr community of faith, so I know that by the time I return to work in October, I will be ready to be first in and last out once more!

  • For Interest (maybe)

    Yesterday when I was at the haridresser, he told me that he had now completed training with Trevor Sorbie's 'My New Hair' programme which means he is recongised as being competent to offer advice and hair-care for women affected by cancer-related hairloss, and post treament re-growth.  It's no secret that, for me, hairdressers are ranked alongside dentists as 'scary places', and even now I am very particular about who I let near my hair.

    Wind the clock back nearly three years, and he was very kind to the gibbering wreck who had come to get her very long cut before starting chemo, and did give me a really good cut (even if it lasted about ten days once chemo began!).  He was the one who shaved off the hair that survived the original fall, and who gave advice on suitable wigs, as well as trimming the one I chose (even if I only wore it once as I could not bear the itching).  And it was him who snipped off my crazy chemo curls (which I had thoroughly enjoyed for a full year) and took care of the transition to (almost) straight hair once more.  Trust is important, and I feel I do trust him - he knows what I will and won't let him do, and he never tries to pressurise me.

    So, because I know that people land on here looking for cancer info, even after all this time, and because I am sure I'm not the only person who is hairdresser-phobic, I am adding this scan of an article in a local magazine advertsing his salon, which has now been approved as an NHS wig supplier for this part of Glasgow.  (I realise it's not everso legible but could be copied and 'stretched' if someone wanted to read it)


  • Just an Overgrown Village

    Today I ventured into the West End as I desperately needed a hair-cut - the shaggy sheepdog look is not good!  So, suitably tidied up now (see photo!) at least for a while.

    Because the hairdresser is so close to church, I chose a route carefully to avoid passing it - but still manged to see no less than four people from church (of whom two saw me as I happened to follow them into a coffee shop).  All of which goes to prove that cities are just overgrown villages.

    A nice day chilling and catching up with a friend in the afternoon.  Gentle weekend in prospect too.

  • Art and Artefacts

    I tried to think of a clever title for this post - and failed.  I had a good time at the St Mungo musuem followed by a lovely wander in the necropolis in the rain!!

    There is a delightful temporary exhibition of photographs from Birmingham (which can be viewed on line here) which I enjoyed perusing.  Whilst some of the images almost seem to suggest a byegone age (look at the wall paper!) there is an endearing ordinariness about them, and they offer a happy insight into mutli-racial, multi-faith Britain at a time when we hear too much about what is ugly and sad.

    In the first floor exhibition area are two beautiful paintings.  One is Ahmed Moustafa's The Attributes of Divine Perfection (here) the other a Peter Howson crucifixion (here).  Both repaid time spent with them, and the crucifixion (or is it a resurrection - even the artist is unsure!) could be viewed from different levels, which was a bonus.

    Wandering the necropolis, I was struck as ever by the mix of pretension and piety, the mawkish and maudlin... here the great and good (allegedly) are buried or have huge memorials towering over the city.  And here too, right against the fence next to the brewery, hidden under a tree, is a small memorial stone that says 'Baby, 1900'.  Here are recorded the names of powerful men and their 'relicts' (widows) and the tragedy of a couple whose five children who died, one at 11 the same day as her year old brother and three more within a year of their birth, before the father died in his forties... and who knows what happened to the mother, not listed.  Enormous stone edifices and crumbling ornate mcok temples with scrub-trees growing from their rooves (roofs? when did the spelling change to the latter), and black marble hearts of more recent times via a somewhat bizarre memorial to the grand masters of a masonic lodge (were there really five unrelated men in this grave?).  Longevity and infant mortality, tragedy and attempts at imortality.  And somewhere in the midst of it all the mildly ridiculous, but somehow utterly appropriate, stone angel holding a plastic flower (here).

    No great (or small) pearls of wisdom, just the bizarre blend of beauty and banality that characterise relgious art and artefacts.