Just another Manic Monday

I was (as predicted) woken by Mr FD slamming the front door. I lingered in bed until my alarm rang, 15 minutes later, by which time cats had been galumphing around the house with ever increasing urgency!

So shower, cat feeding, putting washing in the machine and breakfast followed in swift succession. Coffee, orange juice, toast-and-marmalade: almost always the same (with a variation of toast-and-banana from time to time). Over breakfast I completed Wordle, checked FB and read The Guardian online. I hung out the washing and then scoted upstairs for my online lesson.

This student is a pleasure to teach: a good level (though with a strong Venezualan accent) and happy to talk and eager to learn. The hour just whizzes by. Then, with a fresh cup of coffee, I wrote up her lesson summary to send, and found an article on the British higher education system for her – she’d requested it. Next it was sending the school planning to the teachers…and also writing to the training organisation with whom I’m working to ask if they would pay travel costs for the lessons with my new student. They’ve agreed a fixed amount, which, although it doesn’t cover all the costs, is much better than a poke in the eye.

Lunch was a sandwich, tortilla chips, a nut bar and an apple. I’ll take some dried fruit and a banana with me when I go to Montbrison, just in case I get hungry later on. I watched an episode of “Silent Witness” over lunch, and then prepared the beanburgers for tonight’s meal. We’re going to have them with coleslaw and salad and wraps, so there’s not too much cooking for Mr FD to do. He’s perfectly capable, but will have worked a full day, so I want to make it relatively easy for him.

I forgot to say that yesterday I fed the Poor Cats of the village too. Here are two of them. The first I’ve called Bi-bi (Pronounced Bee-Bee) after the ginger cat someone I knew had. This one appears occasionally; we’re not sure if he’s a stray or an opportunist. He’s in quite good nick. The other I’ve called Benni. She’s ever so friendly. Again in quite good condition, but Marie Odile, who feeds them with me & knows more about the cats than I do, is sure she’s a stray. I’d like to take Benni in, but Mr FD and Three Cats say “Non”.

Bi-bi tucks in. Shortly after, a regular visitor, called Toute Noire, because she is all black, arrived to share the food.
Benni plays at being aloof – for a second or two!
I insist you stroke me NOW!

So, all was going well and I set off for my lesson…about 5 minutes from home, I saw a dead cat in the road. As I swerved around the body, I saw it move! The cat was alive! I stopped the car and went to pick it up…and saw next to the cat a tiny kitten! I loaded both into the car, abandoned my lesson (I did contact the student, I hasten to add) and drove to the Vets. Sadly by the time I got there, Mama cat had died. The vet gave me some kitten formula and voila! Unless I found the owner, I had gained a kitten.

I went back to the place where I’d found them and asked at the houses. Fairly quickly I found the owner who couldn’t care less about the dead mother. He didn’t want the kitten, and said “I’ll give it to you”. I thought that it wouldn’t have a chance if I left it there, so the kitten came home with me. I’m only sorry that I know that somewhere there are probably Lucky Jim’s siblings who won’t have survived, but I can’t do anything about them. Very sad face.

During the evening both Mr FD and I tried to get Lucky Jim (it’s a boy) to feed but he wasn’t really interested. The other cats kept their distance, except Bib who came and hissed some very rude words. But we brushed him with a toothbrush, to simulate his mum’s tongue, which he seemed to like, and gave him lots of love. Though I’m trying hard not to get too attached, as I’m only too aware there’s a long way to go.

We did watch some TV but quite frankly I can’t remember what! Set my alarm for two hourly intervals – I’ve not had children, but I suspect I may get an idea of what nightly feeds are all about!

Meet Lucky Jim

Sunday doings

Because we have lost our Priest in Charge, I’m doing more preaching & leading services. Which is fine. But it’s a long way to Clermont, so I don’t want to do it every week. This week was a week off, after two weeks on. If you should want to read any of my sermons, you can find them over here.

Today I woke up a bit stiff and sore after yesterday – I’m not used to physical exercise! I had planned to tidy the courtyard, but I felt too sore to take any pleasure in the idea. So I decided not to. Mr FD did little jobs like making bread and taking the recycling to the skips, and then watched the Giro d’Italia. I did little jobs like hanging the washing on the balcony, sorting out other bits of laundry, and then being surprised at how quickly the washing on the balcony had dried, and bringing it in again!

Then I painted more pebbles (see yesterday) and wrote my blog. Lunch ( a cheese, chorizo & salad sandwich, some tortilla chips, a mini Twix (or two) and an apple) was partaken of in the sun on the balcony, until it got too hot. I came in and put a Moroccan Lamb Casserole in the slow cooker for tonight. It’s the first time I’ve cooked with preserved lemons…Having used one, I now have a jar full to use up. Does anyone have any recipes?! (Actually, having looked on the BBC Good Food site, I’ve found quite a few. Stop panicking now.)

After lunch I thought about attempting to conquer the mountain that is my ironing pile – Mr FD did his yesterday, but I’ll probably put mine off until I’ve run out of tops to wear. Spring/summer means I can’t get away with wearing tops twice, as I “glow” *quite a lot. Also my Spring/Summer tops are not fleeces that don’t require ironing (or shirts that hide under pullovers & don’t require ironing!) However thinking was as far as it got!!

*As the old adage goes, Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow.

Here are some photos of the balcony after yesterday’s ministrations

The hanging basket trellis – contains some artificial & some real plants.

Looking at the plants over the edge. The pot of grass is Jasper’s “Pussy Grass”.

Jasper loves his “Pussy Grass” – he will sit at the door, knocking on the cat flap to be let onto the balcony (He can get through it perfectly well!) Then he runs to the Grass and meeows, until we relent and give him a stalk or two. If I put it where he can reach it, he will just gorge on it. And then vomit copiously. However, this morning I noted that he has found a way of reaching the grass by himself. It will have to be moved! The pigeon spikes are to attempt to deter cats from walking on the balcony rail; they are moderately successful.

Jasper guards the tomato plants. The trellis is to stop him, or the other two cats, eating the plants or using them as an alternative litter tray.
The tomato plants (already with a tiny cherry tomato!)

I caught up on “The Great British Sewing Bee” – I’m not a sewer, but would quite like to be (maybe when I retire!) but I enjoy the series. It’s got the same homely, friendly feel as Bake Off. Yes, the participants are competing against each other, but they help each other out, or give advice too. After Sewing Bee I decided to get ahead of myself, so I finished off my planning and preparation for school next week. Even thougfh I’m not in school until Friday, I have to send the planning to teachers on Monday, so I need to get organised as much as possible. And tomorrow I’m starting with a new student – she has a 2 hour lesson, AND it’s a 45 minute drive there and back, so that’s a big chunk of Monday gone!

Afterwards we had Mr FD’s family catch up on Zoom. This started during Covid and has continued. As Mr FD’s sister is Canada, it has been a good opportunity to see her more, and to speak to her, as Mr FD rarely phoned her before. The nephews and nieces sometimes join us, as does Mr FD’s cousin, who is Australian, but lives & works in the UK. We rarely have anything terribly exciting to talk about, as our lives are boringly mundane, but it’s good to see everyone.

The Moroccan Chicken was delicious! The recipe said to serve with rice/ cous cous, but as I had some cooked potatoes in the fridge I tipped those in the slow cooker to warm through, and we had mange tout with the meal. I also added the dregs of a bottle of mead that I had hanging round the kitchen. We’d been given it at Christmas, and I used most of the bottle in a Chicken cooked with Mead recipe. But there was about 100 ml left over. As the lamb dish had honey in it, I thought the mead would simply enhance the flavour; I don’t know if it added to the dish, but it certainly didn’t make things worse! My dessert was a couple of handfuls of nuts and raisins.

Another episode of our Scandi-drama, Beck, and bedtime. A fairly early night (10.15) as Mr FD is in the office tomorrow, which means he leaves the house at 7.00. Usually his slamming the front door wakes me up. If not, the cats (who haven’t been fed) will start getting antsy by about 7.15, and they start walking over me demanding food.

Fat Dormouse and the Bees

I mentioned that Bonjour World have beehives on the roof top – this is thanks to this company ApiAuvergne. You pay for the “rental” of the hives, bees & upkeep, which entitles you to honey from “your” hives. At our last training day, we had the opportunity to go onto the roof and to visit the hives – but we had to wear proper beekeepers equipment, so we didn’t get stung.

I don’t think this is me (I don’t recognise those sandals as mine!) but I probably looked remarkably similar – though maybe not as slim.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. And What I did on Saturday.

I really have been AWOL, haven’t I? Just because. I have felt I have little to say…But reading other blogs, I notice that there are those who just talk about their every day lives, and whatever comes up in relation to that…So I thought I’d do that, and see how it goes.

So, yesterday, Saturday, I got up quite late – I’m always tired on Friday, after teaching in school, and relish a 10 hour sleep! After breakfast, I knew that it was tidying the balcony day: I’d bought 40€ worth of plants in the market on Thursday. Mostly flowering plants, but also three tomato plants, two courgette and two butternut squash. Last year we planted the veggie plants in the courtyard and the next day they had been eaten by the slugs and snails. So this year we’re trying them on the balcony, in the hope the slugs can’t climb up that far!!

The balcony looked a complete mess before I started – having been left to its own devices over the winter. So I set to work, and after three hours I felt quite satisfied with what had been achieved. Notice the dead tomato plants, the tatty scratching pole, the freezer bag (?)

Looking one way, towards the school.
Looking the other way towards the square.

It looks much better now, with the planters filled and the crap organised. Or thrown away. Photos will follow. I had my lunch out there, but it is very hot during the morning. It’s more a place for evening aperos, with a view over the public toilets (!) and the cemetary.

It’s great that the swifts are back. I read an article in the Guardian about leaving water out, or “mud pies” to help them build their nests in the hot weather. There’s nowhere to do that in our courtyard I’m afraid. I refilled the bird feeders with seed though. (Not for the swifts) I rarely see birds on them but the seed disappears!

In the afternoon I pootled – I painted some pebbles, I got up to date with my walking journal, I read a bit. Nothing world shattering. The pebble painting is for Convention this year. Our church is hosting Convention, and every year, the delegates are given a bag with a few tourist brochures, maps, a pad, a pen, something about the church, sometimes something local, like sweets…We thought it would be nice to add something else, and I was asked to paint some pebbles (I’d done it as part of a sermon earlier in the year). So I’m in the enjoyable process of painting at least 70 pebbles. I’m really enjoying it, so I’m probably going to do more, to allow for extras for people to take if they wish. Also, I asked the language school I work for if they could give us something…they gave us little jars of honey from the hives on the roof of the language school! Brilliant! We’re going to have distinctly original Delegate bags!

My walking has been very minimal recently. After shingles, and Covid I haven’t managed to get into the groove again. I’m still doing about 20-30 km just pottering, walking to feed the Poor Cats, shopping, school, etc, but it’s not “proper” walking. Mr FD has had gout, followed by a foot infection, which has stopped him from walking and dragging me with him, so I’m not very proud of my walking, really. Having said that, I’ve still done 450 miles so far this year, so I should manage 1,000 miles in the year, barring disasters.

An apple tree in blossom, passed on one of the few walks completed recently.

Our evening meal was chicken souvlaki – chicken breast, marinaded in oil, lemon juice, mint, herbs and a bit of chilli – with salad and chips. And tzatziki. It was very nice, especially as it was hot! We had a beer between us as well. I had an apple and chocolate biscuit for dessert. We finished the day watching “Beck”, a scandi detective series on TV.

Jesus Alive!

This is an album that I bought when I was at college some 40 years ago…and I still love it. This suite of songs really touches me, particularly the section sung by Mary, Mother of Jesus: “My heart begins to understand” …How she must have wondered what her son’s suffering was about, and then she starts to realise that her Jesus was in fact the Son of the World….

The finale also has a great sense of triumph, of rejoicing, of realisation. Perfect for this Easter Sunday. God has come among us

Mary Magdalene

Brothers, I have seen the Lord, I have seen a new day rise

Friends, I have seen the Lord, I have seen the sun in his eyes, in his eyes

Awake, I have seen the Lord, I have seen the night-time die

Peace, I have seen the Lord, He is the life that will never die, never die

Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive!

Rejoice, we have seen the Lord, God has come among us

Praise, we have seen the Lord; God’s face now shines upon us, shines on us.

Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive!

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Risen with the sun as the early flowers open

You’re coming home your voice is clear now

My heart begins to understand-

Son of the world.

Son of the world, you love so dearly Love so deep breaks open a new day

I find you close to my heart and walking by me

I meet you in your waking people

I live on in your living word-

Son of the world.

I have seen the Lord: Jesus is alive!

I have seen the Lord: Jesus is alive!

I have seen the Lord: Jesus is alive!

The Plague has Struck.

First shingles…then a bad cold…then Covid. What a healthy month I’m having of it!!

Unless my bad cold was actually Covid, although the PCR test seemed to show it wasn’t (I guess the tail end of the anti viral drugs for shingles may have masked it) Mr FD tested himself on Tuesday, and was positive, so either one of us could have brought it home. Him from the office, me from that woman hacking away in the Medical Centre – or anyone else. Who knows. Anyway, I’ve had bad cold symptoms, MrFD has a really sore throat, and I’ve noticed I’m not tasting things quite as strongly as I should – but I thought I’d just been eating too many Gom’s (rather moreish jelly sweets) And can I just point out that the apostrophe is not my error. They really are called Gom’s. Which offends my Grammar Police sensibilities quite a lot (but not enough to stop eating them!!)

Happily I went shopping on Wednesday before I got tested so we have a week’s worth of food in the house, which is fortunate. Although possibly a little irresponsible of me. Still, done now.

So we are both confined to quarters. I am sad because it means I miss our Priest in Charge’s last service at Christ Church. Susan is returning to the states, feeling that she cannot continue with us – her recent illness and all the treatments has meant she is unable to do what she had hoped. So we are facing another interregnum. I will be able to join by Zoom but it’s not the same. AND it’s Easter Sunday. Oh well; it is what it is.

Nailed to the Cross

When I stand accused by my regrets

And the Devil roars his empty threats

I will preach the gospel to myself

That I am not a man condemned

For Jesus Christ is my defence

My sin is nailed to the cross

My soul is healed by the scars

The weight of guilt I bear no more

Praise the Lord Praise the Lord

When my doubt and shame hang over me

Like the arrows of the enemy

I will run again to Calvary

That rugged hill of Hell’s defeat

My fortress and my victory

My sin is nailed to the cross

My soul is healed by the scars

Now I’m alive forevermore

Praise the Lord Praise the Lord

It is finished Sin is vanquished

Hallelujah praise the Lord

All the glory All the honour

To my Saviour Christ the Lord

When I stand before the throne at last

His blood will plead my innocence

I will worship Him with holy hands

And raise the song that never ends

Of Jesus Christ, my righteousness

A night reflection for Maundy Thursday

Jesus arrested, judged, found guilty and condemned to die
is held captive overnight.

If I were arrested and held this night what would I be found guilty of?

That I made friends with people irrespective of their colour, creed or class….
That I shared my bread with the poor….
That my words… and actions… brought healing and forgiveness….
That I made justice and didn’t count the cost ….
That I sought the truth and then spoke of it….
That I recognised my neighbour and loved them as my very self…
That I met God along the way in the healing and forgiveness I received….
That I accepted hospitality at many different tables….
That I was changed by the lives of others….
…. and often repented my arrogance and foolishness
in encountering their wisdom …
That friends and strangers sometimes paid the price for me….

That I never sought out suffering…
….. but journeyed with it to the best of my ability…
That the love of those about me taught me to love myself before God…

You call us out of brokenness
to mend and remake your creation.
Grant us the courage to stay
with all those who are held captive this night.
In the name of Jesus who is good news, Amen.

By Pat Pierce, CAFOD

It’s A Mystery…

Over at Tracing Rainbows, Ang mentioned that Saltmine Theatre Company are performing a Passion Mystery Play in Norwich. It reminded me of a rich and rewarding time that I had when we lived in Milton Keynes.

Shortly after we arrived, I heard on the grapevine that Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company were planning a series of performances of Tony Harrison’s Mystery Plays, directed by Roy Nevitt and produced by Roger Kitchen of The Living Archive. The three play cycle was performed over two years in 1988 and 1989, and played to packed audiences. Original music was provided by the Cock and Bull Band, led by Jean-Pierre Rasle. The Nativity, was performed at Christmas, The Passion at Easter and Doomsday the following December.

I decided to join the group, and ironically was cast as Rita, in Willy Russell’s “Educating Rita” – which meant that I wan’t able to rehearse for Nativity. Instead I worked as stage crew on this production. However, nothing was going to stop me being involved in the next two productions. It was an intense time – we performed over ten nights, and of course, as a full time teacher I was often found marking during rehearsals, or even backstage during performances. These productions were spectacular – Roy was a visionary director. I remember that the set for Doomsday included a giant wheel, which, during the performance, was turned, with actors writhing and twisting as souls in hell…I played Beelzebub in that production, with Satan driving a road cleaning truck (yes, really!) as I danced alongside…

The shadow of the wheel cast on the back wall

Another memory I have of the Passion performances is the preparation of theactors playing the Roman soldiers who took Jesus to the cross…The four of them would go into an empty room before they had to play their parts: I don’t know what they did in there, but they went in as our friends and colleagues, and came out as four vicious brutes. I remember joking with one of them, a good friend, as he came out of the dressing room, and he just stared straight through me and pushed me out of the way. Quite chilling…

These were spectacular and very moving productions…but they were in a theatre and a little more (of course!) “staged”. Other Mystery plays I was involved with included ones in the Church of Christ the Cornerstone (the ecumenical “cathedral church” of MK) where I shared the role of the woman taken in adultery with another woman, who became a good friend. Also I was involved in the Mysteries for Newpôrt Pagnell – this link takes you to a page where you can see me as Mrs Noah, and her ribald friends, mocking Noah as he builds the Ark. There is a link to other photos, including me as Cain, receiving the curse of God, as a King (looking very concerned about the baby’s welfare…!), and as Mary (or Martha) as Lazarus is raised from the dead.

These were performed in the open air – more like the original Mysteries, I suppose – in various locations around some public gardens in Newport Pagnell. The Passion was performed as a separate entity at Easter, processing from the gardens, down the High Street, to the URC church, where there was a courtyard used for the crucifixion. Then back to the gardens for the Resurrection. Here’s the plan for the production:

Due to teaching commitments, I couldn’t really take a big part in the Passion production at Easter, but I was a weeping woman – and being anonymous, with nothing to say, was actually quite involving…I was able to feel a part of the event, without worrying about cues, and words to remember. I felt “part” of the event. And I was weeping genuine tears by the end.

And another photo from Dennis Potter’s “Son of Man” – a totally different take on the Passion. Potter’s work focuses on Jesus’s message of universal love, but eschews any mention of miracles or the resurrection. Potter’s Jesus believes that people should try to love their enemies rather than fight all the time, but is racked by self-doubt as to whether or not he is the popularly-anticipated Messiah. In one of the play’s most oft-cited moments, Jesus examines an upright cross recently used for crucifixion, admires the quality of its timber, and sighs, “You should have stayed a tree, and I should have stayed a carpenter.”

There was no resurrection scene in this play, but, if I remember, the director, Keith, himself a URC minister, certainly hinted at something “more” through the lighting. Another emotional production to be involved with.

I do miss the theatre, especially performing, but also watching…Maybe (when I’m retired) I’ll try to do something with church. A Mystery Play for Clermont Ferrand – that would be interesting. But with France’s laicity laws, probably wouldn’t be allowed. Sigh.