Acts N° 23 (2017) & 24: BOOST & DATE

So here we are again! The sun is shining today and it’s a good day. I wonder what the people in the supermarket thought yesterday as I sang and (sort of) danced around the vegetable section to “Happy”as it was played over the loudspeakers? It’s such a cheery (and ever-so-slightly annoying) song that I can’t help but join in!

My blogging friend Mags is encouraging me to send a video to 40 Acts about what I’ve been doing…It’s rather hard to make a video about a blog, blogs beoing a bit static! I tried to encourage Bib the cat to join in, but she was having none of it. Especially as I had roused her from her slumbers in her “safe place” away from Jasper, international cat of terror.

I will see if Jasper (I.C.O.T.) will join in with the fun later – he’s a good bet, as I made the mistake of showing him a screen with fish on it, and now he thinks that every screen is just for him with things to chase. Mr FD thought it charming, until Jasper insisted on trying to catch the ball on screen during the England match!

Anyway

ACT 23: BOOST

Most people don’t have a clue about their value. It’s true across the spectrum: culture tells men and women they’re only valuable if they look a certain way, upbringings leave people insecure, job prospects have many feeling down about their worth. These people are in your circles, too. How much longer can they go on not knowing their worth? It’s time to give them a boost.

Talk about them behind their back. This one can be done really simply and still have a huge impact. Tweet at them telling them something they’ve done that meant something to you, spotlight them in an Instagram post, or casually mention in conversation at work how brilliant another member of staff is. Easy but profound.

Put a word in. Maybe they’d be perfect for an upcoming position at work or in church. Maybe they’ve achieved something recently that deserves to be publicly talked up. If you can think of even the smallest reason why bragging about this person could lead to greater things, then don’t hold back.

It’s easy to spot ten ways your best mate is brilliant, but what about people you find difficult? What’s great about them? It’s easy to dig out the worst, but search for the gold. We guarantee you can find something. Take time to really consider them, and then be as brave and bold as possible, and let them (and those around them) know.

And the full meditation is over here

With work all day I didn’t have a lot of time (or imagination!) for this. But I did have time to send an email to a friend. I don’t know him that well, as it’s usually when Friend Cathy is here that we see Richard, as the two of them get on very well together, but he is an extraordinarily generous person, giving time, money, possessions away to those less fortunate than himself (or just to others), both here and in Africa. He has gone through tough times, but he is still open hearted.

He replied: that is so kind and I’m very touched. I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have been guided by good people. Out of my early religious experiences, I brought a principle that I’ve tried to stick with, based on the parable of the Good Samaritan – ‘we can’t keep crossing over’. 

You won’t feel embarrassed next time we meet.  I’ll refuse to carry your heavy bag or fail to open a door for you, and you’ll have cause to regret your kind words!

I know that the lovely things people write on my blog (Mags, especially, I’m looking at you!) touch me, and boost my well being, however undeserved they feel,  so I hope this has done the same for Richard.

ACT 24: DATE

Lots of us – especially as we grow into adulthood – struggle making acquaintances into friendships. Building relationships takes time and effort. Today, put aside your busyness and agendas, and make the effort to cultivate an acquaintance.

Bring something nice in for whoever you’re with today – whether that’s in the office, gym, college, or school run. If you’re not going out, make a plan so that you’re ready for the next time you do.

Invite a slight acquaintance for coffee/to watch the match at your local/for a walk – whatever works for them. Don’t leave it vague – make a date!

Make a date with the neighbours. Make it worth their time coming over. Don’t scrimp on effort – give your best.

And the meditatrion? It’s here

Hmm. Not sure…

The only real “acquaintances” I have here are people like students, and the office staff I meet. Other people are friends…I have already overloaded most casual acquaintances with chocolate, so I think they’d think I was mad to bring something else in.

So I think the best way I can fulfil this challenge is to hold it off until next Friday, when I will go into the language school where I work and take in some biscuits or other goodies. When I’m teaching there, I often fancy a biscuit with my coffee, and there aren’t any, so I’ll buy a supply to go in the cupboard.

And there is one person who I have been meaning to meet up with, who has a weekend house near here – I will contact her and make a date when I can visit her (or she can visit me!) It’s nothing much, and it’s hardly a challenge, but it’s a start!

UPDATE

Jasper (ICOT) – here seen savaging his toy Nellyfant – also wouldn’t play ball over the video, and sank his teeth into my arm to show his displeasure at being involved. The fact my mobile phone casts a pink glow over everything that I’m filming also makes me think that this is a bit of a non-starter.

 

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A Pause in Lent N°4: The Vision

Hello everyone. As you know (probably) I’m blogging about 40 Acts, but also joining in with Ang (at Tracing Rainbows) and other bloggers to blog about thoughts in Lent.

This year I have been sharing poems found on the internet that help to sum up my thoughts. Today’s is long but powerful,  coming from a “Links we Love” from 40 Acts.

The video of the poem is here:

and you can read the words, and a little of the story, on this page

The words that stand out most for me, and which are starting to impinge on my conciousness – just a tiny bit…I somehow think this is the area where God is prodding me this 40 Acts – are these:

they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them.

These words are originally from St Augustine  –  although he used the word “work” instead of “live”. I think I prefer it using live, as this indicates one’s whole life is dedicated to God.

But for me the focus is on the first part…I’m not saying I live my life as God would have it, not by any stretch of the imagination ; but I know that I definitely don’t pray as God wants. I need to explore this more, and find out what, how, when I should pray.

Any ideas?

 

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Act N° 21 (2017) & 22: Refuge & Origins

Hello dear Readers, I hope you are all well. I am thankful for emergency doctor’s appointments today – yesterday I could hardly walk because of the pain from the eczema on my feet, and when I went to the pharmacy the woman there was shocked by the state of my feet, and  told me to get to a doctor as soon as possible. So I did. And he prescribed various potions. He thinks that it is an allergy to synthetic socks, and/or something in the curing process of my leather boots, which I have been wearing fairly consistently through the winter. I am tending to agree with him, as I had already started to wonder if there was a correlation. So I think I’ll be giving all my synthetic socks to my friends son, whose feet are the same size as mine, wearing my boots less often (I’m not stopping! I like them too much!) and possibly buying a pair of expensive leather shoes, assuming that they will be better! It is possible to get a reduction on specific shoes if you have a prescription from your doctor – while they are not particularly attractive shoes, it might be worth considering.

ANYWAY – you haven’t come here to hear about my foot woes, have you?!

So where are we with 40 Acts?

Well, recently the challenges have become a tad more “cerebral” and less “active” – which doesn’t really suit me. I don’t “do” thinking! I admitted my reluctance to pray, which is something I really need to address, I think, but I’m not sure how. Or when.

But this next one, N° 21, REFUGE is an “active” challenge, but, for all that, is another one which makes me shift a little uncomfortably in my seat. I fear God might be preparing me for something that I’m not necessarily that willing to do.

The prompt reads: It’s not exaggerating to say the world today is a divided, polarised place. Attitudes to the ‘other’ and, frankly, anything outside of our own culture, have shifted positions of fear into the mainstream. Now is the time to counter fear with generosity and ask the question – who is our neighbour?

Sometimes the most generous thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issues. Take time today to look into which newspapers spread fear about refugees, then write to the companies who advertise in them (major supermarkets are a good place to start), asking them to remove their funding from the papers. You could also do your own research into migrant groups in your area.

Make a practical difference today for those seeking refuge. Men, this is your time for a clear-out (groups supporting refugees often report low numbers of good quality men’s clothes). Or regularly donate tinned and dried food to those helping destitute asylum seekers or check out Welcome Boxes, a group who make arriving in a foreign land a little bit easier for refugees.

Can you play a bigger role in reaching out and caring for asylum seekers and refugees who are far away from home? You might be just the person to set up a new Welcome Box project in your town, or offer help to Home for Good’s work with refugee children, or support one of the many excellent The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) member projects providing hosting and homes for asylum seekers left destitute and with no recourse to public funding in the UK (www.naccom.org.uk).

You can read the full  meditation over here

(Sorry if you’re getting fed up of Lol Cats!)

So what am I doing about this Challenge?

First, I’m going to get more involved in the Stop Funding Hate campaign. I tend to scroll past their FB posts – no more.

Secondly – and here’s the stumbling block – I have recently found out that there is a Welcome Centre for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors in Roanne – catering for young people displaced whren the refugee camp in Calais was dismantled. It isn’t exactly “local” to us, being some 20 miles away, but it’s there. And I now know about it. I still haven’t found out exactly where it is, but being aware of its existence means that someone is starting to prod me ever-so slightly…What are you going to do about it, Fat Dormouse? How are you going to get involved?

And I am looking sideways and trying to escape the prods…

****

But now I can breathe a sigh of relief about the next Challenge… Or can I?

Surprisingly, Mother’s Day started off as something completely unrelated to mums. If you trace it back, Mothering Sunday was originally the one day in the year when house servants were allowed to return home to their ‘mother’ church, and spend time with their own community. So on Mother’s Day this year, let’s take time to be generous to people we’ve overlooked in our community.

Let’s acknowledge the mothers in our lives, but why not push the boat out more than usual this weekend? No more garage forecourt flowers or hastily scribbled cards. But, let’s also be more mindful of those near us who might be overlooked today. Those who’ll find this weekend hard for a variety of reasons.

Working this weekend, leading a team, or know tired people serving at church? Could you step in and cover them so they can go home early to spend time with their families?

Plan a lunch for tomorrow for more than just your own family. Invite your church family. Make a plan with others, so that everyone you know (especially those on the margins) is looked after today – whatever their family circumstances.

And, as usual, the full meditation is over here

I’m not a mum – by choice, I may add. For me, there’s no sadness attached to Mother’s Day, and I don’t yearn to have had children. I am God mother to three wonderful God children, and also know and love my nephews, nieces and children-of-friends.  But I pray for those who have lost children, who long to be parents but haven’t had the opportunity, for those who have suffered at the hands of their children.

My mum is still alive, and at 87 is living her life to the full; my mother-in-law is 78 and is living her life to the full. But I pray for those who have lost their mothers, to death, or to dementia. Those whose mothers are lost to them in other ways. Those whose mothers could not love them. Those who have never known their mother.

Both mum and MiL are lucky – as we live in France, and La Fete des Meres is on another day, we usually send our mums something for the French day. So they get two Mothers’ Days to celebrate on. In fact, as MiL has a daughter in Canada, she gets to celebrate three Mothers’ Days!

I’m not sure what else I can do – I’m certainly not up to organising meals, and don’t know who I could let go home early, but I’ll see if I can think of any other ways to support people I know, whether they are mothers or not. And of course, I’ll give my mum a ring tomorrow, to hear all about her trip to Berlin & Riga.

Mums, hey?!

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Act N° 20 (2017): REACT

On a day when we are considering yesterday’s events in London, when a man ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before crashing into the barrier at Parliament, knifing and killing an unarmed police officer and then attacking other officers. He was shot and killed himself. A terrorist attack on what is being called “the heart of our democracy”.

And we react in different ways… I loved this:

People are donating to charities supporting refugees and saying “This is because I know that refugees are not terrorists”.

On the FB page of Phone Credits for Refugees & Displaced Persons there’s a post:

Deeply says condolence to the victims of terrorism in United Kingdom. It’s a coward actions their are targeting civilians”…As I pick my way through the multiple messages of outrage, condolences and love from Muslim immigrants this morning it’s obvious that those trying to divide us are not very competent at doing so…When you commit the kinds of acts that are universally offensive to all reasonable people regardless of their culture or religion, the only logical outcome is unity. Such events only serve to strengthen our feelings of solidarity for all those caught up in violence and danger where ever they are in the world…More than this, we’re each reminded to make our time count. Not only must we must be motivated and engaged in actively making good things happen, we must be more fanatical and active about organising those good things than those who organise hatred. Our apathy must be less than the apathy of people who are prepared to kill for their beliefs. Our acts of love must be even more outrageous and grab even greater attention than theirs.(My bold colour)

Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox (the MP who was killed in another terrorist attack) who has always been so dignified and measured in his responses to her death has both tweeted “I don’t care about the name of the attacker. This is the name I will remember.” in response to the press release that Police had released a picture of Pc Keith Palmer, the 48-year-old husband and father killed in the attack.  Mr Cox also re-tweeted Mishal Husain’s tweet which read “The Westminster attacker is no more representative of Muslims than Jo Cox’s killer is representative of Yorkshire”

Others, of course, have reacted with anger, with insults, with hate, already calling the killer “scum”, “Islamist terror attacker”, and other things too hate-filled to post.

And the 40 Acts team reacted too, with speed and sensitivity. I am grateful for their swift response and inspiring message. It is up to us to provide love, generosity and goodness in our part of the world.

Today, the prompt reads, is not beginning as any of us planned or hoped as we hit the midway point of Lent and 40acts. Yesterday, innocent lives were lost during a senseless attack in the heart of our capital. In these moments of terror and uncertainty we must never forget that we can control one important thing, how we react. Today we’re calling on you, the 40acts community, to double down on generosity and love for others.

No options, just radical, generous love today… Wherever you are today, the most generous thing we can do is share the hope that is within us with those around us. How can you extend hope on a day like today to your colleagues, neighbours and friends? A smile at the stranger on the bus, holding open doors, putting others first. Treating stressed out colleagues to lunch, a message of support to the emergency services or your local MP. Gathering together to pray for our communities.

Love and compassion today will take many forms.

Let us not grow weary of doing good.

The meditation, which you can find over here, is truly worth reading, for its beauty, sensitivity, rightness in the face of what has happened. I wept as I read it. Plaudits to Mike, the CEO of Stewardship who had to write this. He found just the right words.

I’m at home today – it’s raining, cold and I have been to the dentist to repair my broken tooth, so I don’t feel like doing anything very much – but I will be carrying this message through further on ionto the weeks ahead.

Generosity, love, forgiveness – this must be our reaction to everyone. In the world. Around us. To a fault.

Don’t save our soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.

(Michael’s Prayers)

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Acts 16, 17 and 18 (2017) – Catching Up on my thoughts.

Goodness me! I’ve slipped behind with my blog posts on 40 Acts – but I think I have reasonable excuses…

Monday I was working all day, and when I got home I did some more cleaning. Then I ate a huge amount of curry and lay on the sofa watching a recording of The Last Leg, and groaning because I’d eaten too much!

Tuesday, I spent the morning preparing lessons for the afternoon, and cleaning. (We do have a big house, and because of my bad back and poorly feet – yes, the dyshydrotic eczema is back. Oh joy! – I can only do a bit at a time.) I also prepared dinner. After my lessons I went to pick up Mr FD at the station. When we got home we had dinner & spent some time together (watching TV!!) I also had another fall,  again due to a dodgy bit of pavement. Nothing as bad as the last one, but I still bashed my knee about a bit. So I felt uninclined to do much – even blogging!

On Wednesday I was out again all day, teaching. I usually go to dance group on Wednesday but due to ongoing foot pain, I didn’t. But I was tired, as Mr FD’s hacking cough (he came back from Germany with a stinking cold) kept me awake for a good part of the night. It also kept him awake, so in the spirit of 40 Acts, I didn’t chide him or get grumpy!

 

But, having made my excuses, what did I make of the Challenges?

Act N° 17: GENERATION

An elderly person sitting alone for days; a new mum on her own with the baby and no one to share the moments and the pressure with; a teenager struggling to make friends. We’re missing out if we only interact with our own generation, and we’re leaving others isolated. Today, generosity steps out of its box as we celebrate the richness of mixing with different generations with simple acts of presence, conversation, and touch.

I remember Kezzie making a comment on last year’s similar Act, saying how boring she thought her life would be if she just mixed with people her own age. I can understand that, but I do have to say that I don’t have a largely age differentiated group of friends… From the “older” generation there is my mum – I could have phoned her, but she is away with my sister, in Berlin and Riga. Judy (my sister) posted on FB “Mum tells us that at her age it is recommended that she walks between 4 and 6 miles a week. We have made her walk 36 miles this week but there don’t appear to have been any ill effects.” Obviously my mum is in better foot-health than me! I don’t think I could walk 1 mile at the moment!!

Here is mum in Riga’s Art Nouveau museum, where apparently one can try on hats from the era. I think she looks rather dashing!

I am a tad stumped on this one, but perhaps God will push me at another time. Maybe I could take some chocolates up to the Maison de Retraite to be shared with the residents there. I will think about it.

ACT 18: PRAY

Prayer works best when we don’t think of it as a task. We don’t have to pray – we get to pray. When we understand that prayer’s a good gift from our generous Father, who’s keen to talk with us, prayer isn’t another rod on our backs, but a joy. We can be creative with how we talk to God.

Excuse me while I squirm uncomfortably.

Prayer time has always been a struggle for me – I try to find a time that “suits”; I try to find resources that inspire; I choose lovely notebooks to encourage me to write “thoughts”; I try to focus, and pray meaningfully – but every time I fail. I manage for a few days, weeks, even months – I think 3 months was my record – but it falls by the wayside because…because why? I don’t know. It is a slog, it is not a pleasure; it feels useless, dry, a waste of time…my mind wanders, I think about what we’re having for dinner…I’m not inspired…the words are trite, or so vague as to be meaningless…or, worse, forced. And I am not sure I believe that intercessionary prayer has any tangible results anyway.

So this challenge has been a challenge, and one which I have unobtrusively brushed under the carpet. If it’s right, I am sure that God will be prodding me on this front too.

ACT 19: ON TIME

What does being on time have to do with generosity? A whole heap more than you’d think. Keeping others waiting starts with a belief – however buried – that our time is worth more than theirs. We can become expert in finding reasons why our lateness is justified but do we consider the impact it has? Time to consider the generosity of punctuality. Challenging a lifestyle of lateness is a simple way to start being generous in unexpected ways. Rally yourself up to the task of being on time.

This – again – has me stumped, simply because I am generally on time. I strive to be on time for things, and feel bad if I am late. I think, as last year, this is a reminder not to get annoyed with people who are late. Our friend Gerome is an inveterate late-comer; not, I think, because he doesn’t value us, but because he spends time getting ready – perhaps because he does value us! I won’t get stressed about it. I will accept that is how it is, and be thankful for his company when it finally arrives!

Although it is suggested one might turn up early, (How about being early? Send what you need to send before the deadline, arrive early to greet your colleagues before work today, arrive early to catch friends when you hang out with them. And so on. ) I think we need to treat that suggestion with caution, and sensitivity. It depends on the event, on the people you are meeting etc. There’s no point me turning up early for lessons, for example, simply because my students won’t be ready for me! And if one turns up early at people’s houses you could cause chaos, by catching them still unprepared. So maybe be cautious there.

…and then there’s today’s Act.

On a day when we are considering yesterday’s events in London, when a man ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before crashing into the barrier at Parliament, knifing and killing an unarmed police officer and then attacking other officers. He was shot and killed himself. A terrorist attack on what is being called “the heart of our democracy”.

So here I am, more than a little shocked by, but inspired by the swift response and inspiring message that 40 Acts provided. It is up to us to provide love, generosity and goodness in our part of the world.

I will put it in another post.

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Pause in Lent N°3: Are you saved?

I’m joining in with Ang for A Pause in Lent: different bloggers, musing over Lent and what it means, or pondering something that has caught their attention, or how God has touched them this week.

As you may have noticed, I’m blogging about 40 Acts, and what this has meant for me and prompted me to do. For Pause in Lent I am searching for poems on the theme of Lent – or anything else for that matter!

During my searching I came across a lovely poem, called “Are You Saved?” It is on somebody’s blog, and so I don’t want to post the whole thing, as I assume it is still copyright and so forth, but I urge you to go to Michael’s Prayers and read the whole thing

It echoes the themes of 40 Acts so well, and I quote a few lines here:

Don’t save our soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.

**

Souls were meant for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,

***

Next time someone asks, “Is your soul saved?”
Say, “No, it’s spent, spent, spent!”

***

(I’m not sure about the grammar in this but I approve of the idea!)

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Act N°15 (2017): Influence & N°16: Beyond

Hello everyone. This is a catch up of the last two days’ Acts.

ACT 15: INFLUENCE

The prompt reads: We all have influence, even if we’re not aware of it. It’s not something reserved for limelight seekers. Influence is simply the impact we have on others that changes how they feel or act. Think about the areas of your life where you have a voice that’s listened to. You might be naturally sociable and have a wide network of friends, or have a close group of those who trust you. Wherever your influence is, use it wisely and generously today.

And the challenges were:

Not sure you have much influence in other people’s lives? Think about who you interact with on a daily, or weekly basis. How do you behave around them or on social media? Are there things you need to change? Could you make more of a conscious effort to engage with others more meaningfully?

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of large scale injustice or to switch off when it comes to national or international events. But you have influence that reaches much further than just those in your day-to-day. Take stock of what you feel passionate about. Can you write a letter, add your name to a campaign, share something on social media? Don’t file it away for later – do it now.

If you really want to go all out, publicise your cause/charity with an event. It may not happen today or this week, but you can get the ball rolling with inviting a speaker, and researching a venue. Make a big noise, and create some community memories to boot.

And you can read the whole meditation over here

****

I didn’t really have time to think about this yesterday, and even now, having given it a bit of thought, I am not sure quite what to make of it. I am aware of the influence I have – especially as a Lay Reader/Worship Leader and a teacher, and as a blogger – but I’m not quite sure about what that might mean in terms of interaction…I may need to unpack that a little more.

However, I have discovered that I am eligible to sign online petitions (or so it seems) with Amnestry International. When we moved to France AI told me I could no longer be a member of AI UK, & would have to join the French AI…which I never did. However, following a link from FB, I discovered several online petitions I could sign. So I did.

The other thing worth thinking about is the crowdfunding project for today. The “blurb” reads:16 million people in East Africa are on the brink of starvation and urgently need food, water and medical treatment. Today, we can all influence how this story unfolds.

The Disasters Emergency Committee launched their East African Crisis appeal on Wednesday. Their member charities are already delivering life-saving assistance in all affected countries. But, they need more money to help reduce the scale and severity of the crisis. When disaster strikes, Stewardship givers are often some of the first to respond.

Yes, I will donate here too. This is the influence that I have.

ACT 16: BEYOND

The prompt today read: Jesus didn’t settle for ‘just enough’ or the wine at the wedding would have been drinkable rather than top quality. So today, scale it up! Don’t measure out the generosity – go large.

The challenges were:

Has someone done you a good turn lately? Go out of your way to thank them with an extra twist of appreciation. Tell someone what a great job they’re doing – just because. Your turn for the washing up? Do the drying up too.

What does today hold for you? Watch out for generous opportunities and then knock it out the park for good measure. Find a way to bless someone over and above.

What’s the most extravagant present you’ve ever been given? If you went the whole hog, no expense spared, what similar thing could you do today for someone you know? This doesn’t have to be financial – use your imagination to be extravagant – but think creatively with whatever resources you have.

You can read the whole mediation over here.

So – what did I get up to?

Well, here’s a clue:

Mr FD is in Germany at the moment, celebrating his Uncle’s 85th Birthday. This past week, despite not working, and saying he’d do some cleaning  Mr FD didn’t, and the house has been looking a bit yucky, so I had been planning to do the cleaning today. But, oh, boy, was I resentful about it…?! Grumble, grumble, he should do it, it’s not fair etc.

But, with this challenge in mind, and Rend Collective on the CD player, I found that my mood changed and lifted. Instead of being grumpy, and thinking “Mr FD should be doing this” I became glad to be doing it so that he wouldn’t have to. (I do hope he notices & says thank you, though!!) I also did more than I’d been planning to do. It had been going to be a lick and a promise… (…that Mr FD would bloody well do it when he got home) but in fact I got right down to it. Three Rend Collective CDs later, the big downstairs room, the kitchen, dining room and sitting room are clean & tidy, and the first staircase cleared of fluff. Oh boy, the fluff!!!

Tomorrow I’ll be doing the second staircase, the landing, the cat trays and the bedroom & study. But my back is really rather painful, so I can’t do anymore now. Hot water bottle and a painkiller are – I hope! – working their magic.

I also want to thank M. Khodri, at ILS, for helping me feel a lot less panic stricken about a piece of bureaucracy and a nasty form to fill in. He was very kind, and helpful. I’m not sure what I can do – probably I will write a Thank You card – but I really appreciate what he did.

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