A blast from the Past

I’m cheating & sharing an old post, from my previous blog…I used to volunteer to walk dogs at the SPA near work. However, they insisted you “adopted” a dog first, and then you walked that dog. I started with Benji, but he was adopted quickly…It seemed that every time I turned up, my “god dog” had been adopted!!

And then I met Gavroche, who put an end to my dog walking…

Read on, dear one…

 

I think you are all a bit behind me on the God-dog front. When I got back from holidays, WMD had been adopted. So I chose a new dog called Youpi (who was a Bison Frisée (or is that a large cow-like creature with a curly lettuce?!) ) But as there were people looking to adopt a dog, and were interested in Youpi, I took out another cheeky chap, with the unlikely name of Tooraloora – or something equally bizarre. Anyway, yesterday I went to take out Youpi, and found that s/he (I never got to find out!) had been adopted! Never mind, I hadn’t exactly bonded with him/her, so I chose to take out a young labrador cross, called Gavroche.

Getting him out of his cage was tricky enough, as his companion was also determined to come with us. At one point, Gavroche was outside the cage, on his lead, while I was inside, with the door closed, hanging onto the lead, and trying to fend off companion, who was howling mournfully, while pawing at my legs, desperate to join Gavroche. I eventually managed to escape and Gavroche and I trotted off for our walk. He was splendidly well behaved – but a little strong – and was very good when I gave him a treat, sitting and waiting until I handed it to him.

So, as I say, he was well behaved, but obviously wanted to explore the river that we were walking beside. But there was a 4m drop down and no safe way of letting him go. He kept darting off, sniffing and trying to find a way down, and I kept hauling him back. Eventually we discovered a slope down to the river and Gavroche washopeful. I started to gingerly make my way down the rather slippy slope. At one point I went on my bottom, making a spectacular mud slide down my jeans. I struggled to my feet and was just thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, when Gavroche couldn’t hold back his excitement and made a plunge for the river. As I was already a little unsteady on my feet, and the slope was slippery, I couldn’t haul him back and he took me off my feet, pulling me face first into the river. I ended up sitting in the river, waist deep in sandy water, having bashed my face and knees on rocks, and twisted my ankle in the process. I later discovered that I’d hit a rock so hard with the corner of my glasses, that the arm of them was driven into behind my ear, leaving me with quite a nasty gash there, and a red line across the bridge of my nose. I sat, shocked for a second or two and then I just howled for a couple of minutes, while the dog (after his first joyous splashing about) sat and looked at me. After a bit, I remembered my mobile and my watch – both in my pocket. Luckily both were okay. But here I was hurt, shocked and quite some way from the SPA centre.

So what did I do? Phone them? No – I couldn’t explain where I was so I couldn’t. Retrace my steps? No – though why, I’m not sure…maybe my scrambled brain thought I’d gone too far – though as I was on a new walk I didn’t actually know the route back to the centre… I decided to carry on with the walk…So hobbling on my ankle, bawling like a two year old and hiccupping I started to walk.

Poor old Gavroche was trying to have a good walk and kept trying to pull me towards interesting smells; I could hardly walk by now and couldn’t keep up with him. So the poor thing kept getting jerked back on his lead as I sobbed and pleaded “No, Gavroche, no – come back”.Jerk. “I can’t do this”. Pull.

I struggled past a house where someone watched my faltering progress as his dog barked for France. He worked out something was wrong and came over to me. I tried to be very sensible and spoke in my best French. He offered to drive me to the centre, but I’m too wary of getting in cars with strange men -although having seen the state I was in when I finally got back, I can’t imagine he had any designs on me – mud/tear/blood streaked face, filthy dripping jeans & T-shirt… I was also concerned (for some reason) that he had bare feet. So, refusing him, I hobbled on, taking an hour to walk the 1.5 or so km back to the centre – all the while hoping that he’d drive up behind me and get me in the car – because by then I’d’ve accepted a lift. Or that he would’ve phoned the centre and they’d come for me. But no. I finally got back, whereupon several volunteers appeareded, clucking over me, taking Gavroche and guiding me to sit down . And I collapsed into a weeping pile of uselessness.

Somebody ( possibly a vetinary nurse!) strapped me up and washed me down a bit, and decided that I could well have torn some ligaments in my ankle. And said could I get someone to collect me? Er, no – we live 70 km away. I’m afraid I’m on my own here! Luckily we’ve got cruise control on the car, so driving the motorway wasn’t too difficult. My braking was occasionally a bit hard as I couldn’t press gently, but on the whole it was

fine. Our friend, the nurse, has checked me over, and while I’m still sore, I’m generally not too bad today (much less stiff than I expected, to be honest) Sleeping was a bit uncomfortable, as I woke everytime I moved positions, but thankfully it was not worse than it could have been…

Next time I’m taking out a chihauhau.

*** FIN  ***

 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite fine, and have struggled with a swollen knee ever since (it was 5 years ago!) Hey ho. Cats are much less trouble!!

 

(Most of) the year in pictures.

On the last day of the year (decade!) I thought I’d show you one photo for each month…However, with a new computer, I find that I don’t get a display of the photos, but just a IMG number for each one. So for each month I’ve just literally picked a random photo, from its number, and posted that.

JANUARY:

I have no idea where this lake is! I suspect it was the fishing lake/bird reserve lake in Roanne, where I sometimes go for a walk, but I can’t be certain!

FEBRUARY:

I know this one! It was on a walk not too far from here. This was when I was still keen on getting my 600 km walked before my 60th birthday. That didn’t last much longer!! I think I was ill, and lost momentum, and then couldn’t be arsed!!

MARCH:

Fairy cakes made for the family next door as part of 40 Acts. The family have now moved on, not having had much success in the hotel, but there’s a new family moved in. We await developments…

APRIL:

Not the best photo I have of me with Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, but it was the one that I picked at random! This was at the weekend for the consecration of Mark Edington as our Bishop. A wonderful weekend!

MAY:

The card I made for my mum’s 90th birthday – before deciding it wasn’t “special” enough, and making another!

JUNE:

We visted the caves at Lascaux with the Cycle Club, on our weekend away. Happily, this was one of my favourites of the wall paitings. I love the “fat ponies”!

JULY:

The “infinity” card I made for Flynn, the son of Friend Alison. I never got round to giving it to him though!

AUGUST:

On holiday with Mr FD, we visited the town of St Guilhem le Désert. It was rather too crowded for our tastes, being labelled as one of France’s most beautiful villages. A victim of its own success, one can’t help feeling….

SEPTEMBER:

The inside of a card made for Friend Huw, after the untimely death of his wife. I actually made, and sent, a different one, but with the same sentiment inside.

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

I think that as a result of my depression I wasn’t in the mood for much photo taking. I certainly failed to download any onto the computer! Hopefully that will change now.

Here’s to the start of a new year, and a new decade. We don’t know what’s ahead, so let’s just trust that it will all be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!

13 months ago…

…I had just finished radiotherapy, and had been on holiday to Italy with Mr FD.

My sister and mum came to stay, and this is a photo Judy took of me, sitting in the courtyard at Ambierle. The hair was just starting to grow back.

It was not something I would have chosen, but the cancer was, I think, something to be grateful for in many ways. Surprisingly. I’m still a bit bewildered by that statement, but I believe it to be true.

A year ago today…

It’s just popped up on my FB page that a year ago today was my last chemo session.

This was the photo I took before I set off to the hospital. Do you know, I think I quite suit a turban! After this, I still had 6 weeks of radiotherapy to get through, but that wasn’t quite so tiring or debilitating. If you would like to read more about my cancer “journey” just click on the “tag link” below labelled “Bastardcancer” That should take you to most of the posts I made during the treatment..

It was a difficult year, last year, but I can say that I am (almost) grateful I had cancer: I learned a lot about myself, I grew closer to God, I made a new friend, and I learned how valuable my other friends are – as well as how much of a rock Mr FD can be, and how much I love him. Unfortunately for him, he is still having to show rock-like qualities, as I am suffering from mood swings and depression, thanks to the hormone therapy, but he’s managing to do it.

I keep in my prayers Charlotte, Ana, Emma, Ross, Susan, G. – all people I’ve met or become closer to through my encounter with breast cancer. And of course, I remember too those who have lost their lives to this bastard disease.

This wasn’t the post I thopught I’d be writing today, but there you go!

59 years on…

This is a quick post to say I’m back. I had a great time in Liverpool celebrating my mum’s 90th birthday. I got back yesterday evening, and today I’m back at work!

My brother found this photo of the three of us when we were young:

I was probably between 6 months and a year, making Mike about 3 and a half and Judy about 6.

Mike decided it would be a good idea to try to recreate the picture…So we did.

One of those mad ideas you get…

May pictures

Not sure what to blog about, but feeling I should write something, I delve back into my photo archives to see what I can find!

MAY 2010 – I used to do more walks when I had time between or after lessons. Here’s a little garden I found on a walk above Royat. Obviously a beautiful day! I really enjoyed these walks…I wonder why I don’t do so many now. Perhaps I’m too busy!

May 2010 was when I held George for the first time – our lovely cuddly George cat. He went missing almost three years ago, and although we have Jasper now, George is still very sadly missed. He was the most placid of cats, loving nothing more than a cuddle.

 

MAY 2011 – For a few years we had a Fete de Cheval here – it was, rather sadly, mostly a place where knackers came to buy old horses which were then taken to the abbatoir. It changed for a couple of years when our friends, who keep a livery stables and breeding stables took over the organisation, but that was too much work for them, so it stopped happening a few years ago. Here however is one of the animals that wasn’t a horse – there were some llamas one year!

MAY 2012 – The plant seller is out…I always buy my balcony plants from the same guy: he comes to the market in May/June but his plants are always good value and I’ve never had any complaints. The balcony is looking very sad at the moment, so I need to get out there and tidy it up. Because I’m working on Thursday mornings now I may have to ask Friend Cathy to buy my plants for me this year!

MAY 2013 –Here are Mr FD and our friend Louis, on the top of Mont Ventoux, having cycled up. I was the designated official photographer, but due to becoming too interested in the market in Bedouin, I very nearly missed their triumph! I drove up the mountain rather too hastily (there were hundreds of cyclists!) and caught up with the two of them no more than 3 km from the summit! Luckily I managed to get one action shot of them both, as well as this one.

!

MAY 2014 – A card made for my friend’s “Christian birthday” – I think it may have been one of my first “Celtic style” crosses, which are now one of my favourite things to draw.

MAY 2015 – I’m looking a bit blown about! This was taken when we went out for the day on our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a picnic and visited Mont Dore in the Auvergne. It was a lovely day out. I think this was taklen around Puy Marie, but I may be making that up!

MAY 2016 – an appropriate picture for today. Why, you may ask… Well, another blogger, Elizabeth, who used to live in France wrote:

In France we have a delightful custom of presenting our friends with a bunch, or even just a stem, of Lilies of the Valley.
It’s a custom that dates back to 1561, when the then King, Charles 1 received some lilies as a lucky charm. Each year he offered a bunch to the ladies of his court. So the tradition grew, and by 20th Century it was well established.
The flowers are given as a symbol of Spring. I think it is the one and only time that something is allowed to be sold without tax applying. Scouts and Guides will be in our town today, raising a little money by selling these beautifully perfumed flowers.
and mine are blooming in the garden, so I shall go and pick a few for our neighbour.
The photo was of some lily-of-the-valley that we’d been given by Michel across the road. Unfortunately they didn’t take, so we don’t have them any more.
MAY 2017 – One of my students was getting married, so I made him this card – very simply done with an embosser, and lots of little flowers cut out of scrap paper with my flower punch. The pearls were a bargain from Noz – of course!!
MAY 2018 – By now I was half way through my chemo, and had lost all my hair. Here I am in patriotic mode for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t have bothered normally, but we’d been invited to Richard’s to watch the wedding on TV and to partake of lunch. I made a delicious but nt very attractive mlemon-and-elderflower cake
And May 2019? Well, it’s only 1st May. I’m sure there’ll be photos to share later on in the month…

Sermon this week: The Freedom Road

The theme for this sermon is a phrase that has been resonating with me for a few weeks, and one which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry used in his sermon last week: “The Freedom Road”; Now, this will, of course, conjure up different pictures  for different people, dependent on points of view, on personal stories, on the individual’s life experiences. I like the title because, for me, it echoes Jesus’ statement at the beginning of his mission, that he was bringing freedom to the oppressed, and it reminds me also that Jesus brings us all liberty from the oppression and the binding of sin’s chains in our lives. It also conjures up an image of a road winding into the distance that we all can travel, as pilgrims together, welcoming others as they join us on our journey, with Jesus leading us all onwards. But it also reminds us that Jesus called himself “The Way”. So, not only is Jesus showing us all the Freedom Road, but also, in a sense, he actually is the Freedom Road.

The God pictured in the Old Testament is a dynamic God, active in his people’s lives, moving in mysterious ways for the good of those he loves. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt in a most dramatic way; he provided food and water when they were desperate; he guided and loved them through the most difficult of times. He was there; he was Jehovah, the God who rescued his people Israel.

Nowadays, I feel that there is a lack of this sense of a dynamic God. Because many Christian doctrines are modelled on Greek philosophical patterns of thought God can sometimes appear to be more passive. To many people today their image of God is an old man in a white nightie who sits in the clouds, surrounded by angels strumming harps. He may send the odd disaster now and again, just to remind us all that he’s up there, but he doesn’t actually DO anything constructive, he doesn’t actually care.

But in Jesus, and in all that he does, we find that this is not the case; in Jesus we see what God is really like ~ he takes risks for the love of human beings. He does get involved. Jesus knew that he was unpopular with the powerful religious leaders of the day, but this didn’t stop him riding publicly into Jerusalem. In fact one could say he drew attention to it, for not only did Jesus process into the city, but then he had the audacity to go to the Temple, and cause a disturbance there as well!

The Temple was being mis-used; moneychangers and sellers of animals and birds had set themselves up in the courtyards. This in itself was no bad thing, as the Jews were only making it easier for people to follow the commands of the Law. People were able to buy their perfect sacrifices in the place where the creatures would be sacrificed. But the costs were becoming extortionate, and the fact that Roman coinage had to be changed to the currency of the Temple, often at falsely high rates of exchange, meant that the whole set-up had become a racket for gaining money through cheating the ordinary person. It was that that Jesus was protesting about when he went into the Temple, and turned over the tables of those who were there.

Jesus knew what this would mean. He understood that his actions ~ his triumphal entrance into the city, his provocative cleansing of the Temple ~ he understood that these would bring his enemies out of their bolt-holes. He knew this, and yet he still went ahead, for God is a God of action, of dynamics, who takes risks for the people he loves.

As Jesus came, on his donkey, the crowds yelled their hosannas and waved their palm branches. In a way, I find it hard to see how a crowd who were so pleased to see Jesus on one day were baying for his blood only five days later; but I suppose it is an example of what is often called “Crowd mentality”. Most of the people there were swept along by the emotion of it all, little realising or caring who or what they were shouting for. I have heard of an ardent anti-monarchist who found himself shouting greetings to the Queen when she visited the area ~ just because everyone else was doing it, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It is hard not to be swept along by the rush of adrenaline. Sadly I think this is what happens with football violence: it only takes one or two to start and soon many others have joined in, carried along by the excitement, the rush of blood to the head.

So we have a crowd, some of whom believe Jesus is the Messiah from God, come to rid the country of the occupying Romans, others shouting for the man who healed them, or brought peace to their hearts, and yet more simply having a good day out in the sunshine. They may never have met Jesus face to face, and so may have little or no opinion about him, but others have met him, and meeting Jesus always brings a response.

For some the response would be hatred, for he was upsetting their comfy little lives.

To the Roman occupiers he was another of the tiresome Jews who called themselves Messiah. It may be hard for us to believe, but during Jesus’ time there were many people who thought they were the Messiah; they had followers too, and they were nearly always executed by the Romans. To the occupying forces Jesus was simply another of these. But maybe there was something more to Jesus ~ maybe the others hadn’t had such a great following, maybe the others hadn’t healed. Whatever it was, to the Romans Jesus was a symbol of all they disliked, such as the Jews desire for freedom from oppression, and the Romans wanted to get rid of him.

Jesus was upsetting the lives of the religious leaders of the time. He was reinterpreting the scriptures, and the Law; he was speaking to God with an unsuitably intimate turn of phrase; he referred to the religious leaders as whited sepulchres; but worst of all, he committed blasphemy by calling God “Father”, and by implying, if not actually stating, that he was God also. This man needed to be got rid of… and fast!

But it wasn’t just the high-up people in charge that, when meeting Jesus face-to-face, reacted with hate. Ordinary people too could well have felt this way. Imagine how you would feel if you were there in the Temple courts, going about your daily, legitimate business, when this jumped-up nobody from the country town of Nazareth appears, and calls you a thief and a cheat. Many would be disgruntled, upset, and could have reacted to Jesus with hate.

People were being shaken out of their familiar lives ~ and many didn’t like it.

But coming face-to-face with Jesus could also elicit great love and commitment; people were liberated from the constraints that had held them for so long and reacted with gratitude and love.

There was blind Bartimaus, who Jesus met just previously to his entry into Jerusalem. In healing him, Jesus took away his livelihood; admittedly begging was a precarious way of making a living, but at least it was a familiar thing. When he was healed Bartimaus would have to find a job, would have other responsibilities which his blindness had exempted him from. He too was shaken from his familiar routine, but met Jesus with love, and, when told by Jesus to “Go your way”, Bartimaus went the only way that he could: he followed Jesus, he trod the way of the man who had set him free.

Maybe even in the temple precincts, there were those who faced Jesus with love, who were freed to follow their hearts. I don’t know how many of you know Dennis Potter’s play “Son of Man”, but there was a part in it that I really like. Who knows if it really happened? I like to think that it did. Jesus strides into the Temple, and turns over the table of one of the moneychangers, who reacts with anger and dismay; he then turns towards another moneychanger, who stands behind the table, and, with a small gesture of acceptance, the man takes hold of his own table and throws it to the ground.

“Are you with me?” Jesus asks.

“Yes, I am with you,” comes the reply, “Always I have longed to do what I have just done.”

He had been held fast by his job, knowing it wasn’t right, but unable to break free. Then Jesus enabled him to do what he had always longed to do, to travel the Freedom road.

Jesus offered this road to all. As he rode into Jerusalem he showed himself unafraid of ~ or, at least, willing to face ~ all the hatred that this would stir up. He was willing to take risks for those he loved, even if their response was to turn their backs and to repay him with hatred and death.

And what of today? What does this mean to us, here in Clermont Ferrand? We too have been offered freedom by Jesus, and we have had the choice. Many of us here have made that choice, and our response was that of the moneychanger in Dennis Potter’s play. We turned over our old lives to follow our Lord. He gave us sight to see where we had failed him, and we took the chance to begin our journey on the Freedom Road.

When Bartimaus followed Jesus into Jerusalem he was lining himself up on the side of the unpopular one. But despite this, he was willing to take the chance. He trusted the man who had brought him liberation from the chains of blindness and poverty of life. This is what we must do also.

Jesus asks us to follow him in his Way, and although, as it was to Bartimaus, that way might be strange to us, we must trust in our Lord to lead us in the steps of the dance he wants us to dance. It is scary sometimes, it is joyful, it is sorrowful; at times it is hard, and we stumble over unfamiliar steps, but at other times our feet seem to fly and our spirits are at one with God.  In Jim Cotter’s book “Prayer in the Morning” there is a line which never fails to lift my heart whenever I read it: “Spirit of the Living God, open my whole being that I may dance your life this day”.

When we are open to the Living God, the dynamic God who was embodied in Jesus, then we can only dance our way along the Freedom Road.

Jesus showed us how far God was ready to move for those he loved; he was ready to die for them, for us. In riding into Jerusalem, Jesus came face-to-face with many people who reacted in different ways: some with hatred, and some with love, and others just went along for the fun of it, they were, in a way, indifferent. It is still the same today; there are those violently opposed to Christ’s message, and who hate him, there are those who love him and follow him, and there are those who are indifferent… but as those indifferent people in Jerusalem were influenced to shout Hosanna! by the disciples as they shouted for their Lord and Master, then maybe in the same way, we might also persuade people to join us on the Freedom Road through our liberated and liberating dance, led along the Way by our Lord, the Living God, the Loving God, the Way of Life himself.