I came, I saw, I had a MAGNIFICENT time!!

All week we had been watching the weather in the UK – the “Beast from the East” causing chaos, with drivers stranded, airports shut down, villages cut off…but all the time, the little north west corner of the British Isles seemed to miss the worst of the weather. Then Storm Emma started romping up the west side of the UK…but veered over to Ireland just before reaching the top of Wales.

We had to get up early, at 5.00 am to drive over to Lyon, but I’d actually woken at 2.30 and not got back to sleep. I was actually much perkier than I’d imagined I’d be. We set out to Lyon airport hoping that the plane would not be cancelled. It wasn’t even delayed!!

Wearing a double surgical mask and latex gloves, to protect from infection – as these days were the days when my white blood cell count would be at its lowest, and I would be most vulnerable to infection – I cut a slightly pathetic picture. We comandeered a wheelchair at the airport and Mr FD pushed me through. I’m very glad, as it was quite a trek to get to the correct terminal. We went through security (surprisingly there was no queue at all) – I caused some problems as I explained about the stent for chemo, and they wanted to see proof of this. It was in my handbag, which had already gone through the scanner, so people were running aroud to fetch it. Then I had to be scanned with a hand held scanner rather than go through the walk-through scanner. It all took a bit longer than usual, but we had plenty of time. As I was in a wheelchair we were allowed through passport control ahead of others (huzzah!) and soon got settled on the plane. I plugged in my earphones and listened to a podcast for the flight. At Manchester we waited until everyone had left the plane, and then climbed the steps into the terminal building. As I entered the bhuilding I slipped on some very wet rubbery matting, and fell down: luckily I went quite slowly, and nothing was hurt, but the cabin crew and pilot who were just behind were very helpful and sympathetic.  Also luckily, a wheelchair had been left at the top of the steps and we were encouraged to use it – which meant priority going through border control!! Although we’d been so slow there weren’t many people left waiting anyway. Then we took the time to organise a wheelchair for the return journey, at Manchester airport. Later on, Mr FD contacted Lyon to organise assistance at that end too.

Mum had said she’d pay for car hire, so we went andpicked up the car, then drove to mum’s, in Liverpool. We had lunch, and then my sister arrived from Leicester (not held up by snow at all), and my brother from Stokesley (near Middlesborough) Despite the fact there was still a lot of snow on the east side of the country, he had encountered no problems with the trains getting over. It was lovely seeing them all! We sat and chatted all afternoon, as I had to take it easy, while Wonderful Mr FD went on a mission to buy, and then put in place, a new toilet seat for mum. We had dinner and then, as I’d been awake so early, suddenly fatigue hit me. I was in bed and asleep byabout 9.30, I think!

On Friday evening, we had hastily arranged a meet-up for lunch with my nephew Conor (Judy’s son) and my niece Rose (Mike’s daughter), her husband and baby, over in Manchester. So after relaxing all morning, while everyone else went out shopping for a disabled friend of mum’s, or taking things to the tip, or buying supplies of logs, we all set out for lunch.

Here we are at Croma Pizza, passing Billy the Baby round the table – except not to my end, as I had to stay away from babies (hotbeds of infection, apparently. And Billy was quite snuffly).

There were some, let’s say less traditional pizzas on the menu, but I decided to have

Baked garlic mushrooms, served with (quite a lot of) rocket and a slice of olive bread

Then I chose another starter for a main course, which was a chorizo and Bury black pudding bruschetta, with a goats’ cheese and beetroot side salad. It was very nice.

and with it, I drank a delicious Manchester craft beer, called “Manchester Skyline”

For dessert I chose a “Banoffi Mess” – basically Eton Mess, but made with bananas, meringue, ginger biscuits and cream, with toffee sauce. It was a bit of a disappointment – masses of cream, big chunks of meringue, two slices of banana and one crumb of ginger biscuit. It let down what was an excellent meal, and although I did mention it to the waiter no more was said about it.

Afterwards, Judy and mum went back to Liverpool, while Mike, Mr FD and I went to spend the afternoon with Rose, David and Billy.

Billy in his bouncy chair

I spent some of the time “resting my eyes” but it was lovely just chatting with them, and watching them play with Billy. I kept my mask and gloves on for the whole time, to avoid any infection. And then Mike, Mr FD & I set off for the Bill Bailey comedy gig – this was our Christmas present for Mike. We arrived quite early, but that was fine. I sat in my seat and “powered down” – that is to say, pulled my hat and hood over my eyes and just sat quietly with my eyes closed, relaxing and conserving energy.

Here we are, after my powering down, waiting for the show to start.

It was a very good show – Bill Bailey is a slightly surreal comic, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Here is a review of the show from The GuardianOurs was a little different, set in Manchester rather than Southend, but – ad libs aside – it was basically the same. We got home at about 11.30, and we went straight to bed.

On Sunday morning, mum went to church, but I decided it wasn’t worth expending more “spoons” than necessary, considering we had the Elbow gig in the evening. ( The “spoon theory” is a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. … A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished. from Wikipedia) So Judy, Mike & I looked at an old photo album, discussing who the various members of our family were, as Mike has spent quite a lot of time researching our family tree. Unfortunately, while we have great grandparents who were Irish, this is not enough to entitle us to an Irish passport. Mr FD played about with mum’s computer, organising our boiarding passes and assistance at Lyon airport for the journey home.

After lunch, Mr FD and I set off for the hotel in Manchester that we’d booked for Sunday night, about a mile away from Manchester Arena, where the gig was being held. For some reason, the Sat Nav didn’t want to work in Manchester city centre and we couldn’t find the hotel anywhere. We were just about to start a blazing row when Mr FD said “Look!” and there it was, in front of us. Getting to it was another kettle of fish, due to one way systems and taxi/bus lanes, so in the end we parked the car in a carpark and walked! Again, I saved my spoons, while Mr FD went to try to get the car to the hotel – another difficult time, but he finally made it.

We took the tram to Victoria Station, which is next door to the Arena, and Mr FD went to the Box Office, while I sat with a coffee in the station buffet. We grabbed a bite to eat at Greggs (I had a cheese and onion pasty.) and then headed to the Arena. You may remember the terrorist attack that took place in Manchester in May last year. I had imagined it taking place in a large plaza area outside the Arena, but when I saw how narrow the walkway and foyer area are, it is no surprise that the effects were so devastating. There was good security – only ticket holders being allowed up to the walkway, and then passing through X-ray machines at the entrance to the Arena itself.

Again, we were early, so I “powered down” until the support act, John Grant, came on. And then – huzzah! – the main event. Which was excellent! (Review from the Manchester Evening News)

Mr FD’s photo from during “Mirrorball”


After the show we left by a fairly quiet exit, and were lucky enough to be able to hail a taxi straight away. It was a 5/10 minute drive back to the hotel. We thought about going to the bar for a drink, buit they’d stopped serving – and really, that was a good thing, as I was dropping. Even though I was buzzing!!

The next day, we had a full Northern breakfast – sausage, bacon, fried bread, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried egg (which I’m not allowed to have) – plus trimmings (toast-and-marmalade, juice, coffee) and then made our way to the airport, pausing at Asda for a few last minute purchases of the DVD of “Death of Stalin”, some magazines, Zantac indigestion tablets & Tiger Balm (cheaper in the UK!)

Mr FD wheeled me through the airport, on the pre-booked wheelchair, which gave us Fast Track through security and a designated seating area in the very crowded departure lounge. I bought some huge slabs of chocolate (CDM!)

Then we were given a heads-up to the departure gate, so we were there before everyone else, and a very nice gentleman then wheeled me to the plane, so we were in our seats and luggage stowed before the usual scrum. At Lyon, we waited until everyone had got off, then were met by a man with a wheelchair, who wheeled me swiftly through the terminal. When we reached the back of the queue for border control, a quick Excusez-moi! and we were fast tracked through Passport Control. Pausing only to pick up the hold luggage, the man insisted on wheeling me right to the car in the car park. And we headed home, arriving at 6.30 pm.

Today I’m a little fatigued, but not too bad. I slept until about 8.30, when the nurse arrived for my weekly blood test. I wonder if it will show my white blood cells are down?

It was the most amazing weekend. Mr FD was a complete star throughout, looking after me, organising everything and allowing me to just rest and to enjoy myself. Even if I have caught an infection (and I was very careful, using hand sanitiser after every bathroom visit, in between bathroom visits, after touching stuff…Etc etc. Plus my double mask protection and latex gloves in crowds & public places) it was worth it!! It did me the most enormous amount of good.

And thank you all so much for your positive messages of support – they have been very much appreciated.


Budapest Jollies 5: Thursday morning.

We’d investigated a place where it was possible to leave your bags for a small fee, and so after breakfast we vacated the flat. We took various photos of the outside of the building (none of mine were very good, but you’ve seen the angel figure in my first post)

This was the view out of the flat window, looking down the street towards the Synagogue.

Having left the bags we took the tram to the covered market, where we wanted to buy a couple of last minute presents, and then the plan was to climb Gelert Hill to get views of the city. Unfortunately the clouds were so low that we couldn’t see the top of Gelert Hill, so that rather knocked that idea on the head.

Rather aimlessly, we walked along the river bank, admiring buildings across the river and chatting.

We found a shopping centre to explore (especially the toilets!) and then headed back to collect our bags, buy a sandwich and catch the express bus to the airport. Final shopping in the Duty Free to use up our HUFs and then we parted, Jane to go to Gatwick and me to Lyon.

My flight was fine, with all the connections home going smoothly. I was met at Roanne station by Mr FD.

It was a really enjoyable few days. I would definitely go back to Budapest and recommend the airbnb that we had. It was on Wesselényi Utca, but unfortunately doesn’t appear to be showing up on the site at the moment. It had a double bed and a fairly comfortable double sofa bed too. And generally, all mod-cons except a kettle and a corkscrew!

Budapest Jollies 4 : Wednesday

As the Dohany Street Great Synagogue was just at the bottom of the road, we felt that this was somewhere we really ought to visit. And today was the day.

We paid our pennies and were instructed to go in and wait by the British flag for an English speaking tour. Our tour guide was a slightly scary lady – very informative, but quite brusque. Other groups seemed to be having more fun than ours! Still, she gave us plenty of information about the building, but, of course, the focus was on the effect of the second world war on the Jewish population.

The figures she gave us were horribly huge: 1 in 4 Jews killed at Aushwitz were Hungarian, and 1 in 10 of all victims of the Holocaust were Hungarian – and the Nazis really only turned against the Hungarians in late 1944, as Hungary had, initially, sided with Germany. Between December 1944 and February 1945 a huge number of Jewish people were killed or deported. Our flat was in what had been part of the Jewish Ghetto.

This is my bad photo of the memorial tree. Each leaf contains the name of someone killed in the Holocaust. Here is another:

Somewhat sombrely we made our way to the Museum – which didn’t really hold our attention too much. For students of Jewish artefactys it might have been more interesting, but by then Jane was a little worried and distracted as she’d received a mystifying text from her bank. I volunteered to go and buy lunch, while she went back to the flat to try to solve the mystery.

After lunch (pizza and salad bought, slightly disconcertedly, from a Tesco Express shop) Jane felt content that her mysterious message had been satisfactorily dealt with, so we headed out to look at another memorial to Jews killed in WW2. This time, they were shot by the Hungarian Arrow Cross militia, a violently anti-Semitic group, rather than deported by the Nazis. Told to line up on the banks of the Danube and remove their shoes, these people – some 20,000 of them (Good God, how is it possible?) – were shot where they stood, and their bodies fell into the river. This wikipedia page gives a little more information.

The memorial is made up of 60  pairs of iron shoes, entitled “Shoes on the Danube Bank”.

I did feel intrusive taking photos, so in fact only took one:

It was a very sobering place. I felt uneasy at the number of people taking touristy shots, getting up close, focussing on one shoe, lying down to get a good view: it somehow didn’t feel right to be doing so. But, each to their own, I suppose…

We looked at the outside of the Parliament building, glowing in the late afternoon sun

and then headed off to find the Cat Café that had been recommended!

It was a lovely place, with plentiful cats

including one in the Ladies’ toilet that was just waiting for someone to come along and turn on the tap


TBH, it’s one of the nicest Cat Cafés that I’ve been to.

We then went back to the flat for a glass of wine, and then went to the Ruin Bar, that Jane’s son had recommended to us.

Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and have been around for 10 years since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. These bars are built in Budapest’s old District VII neighborhood (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. This neighborhood was left to decay after World War II, so it was a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene.

It was achingly hip, and we felt remarkably out of place, so decided not to stay. We instead went to have some street food – Goulash in a cob.

Which was okay. Not great, but okay. I spilt most of my beer over myself which was annoying.

Then a trot to the Christmas Market for a last Chimney Cake – here they are being cooked:

and then home again.

Last morning tomorrow…

Budapest Jollies 3: Tuesday

The weather had taken a turn for the worst – it was cold, dreek, and distinctly rainy. So we had a leisurely breakfast and took the tram down to the Market Hall, designed by Eiffel (of the Tower fame) We thought this would be a quick in-and-out, but oh no! Not for us inveterate browsers!

On the ground floor there were lots of fruit, meat, fish stalls, as one would expect in a market, but there was one alley of Paprika stalls, paprika being a Hungarian “thing”. We strolled up, noting that the prices became slightly cheaper the further you got from the entrance (though only by a few HUFs – about50 cents in euros). We chose what we’d be buying…at a later date. Then we went upstairs, where there were stall upon stall of Hungarian hand embroidered tablecloths, table runners, table mats…and pashminas, and scarves, and jewellery…Oh, look! Leather handbags! We spent the whole morning there, enjoying the bustle and the people.


We had lunch from one of the stalls – it was okay, but not great. I chose a stuffed aubergine, which was only lukish-warm when we received it. I thought about complaining but didn’t bother and it was only when I was halfway through that I thought about how important it is to reheat rice (with which the aubergine was stuffed) to piping heat. Too late now, I thought. Thankfully, there were no ill effects.

After, we walked across to the Buda side of the river to the Cave Church. It was an interesting place to visit, with a comprehensive audio guide. It was very peaceful, and good to sit where Christians had worshipped for hundreds of years – or so I thought! But again, this was a reasonably recent church build – although, to be fair, the caves themselves are a much older feature!

This is a statue of St Stephen, outside the cave church.

After this we went to the Gelert baths. Budapest is a spa town, with several public baths, many of which are quite opulent. Gelert baths are one of the most well-known, and were certainly the handiest. Reviews that we had read were mixed, but we decided to go here because of its convenient location.

The entrance hall was certainly very impressive (although my photos, sadly, are not!)


but when we (finally) found our way to the changing room, and then (even more finally) to the pool we were a little disappointed.

It was certainly more pleasant than the Municipal swimming pool in Crosby where we used to go as schoolgirls, but not quite as “art nouveau-ish” as we’d expected. Still, we swam in the big pool, and lolled in the 35° pool, then decided to brave the damp weather to go to the outside pool. It was a nasty trot through the drizzle  (bare feet!) but the pool was deliciously steamy, and we got chatting to a very pleasant Scottish lady who obviously loves Budapest and gave us some hints and tips. After about an hour, getting more wrinkled by the minute, we scampered back through the gloom to try to find the steam room. This we did, and there we found a little of what we’d been hoping for, in the slightly grubby, down-at-heel thermal pools

With further lolling in warm water (40°) we decided we’d had enough, and got out. We took the tram back to the flat and relaxed with a glass of wine and a chat. Then we ventured out to the Yiddish Italian restaurant that had been recommended to us. It was very good.

I chose a Jewish egg paté – basically chopped up hard boiled egg, with parsley. Pleasant enough. I took a photo but it was terrible. This article, that I discovered while looking for a photo, is quite interesting on the subject of the Jewish Egg paté. Next I chose goose leg, with spiced red cabbage and mashed potato.

It was delicious. Really yummy. And then we had traditional Jewish poppyseed cake, Flodni:

With a good bottle of Hungarian red shared between us, we felt very well fed! A short stroll home and some decision making about the following day: the stained glass museum that I’d hoped to visit was closed for filming, so we couldn’t go there, so we considered other possibilities.

Which you will hear about another time!


Budapest Jollies 2

So I have told you about Thursday, and Sunday…We head on into Monday.

Actually, I made a mistake in the last post: we didn’t buy breakfast things on Sunday evening – we went out for breakfast on Monday, so we must have bought them on Monday evening. Our Monday breakfast consisted of a coffee and a mix between a brioche, a muffin and a doughnut with blueberries. Very healthy!

We had decided to take a free walking tour – free in the sense that, at the end, you gave what you thought the tour had been worth. This started in the same square as the Christmas market: we got rather over-excited when we arrived and saw what was on offer in the market – even though many of the stalls were closed up, as it was still only 10.00 inthe morning. We decided that we’d be visiting later!

There was a very large group of people waiting for the tour to start – finally there were three English speaking groups, and a Spanish group. Our tour guide, who we nicknamed the Elf, but who was actually called Lara, was very interesting, vivacious and knowledgable.

Here she is, standing on a wall, outside the Presidential buildings

The weather was beautifully sunny, but with a bitingly cold wind – felt most keenly as we crossed the Chain Bridge over the Danube. Here are some of the pictures I took:



The Elf told us that the tummy of the policeman (known as the “Fat Policeman”) is shiny because it is a tradition to rub it, not to bring good luck, but to hope that you will be able to have a full belly that day!

Outside the “White House”, which is where the President has his offices, up on the top of Castle Hill, there were two armed guards, standing to attention, like the guards at Buckingham Palace. Weilding sub-machine guns, and staring unsmilingly into the middle distance, they were very stern and off-putting

“See, how still they are”, Lara said,. We agreed.

“That’s because they’re waxworks!” Murmurs of surprise and admiration for the lifelike quality of these models – and then I saw the mouth of one of them twitch, before he gave a huge grin. Obviously he spoke English, & enjoyed Lara’s little joke!

The tour finished at the top of Castle Hill, on the Buda side of the river, so Jane & I decided to try to find somewhere to have lunch. There was a charming café which we liked the look of, in its own little garden, but it was full. We ended up in a coffee shop, but had a very good value meal of a ham-and-cheese toastie, and a platter of Hungarian meat and cheese. As this came with several bread rolls, and (slightly bizarrely) a tub of apricot jam we had pudding as well!!

We then went to the Fisherman’s Bastion, which is also on the top of Castle Hill. This site gives more information about what the Fisherman’s Bastion is – basically a viewing platform built for the people of the city to enjoy fine views over the city:


I’m sorry the photos are so rubbish – I was using my phone, as I’d forgotten to take my camera, and I’m not very used to using it for photos. Also I hadn’t yet  discovered how to zoom in on things!

Here’s one from Google:

Lara told us that this building was the inspiration for Disney’s logo – but I’m really not sure if she was having us on! It was still rather impressive though!

By now my feet were really complaining – the walk had been 2.5 hours, plus more wandering at the top of the hill – so we decided to take the bus back to the flat, and rest up before hitting the Christmas Market! Which is what we did.

We wandered down to the Market at about 6.30, and had a wonderful time strolling round and looking at the items on sale. There were some really beautiful things, and not a lot of the usual tat that you find at these events. A lot of the stalls contained genuine artisanal crafted items. Of course, we had a mug of mulled wine, which we sipped as we looked at everything.

In the centre of the Market were huge numbers of food stalls, selling such vazriety of food – sausage, goulash, duck legs, pork knuckle…Lots of delicious things, but we’d rather set our hearts on trying one of these:

traditional Hungarian flat bread, called Langos bread. This deep fried flatbread is a common street food in Hungary where it is served warm with sour cream and grated cheese, rubbed with garlic or garlic butter. It was a kind of doughnut batter (not sweet) and although it was quite tasty for the first few mouthfuls, it got very boring after a bit. I wished I’d chosen a sausage for my supper instead! Never mind!

We had another wander around, but stalls were starting to close up, so we walked back to the flat, via a supermarket for some breakfast supplies.

Christmas lights in Budapest.

Budapest Jollies Part 1

Hello everyone!

Having told you about the “spiritual” side of my time in Budapest, I thought I’d share some of my not-so-spiritual time!

I arrived on the Thursday, the day before the retreat was due to start. There was another lady, Edith, who was in the same situation as me, so we arranged to meet at the airport, to share a taxi to the Retreat House. When I found her however, she’d already spoken to someone and had the route by public transport all worked out! By myself I don’t think I’d’ve been brave enough but with Edith we were intrepid! There was some moments of panic and tension when we weren’t sure (a) where to get off the bus and (b) if indeed the bus was travelling in the right direction but that got sorted by a helpful young woman with a GPS and good English!

The following day I wanted to just wander around Budapest, while Edith wanted to climb Castle Hill and various other high points – she is a lot fitter than I, so we travelled in on the bus together (we knew what we were doing this time!) and then split up. I wandered aimlessly but enjoyably around the Jewish Quarter, admiring the Grand Synagogue from the outisde, but not wanting to really “visit” anywhere, as I knew I’d be meeting up with my friend after the retreat.

I took photos of things that I thought might inspire some Zentangle patterns:

I thought the pattern at the top of the door rather interesting

This window on the Jewish Archive centre was also interesting

and I really liked this pattern around a window.

And I was right: they did inspire a piece of Zentangle art:

Not the best photo, but I think you can see how some of the patterns have been incorporated into the design.

I particularly admired one building, with a huge angelic figure outside it:

I can’t help wondering what the flats in these kind of buildings are like – shabbily chic? Bang up-to-date? Who knows…,

I paused for lunch, choosing a place that advertised Craft beer, and had Hungarian sausage, coleslaw and sweet potato chips, plus a beer.

As I was getting tired I decided to make my way back to the Retreat House, and spend some time reading & zentangling. Then the other participants arrived, and we started the Retreat.

On the Sunday, there were four of us who were staying longer, so we shared a taxi into the centre of the city, where Lee, Laurie and Paula had their hotel. I had the address of the airbnb which Jane & I had booked, but other than that had no idea where it was in relation to the hotel. I was more than willing to catch buses etc, although happily,  when we arrived at the hotel Lee’s GPS proved that the flat was just about 10 minutes walk away. So off I went, trundling my suitcase behind me, and finally found the address – amazingly, in the block that I admired on Thursday!!

Jane had already arrived, so we spent time catching up, which was lovely. We are lucky enough to have one of those friendships where you can just pick up as though you saw each other last week. But after an hour or so’s chatting we decided to go exploring.

We wandered – finding a small Christmas market (about 10 stalls) and really, really hoping that that wasn’t it. We did, however, have mulled wine and chimney cake:

Both of which were delicious

We wandered around and visited St Stephen’s basilica, rather lovely in the late evening gloaming – lots of candlelight glinting from the gold decoration within. Very hushed, with some meandering organmusic being played. It was a delight to sit in the beauty, with my good friend, who has been a Christian for as long as I have, in a place where Christians hgave worshipped for, oh hundreds of years (or so I thought. Eventually discovering that in fact the Basilica was relatively modern, being finished in 1905!)

We strolled around various souvenir and craft shops, already planning our future purchases – what fun to be with someone who enjoys browsing! Mr FD hates it, but in fact Jane & I did a lot of browsing together!!

We decided to eat in a Hungarian restaurant, and had Goulash soup, followed by chicken paprikash, and then pancakes. I meant to take photos, but forgot! A stroll back to the flat, via a small supermarket, to buy coffee, tea, cereal, milk and orange juice for breakfast,and wine, not for breakfast, and we spent the evening relaxing, chatting and planning the next day’s adventures. We were also very happy to discover that the Miserable Christmas Market that we discovered was only an offshoot from the main Christmas Market , located in another square. Tomorrow was planned!!

And you’ll hear about it in another post.

If you’ve got this far, you may be wondering about the Big & Scary news – well, I’ve been biopsied (once) and I have been told that I have a pre-cancerous nodule in my breast. Everyone is very keen to tell me that there’s nothing to worry about, and that, more-than-likely, it can be dealt with through surgery, and possibly radiotherapy. I have an appointment to see a highly-regarded breast specialist on Monday, and we will know more about timescales then. I will also have a more invasive biopsy to make sure.

Strangely, I have not been scared, or even really worried; “mildly concerned” might cover it. I have felt surrounded by love, concern and prayers, and God has never felt closer. All this year, I have believed that there was something big that God was going to ask of me, and I knew that the Retreat was going to play an important part in helping me deal with it. When I was asked to serve on the Transition Committee (involved in the search for a new Bishop for the Convocation) I thought that might be the Thing. However, more and more, I think that this health problem is the Thing. And the peace and renewal of an understanding of God’s love for me that was the main focus of the Retreat (for me) has really upheld me through these past weeks of uncertainty, and will continue to surround me through whatever is to come.

As I said in my last post, our mantra is “It is what it is (and we now know what it is), it will be what it will be, and we will get through it together”. Please, should you be of a praying ilk, would you continue to pray.



Thoughts on Budapest Retreat

Hello everyone! I’m back after a wonderful week away in Budapest. I had three days of retreat, at St Arnold’s Retreat House, followed by 4 days being a tourist with a friend.

The retreat was a Vocational Discernment retreat, with a group of about twenty five people from the convocation. It was led by a wonderfully inspiring man, the Revd Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and was entitled “This is my son, listen to him”

Mark is speaking at Greenbelt 2018 – if you’re going, don’t miss him!!

I’m not really sure what I’ve taken away from this time: I didn’t know what to expect when I went, but it wasn’t what it was (if you see what I mean!)

Mark Oakley is a poet, and a lover of poetry, and he introduced us to some wonderful poems. He talked compassionately and wisely, about “the collage of God”, about God as Love, about listening in the silence.

I took some notes about what he said, and they aren’t terribly coherent, but I shall include some of the phrases that I jotted down here. Maybe they will resonate with you.

  • When people are in my presence, how do I make them feel?
  • God loves us as we are. He loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay like that.
  • Jesus sees our full stops and changes them into commas. (That is to say, he sees and understands where our blockages are, and enables us to change, and to continue the “sentence”)
  • Live up to God’s voice that speaks of our worthiness, and don’t live down to the voices that speak of our failings.
  • God is the cause of our wonder.
  • God sees what is good, and true and beautiful in our souls.
  • Lord God, help me to find my true self so that I can find you.
  • Read between the lines (of scripture) and find the love.
  • When I let go of who I am I can become what I am meant to be.
  • We are here to give voice to God.
  • We are in danger of living unawkenede lives, surrounded by and listening to lies, both internal and external.
  • How can I think critically and live faithfully?
  • The rumour of God: we live as if it is true.
  • A life of faith, not certainty.
  • There are 2 bowls of water spoken about in the Gospels: that of Pilate – indifference and apathy – and that of Jesus – service to and love for others. Which bowl do we choose to pick up?

Some of the poems Mark led us to were beautiful. For copyright reasons I do not put them on here, but here are some links, with one line from each that really resonated for me:

The Real Work, by Wendall Berry :: It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon :: Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid.

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott :: Sit. Feast on your life

Love, by George Herbert :: You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat

In the Dark, by Robin Fulton MacPherson :: Some things are best seen, unseen.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver :: One day you finally knew what you had to do…

And, finally, the poem that, I think, in the end, sums up what I learned from this retreat, (and sorry about the swear word in it)

Getting it across, by U.A. Fanthorpe :: I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives

Or…the easy messages Are the ones not worth transmitting

Or…They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom My message is.