Poems

I’m not one for those “chain emails” where you are asked to pass on a hug, or post this on FaceBook to support whatever is the Cause du Jour, or paint your face blue to show you love the NHS, but when my sister sent me one, which was to send an inspiring poem to one person, and then ask 20 or so of your contacts to send one each to the person who sent you the email, I thought that it was quite nice.

Unfortunately, one of my contacts got herself in a real pickle – she’s even less technologically gifted than I am, which is saying something! – and only managed to send a poem before having a meltdown. I had to reassure her that it was only a bit of fun, and not to panic.

Since then, I’ve only received two poems back in return. And I’ve had a very similar email from two other people! The first I declined, but was obviously a mutual friend of that sender and one of her sendees, as the sendee then sent it to me again! I have sent that on to another few people, but who knows if they will wish to participate!If you’ve received from me, but don’t wish to take part then that’s fine. These things are only fun, and inspirational if you want to join in; if you don’t they can become a source of guilt, upset or frustration.

So I thought I’d share with you the poem I’ve sent to my two people, and the ones I received back, in the hpe that they too will inspire you.

This one is mine, (no, I didn’t write it, obvs) that I sent to others: I chose this one for the language, the images and the uplifting thoughts. I remember introducing a class of nine to ten year olds to this poem, and the pleasure they had in rolling the words around their mouths, discussing the adjectives and feeling the language was fantastic.

Pied Beauty

By Gerald Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things-

For skies of couple colour as a brinded cow;

For rose moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

 

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth; whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.

We’re doing OK

Everything is fine here – we are both working, and so our weeks are busy. Mr FD holes himself up in his study, I hole myself up in mine, and we meet briefly when one or the other makes a hot drink for us both, or over lunch. I’m busy because I’ve actually got a couple of new students, and also because working from distance means I need to write a follow up email to the students – which I wouldn’t do if we were meeting face to face.

On Monday morning I plan my lessons, and prepare the lesson summaries as much as I can; then from Monday afternoon onwards I’m teaching, or doing admin work. Although I’m finding it tiring I am very grateful to have work, as I know that so many self employed people are facing financial problems. We also are saving money as I’m not travelling to Clermont every day. In fact, Soozy (which we collected the Saturday before the lockdown) has hardly moved since she came home!!

Our treats involve going next door, to the restaurant-turned-takeaway to buy something. The people only opened the restaurant a couple of weeks before the lockdown meant restaurants had to close, so we’re supporting them as much as we can. We’ve had pizzas, burger-and-chips, and the most delicious chocolate/apricot gateau. That was so rich I had to eat my slice over two days! Today they’re cooking Cantonese rice and Spring rols, but we forgot to order, so we’ll probably just have a pizza.

As we’re out in the country confinement isn’t affecting us too much. We get out most days for a walk, but we have to remember to take our Attestation. You aresupposed to print out a new one every time you go out, but so far I’ve been tippexing out the date and writing today’s date. It seems remarkably wasteful of paper and ink to keep reprinting, and tippex shows that one is not trying to cheat in anyway. I’ve not been stopped any way, so I’ll plead ignorance if I have to.

Shopping is reasonable, with most things available. We are definitely using local businesses now, and trying to spread ourselves around.

But confinement has been extended to mid-April, with most people expecting it to continue to the beginning of May. One of my students, who is the director of a small company, has said the Government is warning businesses to prepare to be closed until the end of May, or even the end of June!

However, we know it’s the right thing to do – unlike many people in the UK, it seems! Our local GP, and the head of the school have both succumbed, with the GP being in hospital for several days. I’ve not heard how he’s doing. Tonight I’m meeting Friend Alison for a virtual apero – FriendCathy, in the UK at present, was invited but she thinks it’s possible she has the virus too.

The cats know what to do!!

Actually our cats love having us round, especially Jasper and Millie, who follow the sun around Mr FD’s study. I get Bib coming to meeow at some of my late afternoon students!

 

Catching Up

As I said, 40 Acts has been a disaster for me. I started off less enthusiastically than in other years, and quickly lost motivation, as the news of the pandemic became more serious and I started feeling anxious.

So, what did I do, if anything…You can click on the title of each section if you want to read the meditation from 40 Acts

ACT 7: You first

After you.’ It’s not something you hear very often in our preoccupied, me-first society. Yet, how easy it is to offer a higher place in the queue, your seat on the bus, the chance to go through a road junction first. And what a blessing to receive it!

Green: Everywhere you go today, hold the door open for anyone who’s following you.

Amber: Allow another shopper to go ahead of you at the checkout or let another driver out of a junction.

Red: Continue into the week, looking for opportunities to practice ‘preferring others’. Determine to make this a constant habit.

I do try to be considerate, to hold doors open, to let lesser loaded shoppers go first and so on…So today I continued to do this. I also tried very hard not to make sarcastic comments (only to myself) about drivers who I considered to be driving slower than they should be! Nothing world shattering, I’m afraid!

It did make me smile though, as I remebered last year…One 40 Acts day I was feeling right mardy, as I wandered the aisles of Lidl with my trolley filling up. I felt a prompt from somewhere, pointing out my less than charitable efforts.

“Oh alright then,” I grumped, “I’ll let anyone with a basket go first.” SIGH

I got to the checkout. Shortly after, a guy holding a couple of baguettes arrived behind me.

Allez-y” I said, and he thanked me, and went next. As I prepared to unload my shopping onto the conveyor belt someone else arrived with a basket. Hah, God, I thought. Very funny.

Allez-y” I said, and as she slipped by me (yes, you’ve guessed it) two more people with baskets arrived. By now God and I were in on the joke, so I was happy to let them past too…but it did make me wonder about God’s sense of humour!!

ACT 8: UNDER THE WEATHER

Coughs, sneezes or assigned to bed… if you live alone, it can be difficult to manage cooking or even making a drink; and if others depend on you, there’s the pressure to carry on, regardless of how ill you feel. Someone you know is going through a hard time with their health, so put aside time to help them in a practical way.

Green: Text or call someone you know who is unwell to see how they are doing.

Amber: Create a care package or ask someone if they’d like you to prepare a meal for them.

Red: Set aside some time for a hospital or care home visit, or relieve someone who cares for a relative full-time for a couple of hours.

This seemed a bit ironic, as the pandemic crept closer to us… But Mr FD wasn’t feeling 100% as he was nursing a cold. I felt that looking after him, and keeping my patience (he’s not the best of patients!) was a good effort.

I did also text a friend who wasn’t feeling well, with some Get Well Soon thoughts.

ACT 9 PREPAID

Imagine turning up to buy something, only to find you haven’t brought enough money. You apologise and start to move away, but the assistant says you can take it because someone else has already paid. The stuff of fantasy? Not if you become part of a growing momentum of pre-paying on behalf of the needy.

Green: Leave coins taped to a car-park ticket machine.

Amber: Check out websites like www.suspendedcoffee.com or search on Facebook for ‘suspended coffee’ to find an outlet near you where you can buy drinks for the homeless to collect later.

Red: Contact a Christian holiday centre and ask if they have a bursary scheme whereby you can offer to pay towards a guest’s stay.

I intended to do the green act, but never quite got round to it. The best I could do was leave a spare plastic jeton in the supermarket shopping trolley. Not even a 1€ coin, but a plastic jeton!! Still, I guess it would still be useful if you didn’t have your coins with you.

ACT 10 LITTERBUG

Every cigarette butt casually discarded, every sweet wrapper or takeaway container soon adds up to a big problem on our streets. Let’s care for the planet God gave us. Find a bin. It’s a win-win.

Green: Pick up five pieces of litter today.

Amber: Keep a pair of protective gloves in your pocket or bag, ready to remove debris wherever you go. You could even separate out the litter to recycle at home.

Red: Plan a community clean-up day. Advertise it as widely as you can and gather a team to systematically work through specific areas. Spread the word on social media with the hashtag #40acts.

Sorry. Did nothing…

ACT 11: FRIEND INDEED

We’re thinking of friendship in its thick-and-thin sense, today. Among our circle will be friends who are going through tough times and need someone near them. Sometimes, fear of saying the wrong thing makes us stay away, but so often all that’s needed is some company and a listening ear.

Green: Call a friend who you know is struggling and ask them how they are.

Amber: Give a small thing like a card or their favourite food to let a friend who is sad know that you are thinking of them.

Red: When you speak to someone, listen carefully to what they tell you and, if anything rings alarm bells, ask them if they’d like you to go with them to get extra support elsewhere.

We have friends in Rome – as the pandemic in Italy gets worse, and the restrictions more severe, I sent them a message assuring them of love and prayers. They joined in our Zoom church service today – it was lovely to see them!

Also, later on, after France was put under lockdown (allowed out only for a few reasons) I posted some Ninja notes into people’s post boxes – hopefully to cheer them up.

ACT 12: CHOCOLATE TUESDAY

It’s a rare person who doesn’t like chocolate, so this one is for lots of people around you. Wherever you go today, spread the love, chocolate style! You’re obviously going to need to work within your budget, but push the boat out and buy Fairtrade if you can.

Green: Buy a box or tub and leave it by the coffee machine at work, or at the school reception. Add a cheerful ‘help yourself’ note, with the hashtag #40acts (and your name if you want to encourage a response).

Amber: Arm yourself with chocolate and hand it out to those you meet as you go through the day.

Red: Keep an eye out and an ear open for God to prompt you about who to approach. As you offer them the chocolate, add an explanation about 40acts and see what conversations open up about Jesus.

I knew this was coming, as Chocolate Tuesday is a recurring Act, so I was already prepared! Chocolate bars for the students I was teaching, a box of chocolate for the staff at the Language Centre, and another left out for the students. A card and a 40 Acts sticker. While my students were surprised, they were happy to accept. And one bar left over for Mr FD!

I’m pausing in the mammoth catch up now, as I’m going to have a Mothering Sunday Skype (or equivalent) call to my mum.

More at a later date!!

Covid-19 marches on!!

We are living in interesting times… Rob & Caireen, our former Rector & his wife, who moved to Rome, are experiencing total lockdown (although, luckily for them, the church garden is attached to their flat, so their puppies can still have daily exercise!), all educational facilities in France are closed from Monday, with advice being to avoid unnecessary travel, the US has banned immigration from Europe (our friends from church just ducked under the wire on that one!)and Boris Johnson is warning families in Britain that they will lose many loved ones…

There is panic buying and empty supermarket shelves in places, with those who hve to shop daily for financial reasons unable to find what they need; there are people with stocks of anti bacterial handwash not quite grasping that if they have it all, then there’s none for anyone else, so the spread of the virus is aided, not stopped…

But equally many people seem unperturbed. I’ve hd two students cancel today, but the other, a pharmacist, is behaving quite normally, and when I suggested we might change to having phone lessons, seemed genuinely confused about why…

I suspect that within the next couple of weeks, France may well be in the same situation as Italy. While I haven’t been panic buying, my cupboards are fuller than usual, with enough food to see us through about 14 days. I am thinking I may go and get some more cat food today, because that’s the thing we’d probably run out of!!

I’m not really worried about myself or Mr FD; despite my cancer, and subsequent chemo, all blood tests have shown that my immune system has bounced back (or maybe sauntered back…I doubt if anything in my body does anything with such energy as the word “bounce” suggests!). We are not particurlarly vulnerable. Mr FD has a device to boost one’s lung capacity – he used it for improving his cycling fitness – so we are thinking it might be a good idea for us both to start using it. It certainly can’t harm us.We do both have colds – Mr FD’s has been nasty, but none of the fevers/aching joints/respiratory problems associated with this pandemic. Although it has meant people have eyed us suspiciously when we’ve sneezed or coughed or cleared our throats!! If we are unlucky enough to catch it, we are likely to survive.

The worry is – of course – for those more vulnerable people that we love. While my mum is in relatively good health, she is coming up to 91. She has been under the weather with a cold that she can’t shake off, and she is definitely of the won’t-go-to-a-doctor-unless-I-think-it’s-serious mindset And she never thinks it’s serious!! But equally, she has her wits about her, and I doubt that she will be taking many risks. My MiL is 10 years younger, and again in splendid form for her age, but she too is in the extremely vulnerable category — and both are in the Probably Left To Die If There’s Not Enough Ventilators age group.

Still, what can we do? This too will pass. Trust in God and in the kindness of others. Look for the helpers.

Live Car?

If you remember, a few posts back I told you that our little Fiat 500 died on us

We had to decide what to do, so having looked at a few cars, we’ve decided that we’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy a new car.And so the next thing was which one we’re going to buy. We test drove one on Wednesday night, and it seems a good medium sized car, with enough “poke” for motorway driving.

Dear Mr FD was going to try to organise the finance and hopefullyeverything will work out.

I don’t believe God is a “God of Parking Spaces” (that is, miraculously providing parking spaces when prayed for) but I do believe he takes an interest in the minutiae of our lives. So I prayed that we’d find the right car for us, as it’s necessary for us both to have one; as soon as I saw this one, it felt like I would be very happy driving this car.

Let’s hope things fall into place…

Does it come with an Itty Bitty Kitty too?!

ETA: there has been a problem with this car, afterall. Mr FD has unearthed the fact that it hasn’t had regular oil changes, which could have caused long term damage to the engine. So, the search continues…we’ll find The Right Car at some stage.

Pet Patrol Rescue!!

I was driving to church last Sunday, quite early as I was taking the service.

As I was going a tad below the speed limit on the motorway, I saw a small black cat hunched up close against the central reservation, obviously terrified.

Very similar to this

By the time I had clocked it, processed what I’d seen and made the decision I couldn’t leave it there I was probably over a kilometre further down the motorway. So I did what any cat lover would do…

I drove to the péage (tolls), drove on to the next exit, exited the motorway, drove back onto the motorway, went through the tolls, drove up to the next exit, exited the motorway, went through the toll, turned round, went back through the toll, drove back onto the motorway, and stopped on the hard shoulder.

Then I walked briskly along the hard shoulder to where I’d seen the cat.

There it was, still as could be. I waited for a break in the traffic (Sunday morning, there wasn’t very much traffic) and then scurried over. To where a wet and soggy scarf was lying all scrunched up..! I’d driven 30 minutes and 30 kilometres out of my way to rescue a scarf!!!

When I told the congregation why I was only just on time for the service they thought it most amusing!