Monday, 29 December 2008

Crib & Child

Resting in the hearth of the front room, amid tea light candles; Mum's crib and figures. The crib is quite new, replaced by one of my younger cousins (Gregory); the old one as I remember was nowt but a box (very fitting for a stable). The figures though must be over 50 years old, I remember the year poor Joseph lost his head. No such thing as super glue, so he was put together with some rubber solution - seems to have worked well though.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Outwood bound

An afternoon walk across the moors found me the other side of Ugthorpe mill (above). The mill is pictured a few blogs ago withh all it's sails; today it is a converted dwelling. As I drew close on the moor road so many years ago, I would shout "I can see the minwill".

I took with me my new spotting scope and later headed towards the water, here I found a Redshank, some ducks and geese. Perhaps nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed the walk and oh yes, the scope works fine.

Note to evening office; Take a walk on the wild side (often).

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Journey a far

My wanderings have not taken me far recently, though I feel I have been a million miles from where I should have been; have you ever felt like that? We are close to Christmas too (or when you read this it may be all over); such hype and fuss. Today as I walked past the railway station and I over heard adults speaking in strange tounges, about Star wars, Dr Who and Ben 10 figures; DS and Wee; and would they be able to get any? What is it all about, I wonder? A simple message on the Drop-in centre window - "One light, in the streets" and a single candle cut out in crepe paper and white card. So many lights in the town, flashing colours and a strange blue that defies a name, you know the one. We used to say psychedelic, but it is not even that. I do love Christmas, really; it's just that it seems to bring stress and pain instead of peace and love.

Exercise is still on the agenda and evening walks up into the village despite the wind and cold. I listen out for the owls and have not heard them for some time now. Last weekend (Friday) I was on my usual route and came down past the bungalows for the elderly. As I came round the corner I heard in the distance a dull sound, there seemed to be a rhythm to it but the source confused me (I had passed the pub earlier). It became clear as I got got closer, an elderly gentleman had got himself a karaoke and was indulging in a Country and Western sing along. He was obviously on his own and enjoying every minute of it; I chuckled to myself and wandered on.

Santa Clause has for many years visited the friary when all is still and brothers asleep, leaving gifts of clothing, food and drink. I have indulged this year in a telescope and I am under instructions to wrap it up and open it only on Christmas day. The difficulty is that the sky is quite clear at the moment and sure to be cloudy by Christmas. I think I would be about 12-years old when I got my first telescope for Christmas. Quite a basic model and though the pictures on the side of the box showed Saturn's rings and large craters on the moon, I didn't experience any astronomical marvels; in fact Eston nab beacon was about the best I could get. Still, things must be better - more powerful these days? I love to read and look at pictures of distant galaxies, planets and stars; but to see these things with our own eyes, to pull them into focus and in the centre of the eyepiece, must be amazing! I am looking forward to connecting a camera so I can record the images of light traveling towards my telescope, of distant stars so long ago. Watch this space for developments.

Note to evening office: Faith is found often without seeing, but how our faith grows when we see. Such a simple thing as a piece of glass, which in itself - we need to look through and not at.

Lots of love
Every blessing for this Christmas time, receive Love - Peace - Hope.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Heavenly Bodies

A slow drive home last week and the skys were still clear. It was around tea time and there, just a little above the horizon, I could see two bright stars. They were of course planets as they did not twinkle twinkle like a little star. The sky was quite beautiful that evening and to have two planets so close together was spectacular.

I think I mentioned before about my interest in astronomy due to my walks around the gas works with the night watchman, George. I would be about 12-years old then; we lived in the gas works managers house but I hasten to add, in the old servant quarters. We moved to this house when I was 8-years old and it was a great adventure; the gas works, then disused except for storage, was my playground also the garden with it's tennis court, green house, vine shed, garage and workshop. The manager that lived next door was not a gardener or handy man so we had the use of the garden and it's out houses. Dad dug up half the tennis court and planted potatoes and vegetables and I threw a rope over a branch and made a swing in the trees.

During our 10-years there I went from a kid in short trousers to a young man at technical college. Family was important and there would often be uncles, aunts, cousins and extended family visiting. We didn't have much but there was always enough to go round; conversation at adult level, was mostly reminiscing - stories about themselves and other family members, it was good to listen in, even if I had heard it before. Mum & Dad often had visitors (family and friends) who would come for adult talks, they were good listeners to anyone in need.

The gas works also had a row of terraced houses and it was here that Luap and Nephets lived, we used to reverse our names; this was down to uncle Pip, one of the watchmen. He would tell fantastic stories and recite nonsense poems, we would sit for hours in the boiler room and listen to him. Uncle Pip used to work in the iron ore mines in Eston hills, he was was a huge man but gentle and full of fun. He would stoke the furnace with coke, which heated the water; this would stop the gas storage tanks from freezing. Every hour measurements of the two large gasometers were taken and recorded in the "big book". Measurements were taken by counting the number of gas tank levels fully extended and number of plates and bolts visible. The volume of gas could then be calculated.

Perhaps more about my time at South Bank another day; so what about these two planets? What a beautiful sight. I did wonder if one of them was Mars as this planet is often seen just above the horizon, but no, my first thoughts were correct it was Jupiter and Venus (very bright). I did Google this when I got home; it seems that Jupiter and Venus come within 2 degrees of each other and on the 1st December just after sunset they are joined by the smallest part of the moon. I hope the sky is clear and I remember my tripod. All this is happening in the constellation of Sagittarius. So what does all this mean? The names of the planets, the position in this constellation at this time of year and the moon? Nothing, it is just a beautiful sight to be gazed upon and marveled at, reminisced upon and valued. This time of year, as we pull ourselves in and keep warm, it is good to reminisce and value our family and friends, past and present.
Note to evening office: I am who I am because of others.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Night Light

As I walk around the friary these November evenings, I am greeted by shafts of light through the windows. We have been treated by some clear skys recently and a full moon. Moon light has that pure silvery light, making our rooms look rather grand (hiding the dust and clutter). Saturday evening I stopped the car at the sea front and took a few photos, wish I had my tripod as many came out blurred but I liked the one above. The halogen lights from the car park lit up the beach as the moonlight skipped across the water; a ship on the horizon and stars breaking through, the dark crest of Huntciff to the right. The moon rose from the sea, quite red and I watched it breaking through the cloud. Mum used to tell me about the Hunters moon, named so the hunters could go out without torches and a blood red moon, not giving off too much light. The Hunters moon follows the Harvest moon (also red) and is the next full moon following the autumnal equinox (Hunters moon.14th October this year) I don't believe it was a clear night at all.

On the other hand, our days have changed too. The low sun this time of year casts light into most of our rooms, reaching corners and shelves that I now notice in a different way. I could imagine looking into rooms and seeing them for the first time, feeling like a stranger in my own home. Again there is a beauty, this silvery light, more direct and clean. The rooms look larger too.

The moon of course (some would say) has no real beauty of it's own; it is really just a large mirror reflecting the glory of the sun. We cannot look straight into the sun so we gaze at the moon and upon what it reveals with its light. I was passing these comments today to a novice, George, I am sure he thought I was quite mad (until he met brother Cyril). I hope he comes and visits again; I enjoyed his company, a tall young man who was not afraid to say what he felt.

Note to morning office: Try to notice how different things look in the changing light, don't assume you know anything.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Taken advantage

October already; and the clocks are adjusted to to give a little more light in the evening, albeit for a short while. All this year I have been promising myself a keep fit programme, a personal exercise routine. It has not materialised and only occasionally have I attempted press-ups and physical jerks. Only today on the radio we were reminded about the winter months and a feeling of, needing to stay in bed (oh that it was possible)! Evidently we need to Up our physical exercise to combat the lethargy caused by short daylight hours. Perhaps I should re-think my fitness strategy to help me through these winter months; we are assured that within 1-2 weeks we will feel a benefit in our alertness and motivation.

I disappear often enough from the friary so I really ought to focus my exercise time within the friary boundaries, but where? and would a jogging suit and trainers help? I doubt if there is a suitable book in our library so I ought to call into the local library, or talk to those nice people at the wellbeing centre; this is all getting very scary. Brother Timothy may be interested in joining me, we could do this together and encourage each other. Maybe by March I will have a programme sorted out. It seems life fills up with so many things and those that are important float to the top of the bucket and spill over the edge.

Arthur is a kind old gentleman (widower) who lives close by, I was walking back from the village yesterday when I saw him coming up the hill, the wind was against him as he stumbled and regained his balance leaning against the wall of the terraced houses. I moved quickly towards him and asked if he was alright, "I'm jiggered" he said. As I spoke to him he recognised me and I suggested we walked back to his house together. "No, I will be alright - I just need a few things from the shop". Suggestions of my going to the shop for him or taking him in the car brought the same answer. "No, I might take advantage of you". What do you do, it was very windy and Arthur is frail, seeing him fall in the street did not bare thinking of, yet he was insistent; what do you do?

I understand a persons independence and also when they come to a stage of frailty, it was so hard to let him go on. Back at the friary I busied myself with simple chores within sight of the road, watching for Arthur's return; he told me, the wind will be behind me on my way back, and he was right. I walked out to meet him and saw him to his door reminding him of our help when he needs us. He looked much better than earlier and said he fancied a cup of tea.

Note to evening office: Is it wrong to be taken advantage of?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Life to the full

Well my friends I have not been too good recently and for the last week, laid up most of the time. Unusual for me as I can often shake off a cold in a few days; however last Friday I went to see my Doctor (would he remember me)? more to the question could I find him? We have a new surgery with new systems and on entry you have to press the screen! It then asks if you are male or female, so far so good; then what month were you born, ok, so I pressed December, the next screen asked what day of the month - "still easy questions I thought" so I pressed first the 2 then went for the 1 and the screen threw me back to the first menu. This went on three times exactly the same. I walked to the nice lady at reception and quietly said "that machine does not like me and I have an appointment in 3-minutes". After she talked me through what I had just done, she said "you should have pressed the 21 not 2 and 1" evidently lots of people make that mistake! There were 31 keys on the touch screen and I was trying to use 0-9.

The doctor was very nice and gave me some Penicillin and we chatted for a while. I managed to press the right buttons to get me out of the surgery and on to the Chemist with my little prescription. "Friday's are always busy" said one to another, "frightened to be without medication over the weekend". I sat among children who were kept quiet with lollipops and a young man who could talk for England on his mobile phone; I thought they all used texts these days? Still, it sounded like he had a busy weekend planned. Back home, the thought of a couple of days laid up sounded inviting; I could write a little and ponder on a few more chapters, do a little research and maybe a Sudoko or two. Not a hope, this took me by surprise and I found it difficult to think anything at all and when I did, it scared me to think I could imagine such nonsense. Once the temperature went down things started to return to normality and it was nice to have support from the household.

We do not take kindly to illness as it often comes at a time we are most busy. I first laughed about the touch screen, at the same time I was annoyed with myself to think I could not see 31 keys in front of me. It is often the way when we are most intent on one thing; that we can't see the other options, particularly with myself, I get one thing into my head and can't see anything else - I need a pause key to hold, wait, check, before moving on - especially with the simple things I think I have already mastered.

Note to morning office: May I not presume to know anything but that I learn again each day.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Cat Nap

The friary cat has just emerged from his long slumber, no doubt he sneaked into one of the rooms without detection. I am wondering how long I can keep typing this before he distracts me enough to go find his dish. Hmmm, perhaps I should go straight away then he will be off for a wander down the garden. This last couple of weeks seem to have been so full of busyness while at the same time there has been a strange feeling of "what next" and when it comes down to finding time on my own - there is a tiredness and lack of motivation. The book has not advanced one paragraph this week even though I set a target date to complete this chapter. It seems this part of my life is in suspension.

Sundays of my youth were, Sunday mass and home for a good roast dinner with Yorkshire puddings. Mum and Dad would rest in the easy chairs and Dad would say "I'm just having 40 winks". I would play quietly or read a comic such as Look and Learn, eventually Dad would wake and Mum would put the kettle on. It would often be a treat to run down to the local shop (The Kiosk) and buy a quarter of Riley's Chocolate Toffee Rolls (sadly no longer available). This time of year, the gas fire would be on and the lounge would be the cosiest room in the house; later on the trolley (table on wheels) would be pushed through to the lounge with sandwiches, cakes and biscuits. My parents were great at remenissing and it seems so am I; so where am I going with this? My parents were older than those of my peers and I guess needed their rest after dinner on a Sunday, but they were actually younger then than I am now and I have never taken a nap in the afternoon. Brother Cyril is often asleep and sometimes I need to wake him to tell him to go to bed, Brother Michael (it seems) never sleeps? however there are times when he says he is away to his room to study or write some letters. Perhaps there is something in this afternoon nap; in Spain they call it a siesta and I believe famous people do this too, so maybe mid-day office should be extended a little?

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Beauty surrounding us

I was what we call a late vocation, and first served my time as an audio/electronics engineer back in the late 60's. What started out as a hobby (short wave communication) ended up a career; in those days we were just into transistor radios and I remember turning an old cassette tape machine into what we now know as a "Walkman", the head phones were large but hidden mostly by my long hair. How technology has moved, I am now listening to the same music on a 2Gbyte iPod and though I accept is now as the norm, it still amazes me that I can get all the Beatles songs on one small piece of equipment. I have also recently got a portable MP3 recorder so watch out for some Podcasts in the future.

Washing up this morning and looking out of the window, I had one of those moments; thinking about how technology has moved so fast, we can post information on the Internet and immediately it is being read all round the world - Wow!
It always got me thinking when I remember how we were taught, that when Jesus returns - everyone will know - My mind would often think how that could happen? Telephone, television or now the Internet; it seems more possible now than ever before. Don't worry, I am not going to get into a debate about the second coming; this is a subject that seems to consume so many people and in my mind distracts from our real work - to feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit those in prison and clothe the naked. But just so we are not too absorbed in how all this is going to happen, my thoughts came closer to home. It does seem that with those very close to us, we develop an ability to know how they are even if they are physically miles away; so when Christ returns and our link with him is so strong, it would not be surprising to know (inside) of his earthly presence.

My iPod was with me this weekend as I worked in the garden, we have to catch up with garden chores as work permits and weather dictates. The old shed was leaning dangerously to the right so I set to and propped it up straight with a stout piece of timber; funny how one job leads to another, the shed itself needs emptying before I can put the internal ties in and then we need to decide what goes back into the shed. Wouldn't it be easier if tasks were single and simple, I am sure I would get more done. Brother Cyril sat in the garden while I worked and read his book, looking up occasionally to say what a good job I was doing. We sat and had a cup of tea together and he remenissed about the garden he grew up in and how his young friends would come and build dens among the trees. I said he could build us a new shed! he just laughed and said "have we had tea"? I keep threatening to pull out the butterfly bush and make a little more room for the other small shrubs around it, but when I see the host of butterfly's that it brings me - it stays at least for another year - such beauty and so delicate.

Note to evening office: How can I value such beauty the world provides me?

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Alnwick castle gardens

At the bottom of a spectacular waterfall are two drains;
as if someone has taken the plug out!

Children running to dodge the fountains.
Great fun!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Step out in faith

Two weeks ago I was a visiting speaker at one of our local parishes. The two masses (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) were quite different, this had nothing to do with the fact that we had a different priest for each mass. Singing was accompanied by music on Saturday, which always helps me to sing along and not worry about anyone hearing me; Sunday on the other hand was minus a musician. I settled at the back on the end of a pew so I could get out at the prescribed time. I was spotted by a friend and encouraged to join him. After crossing the aisle and greeting him he turned to an elderly couple and said "you can have your seat back now" evidently I had been sat in their pew. I guess I get stuck in a form of worship that has been with me for some time and as much as the mass is the same wherever you go "it isn't"

I spoke about faith, that which we believe - our common faith in God; but more about faith in what can be, and our active part in that process. Sitting and thinking that, if God wanted to He could move that mountain! was not what I had in mind.
In Joshua 3 they were carrying the arc of the covenant and came to the river Jordan (it was in flood) and it was only as their feet stepped out into the water that the upstream stopped flowing, piled up and they crossed over. I chose today's picture because it shows someone stepping out with direction; (a little help from photoshop) the contours of the land are disturbed - as we step forward - changes occur.

After mass I took a copy of Catholic Voice, an interesting article about adult formation and welcoming back those who had left the faith (as we say). There had been a couple of workshops led by the Redemptorists with a good turn out. The main point that came out was "the necessity of superb liturgy that heightens our sense of awe and emphasises the transcendence of God" - Wow, I am up for some of that!

Note to evening office: Be in awe of God in every day things, that we may worship in simplicity and truth.
PS - The book - Chapter one is well on the way.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Monday, 28 July 2008


.Found yesterday on a ramble with Brother Timothy; I am sure you clever people would give this some amazing Latin name (none of the Latin I know); I just call it beautiful.

Mist in the hollow, fine day to follow

That is as maybe, but the mist I saw last night went on to engulf the whole of our coast line. It was a strange sight and not one I can remember seeing before. It was coming up the river mouth until the whole of Middlesbrough, Eston and Redcar was under a blanket of grey. The cloud was so low that you could see the tall industrial chimneys and structures peering over the top and with the sun going down - I couldn't resist hanging out of the side window and taking a couple of shots.

Again I feel I need to apologise for not writing more often and yes I have been out and about a lot; but I miss writing more than you do reading. So, I decided recently to write a book. Now I am going to be realistic and say it will probably take me between 1-2 years and no I have no experience so we will just have to wait and see. It was a few weeks ago when I was talking to a young person and asking what she was going to do with herself over the summer vacation; If I had 8-weeks to do what I liked, I would write a book; (I said without thinking), so why don't you came a voice as I traveled to Kent the other weekend.

Kent was a crazy weekend, meeting up with friends, we were invited down to a local festival and the big event was Music in the Park with tribute bands Abba and Queen. 70's music still gets my feet tapping and I did manage a shuffle in my sandals, we had a great time and the 5 hour journey both ways gave me time to outline the book.

My knee has been playing up recently so I decided it was time for a nice walk on the beach. The weather has been so good (we are really not used to it) and I set a marker in the distance, to where I thought would be a good place to turn around and walk back. The beach was crowded near the town but as I headed off the sounds soon faded. I had seen earlier the drawings and names written in giant size upon the sand as I headed down the cliff steps; I walked through the drawing of a castle, complete with tower, drawbridge and cannon. Stones, sand, seaweed and shells; the sound of the sea, wildlife and wind (oh yes, it is always windy here). The more I saw the more I began to think, the drawings would only last till the next tide although the artists had already left the shore. Shells of creatures long vacated now decorate the beach with their colour and shape. Stones being made into pebbles, washed and ground, chipped and smashed; revealing something new from long long ago. A friend of mine is a geologist and could pick up most of this stuff and give a short lecture on each one. I realised I was walking in a time zone spanning centuries and little me kicking up stones and turning over shells, when they talk about the sands of time I always think of those nice tidy egg timers - but these really are sands of time.

Note to evening office: Help me to see people as stones and shells; unique, and each one has a story.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The simple life

Looking for inspiration I glance through blogs and gaze out of the window; trying to think of something profound to write about. To be honest life has been pretty ordinary recently, very busy and fraught with oncoming changes but ordinary. We really don't like change and any tactics to delay the process creep into our daily life. But change happens as sure as sun comes up in the morning and there is nothing you or I can do about it. I saw a quote (somewhere) that said Today is the Tomorrow you worried about Yesterday; makes a lot of sense. So do we prepare for all eventualities and meet tomorrow head on or wrap ourselves up in a blanket of yesterdays?

We have missed a lot of yesterdays as I haven't written for a long time. Two weeks ago I went to Scotland with the family, the weather was fantastic and we got to do some walking. We stayed at a lovely cottage in Balquhidder (Rob Roy country), visited Stirling castle and Wallace monument. One treat was to see Red Kites at a centre near Doune, from the hide we saw around eleven birds. It was amazing to see how manoeuvrable they are despite their enormous 5-foot wingspan.

I was walking down the lane early one morning and decided to set my camera to manual focus, in the hopes of catching a deer or red squirrel; just at that moment a red squirrel ran right past me (within 2-feet) – off down the lane bushy tail bouncing along. I was so surprised it took a while to pick up my camera and try to catch him. He was more orange than red, like a hair dye gone wrong, other red squirrels are a deep red, it was like something out of Narnia.

I have been quite blessed for walking recently as the car has been out of action. It started in Scotland, an intermittent ignition fault that finally cut out completely last week. So I have been walking to the drop-in all week; down through the woods, over the stepping stones and up by the old mill, along valley gardens and into the town (great). But the car is back now and I guess I am back the old routine.

Last weekend we took a bunch or kids away and stayed at an activities centre; we climbed trees, abseiled, did some archery, orienteering, a night walk and went down a very high zip wire. Yes of course I went on all of these (I am not too old to enjoy myself). It was good to see the changes in the kids over the weekend; one young lad stopped half way up the baby tree, but before the end of the weekend he had mastered the daddy tree, abseiled and gone down the big zip wire.

Note to evening office: So what is profound and important to share? The simplicity of our life today and tomorrow, with all its images and sounds, feelings and thoughts (reflection).

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Lindisfarne - a thin place

Perched in a prayer hole part way down the cliff, I spent a few hours watching the tide come in. St Cuthbert island is seen in the photo above and Bambrough castle was in the distance further to my left (second picture). Further round still is the Farne islands themselves.
So peaceful just listening to the sea, the gulls and watching the occasional seal. Taking time to soak up the history, the prayers from men of old from this Holy Island.

(right) The crypt at
Marygate house.

Thank you to the guys that shared the weekend and for illuminating John's gospel.

Ps - the beer was good too....

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Hold on tight to your dream...............

Electric Light Orchestra [ ELO ]
a big hit in 1981

Sunday, 27 April 2008

We're having a search party

I often start with, the friary is quiet and all are either in bed or away for the day. That's because I tend to get 5-minutes to myself and think, I know, I'll write a little. Most of my day seems to be spent with looking for something, I thought I knew where it was (but it's not). I regard myself as reasonably organised, and know the best plan is to put things back where I will be able to find it. I am convinced there are those in the house who take joy in moving things, knowing my mutterings when in search for that damn thingamajig. I began to think it was just me and I had been smitten with a lack some DNA stuff, but others tell me they have the same problem.

I met with a young friend down by the sea front the other night and we enjoyed a beer together. I was struck by a number of searchers on the beach, what had they lost? They were so intent on their search, head down and kicking up stones and seaweed. Perhaps they weren't looking for anything specific, was this part of the missing DNA syndrome? can't help searching for something (don't know what)? We would say; it's in our jeans.

I remember walking on the beach some years ago, I was going to meet a young person who had spent the night in a cell [police, not monastic]. Head down and not in a rush. I picked up a stone, it was not very spectacular, pretty ugly actually; I would usually choose something with an interesting shape to play with in my hand before throwing it into the sea. As I turned it over I could see there was a hole washed right through, that in itself is not unusual round these parts. Inside there was something rattling, a shell - white, clean and shiny inside this dirty old piece of stone. I tried to shake it out, but it wouldn't come no matter which way I turned it. I came to the conclusion that it hadn't been washed in, rather it was washed out. The shell had been enclosed inside this prehistoric mud and the sea had washed a hole through to reveal this little shell and out of all the stones, I picked it up. This stone and it's shell live at the drop-in and I often use it when I'm talking to folk about beauty within. Perhaps that is what we are all constantly searching for - beauty and peace.

Note to evening office: Read that bit about the birds of the air and the flowers, not having to worry. For what God provides is sufficient.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Fond memories

Turning over more photographs I find this one of an old mill, just up the road from where my mum grew up. It is still standing though the sails are long gone and now converted into a holiday home. Ugthorpe was always a little bit like a time capsule and to some extent still is. A visit to any house would immediately bring out a bit of tea or supper and it wasn't oft that anything ill was spoken of another. Each family would help when time for hay making or harvest. Tea and buns were brought to the field and we would sit by a hay stook and sup n eat. I remember when I was quite young in the hay field; it came on a down pour - thunder and lightning, we ran for cover to the buildings. One of the bigger lads said "where's my jacket"; and made me run back for it. I loved to work on the farm, even the back breaking job of picking potatoes. The old bed that was brought out when I stayed at Newgrove (Granny's house) was a feather mattress and with no care for health and safety; we took a lemonade bottle of hot water to bed when it was cold.
Time wasn't an issue then, everything seemed to fit into place. The routine of Sunday morning, Aunty would bring up cups of tea and a biscuit so we could have something without breaking our fast for communion. There would be five of us lads in one room and all to get washed and ready. Uncle had been and done the milking and tended to the animals, his last job before church was cleaning the shoes. There were no names on seats but each family sat in the same rows year on year; Joe would pull on the bell rope calling the village to worship. Ugthorpe and Egton Bridge has been Catholic right through the recusancy times of Elizabeth I but that's another long story involving many of my ancestors. It was after the Mass that things hotted up, with the men folk taking up position just over the road from the church, talking and laughing; us younger ones would either play on the green or chat with our peers close by the men. It would be quite some time before folk headed off home or to the Black Bull. Uncle would oft stop by the pub and pick up a bottle or two, us lads were allowed a drink at dinner time (with some lemonade). It was a time of making your own amusement with whatever you had. Radio (no TV) and an old wind up record player.

This picture of my cousins and yours truly (between the two boys) is taken close to the mill, it would be behind us and to the left.

Now it is time for us to clean the shoes and help the young ones and for them to feel that everything fits into place; I see so many youngsters in desperate situations and feel I just want to tell them where they may be going wrong. Being the support and taking the strain is often the best policy, giving them the space to see where they are. A call this week from cousin Anne to remind me to arrange a cousins get together; we have talked about it for long enough -

"lets do it"

Note to diary: Set a date for September and call a few cousins.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Peace and growth

Out and about with my camera the other morning, I didn't realise just how well the photo above was till it turned up on my PC. It wasn't even intentional, just a snap to see how the camera worked. Signs of new life on last years young stems and how these will grow this year; I think I am more taken with the colours in the background. Now, already people around us are venturing into their gardens clipping and trimming, I too have been pruning back the butterfly bushes. I am not a gardener, more of a potterer (I potter in the garden) doing a little of this and a little of that. The household does not have any gardening knowledge as such, just visitors and friends offering advice. I cleared some space around the silver birch (allow it some room for growth) - how often our own space is cluttered and restricts movement or time to be just still.

Remember the ginger biscuits? again, Saturday morning I was in the kitchen armed with ingredients and instructions. Putting them into the oven a few at a time was an advantage; getting the size of mixture just right to produce a reasonable biscuit was more tricky than the mixture itself. Again it is the things the recipe doesn't say that causes the problems (next time two heaped teaspoons of ginger).

In among my mums things I turned out something I used to play with as a boy, it lived in the dresser drawer and I don't remember it ever being used. I would aimlessly spin it round by the handle, it has a very smooth action. I don't think I ever asked what it was or if I did it would be filed under "not very interesting". So come on, who out there wants to hazard a guess as to what this device is used for; drop me a line - it's made out of that old stuff called bakalite - oh yes, let me give you a picture - that would help.

I have almost finished reading a book, this is unusual for me as I tend only to read as a need to learn. Story books are not often picked up unless they are short and can be used to / told to others as an aid to teaching or encouraging. This one is called "Chasing Francis" but it is not just about Francis of Assisi it's about finding faith and shalom; even as the pastor of a thriving church. Well worth a read.

Note to evening office: Lord may I touch into your peace, which is a peace beyond our understanding and the faith to walk in it.


Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Take the biscuit

For a while now I have been fancying some home made biscuits, so much that I could smell them. Baking day and buns and biscuits coming out of the oven; my aunt Mary's biscuit jar would often be full of ginger biscuits. You could not call them ginger nuts because they were softer in the middle and you had to be careful dunking them in your tea. As far as I can remember this recipe originated at The Lawns farm (White family) and I have today got my hands on the recipe. (it's on my to do list).

Now I am not known as a cook and I have never baked anything, as far as I can remember. So early last Saturday morning I set to and began to bake some almond biscuits. Brother Timothy was intrigued and chatted and talked while I stuck close to the recipe book. I have seen my aunts throwing the ingredients into a bowl, mixing and popping it in the oven - how hard can it be? Weighing the ingredients was a painstaking job, I didn't want to skimp or overdo anything - I wanted them to be just like aunt Mary's. When it came to the mixing I reckon these ladies must work out at the gym cos my arms were killing! how do they do it? I guess I am a bit particular when it comes to tasks such as these and I got quite stressed when the recipe told me to take some mixture, make a ball the size of a walnut; place it on a tray and pat it down with a fork. It sticks to the fork and pulls it off the tray! is the mixture wrong, (Jamie O never has this problem). So I improvise, take small piece of greaseproof paper and lay that on the ball of mixture and pat it down with a fork - remove the greaseproof paper - success! Now for the oven. Nobody said these biscuits were soft and floppy when they come out of the oven; but once they cooled they both looked the part and tasted fantastic. Yes they are the ones in the picture.

I seem to work better when things are in their proper places, and noticed that I clear away and tidy up two or three times while I am working (whatever I am doing). Sometimes I can spend more time clearing and organising than I do getting on with the job. Still I enjoyed the baking and will do a bit more soon.
Note to diary: Must try and get hold of Mum's recipe for caramel shortbread - mmm.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Tin of buttons


Time to discover the contents of Mum's button tin, (do I really want to do this). The tin potentially holds treasures, memories, forgotten toys and a thingamajig; of course it could just be full of buttons and then, I would wonder what to do with it?

An old Quality Street tin that has accumulated bits n bobs was poured out on the kitchen table, long after all had gone to bed. Big sister would recognise most of these 1960's style buttons and buckles; miraculous medals appear in all Mum's boxes and drawers (the tin is no exception); a small crucifix next to a white overall button. There are random numbers from a game and metal puzzle chains, did the cog wheel come from one of my old trains and why did we keep it? An old fashioned collar stud and a dice; I wondered long and hard as to how the old curtain rail hook ran along the track. The colours don't really interest me but the shapes and what is that pipe thing? I took out some tiddlywinks and practised my skill; an old half penny and some of the buttons had thread left on (recycling is not a new idea).

Brother Cyril no doubt would give me some long explanations to all these haberdashery gadgets but I think I will just put them back in the tin. Really I should throw it away, especially now I know there are no hidden treasures but I guess it won't take up much room and I may be looking for a dice or safety pin one day.

Two days ago (early morning) I paused at the top landing window; I often spend a moment here taking in the view. At that moment a pair of swans came flying in from my left, they rose up along the valley and past the viaduct - I wanted to rush for my camera or binoculars but decided just to stand there, and watch the beauty of those enormous birds. Such long necks and a rear engine with massive wings Wow! They turned by the large hotel and headed in land, where were they going? I assumed swans stayed pretty close to their home base. I could not have been more impressed by a pair of Spitfires.

Life is chugging on quite slowly here and folk come and go; time itself seems to be passing quickly but the hands of the clock hardly move. I am aware of things approaching and of trying to fit it all in - then in one single moment, as I stop. This pair of swans fly right across my line of sight. As if they were waiting for me..

Note to evening office: Lord hold on to me and I will hold on to you; together we will meet the moments and value each one.

Monday, 17 March 2008

From back to front

Time to ponder and turn over those photographs and post cards; the major tasks are done though I find myself looking for more. I was thinking yesterday, if I was to set out and write a book would I first consider the characters or the plot. would a story unfold given the right ingredients? Finding time to switch off I recently enjoyed a video (dvd), the basic story was simple but how things unwound were fascinating. How did the writer conceive it? My only conclusion was - he must have started at the end and worked backwards or flitting from one scene to another adding detail necessary for the next. I do wonder also whether God is working backwards with us; perhaps that would make more sense. Looking back I see better now, what had to happen to make the story fit.

One room of the friary has been transformed to accommodate the furniture and It is pleasant as the sun comes in clear and bright, Sitting at the desk (the old man) seems strange. It is many years since I sat there to do my homework. We call it the old man because my grand father made it; beginning in 1909 and taking a week off work to complete it before going to France in WW1. He served his time as a joiner at Harrison's of Grosmont (being related) he lived there a number of years eventually married and stayed at Grosmont before moving to Middlesbrough. The old man consists of a chest of drawers, drop own leaf desk with drawers and pigeon holes and on top of this is a tall glass cabinet. The dovetails and joints are perfect (granddad was fussy and particular in all things - sounds familiar)! Though he died when I was very young I remember sharing his toast; he did make a fuss of me and mum said I was difficult to console when he passed away. However, the old man was left to me all those years ago - now here it is. I found in the drawer a couple of postcards sent by granddad to his little daughter Barbara while he was in France.

There is a family resemblance of my gt granddad, granddad, father and myself; this is not unusual - but I do also look very much like my mother (still not unusual). However, I was recently at 60th party and people there I didn't know were glancing across and as the night went on someone said I looked a lot like a football manager who had recently been in the news. No I said, I am a Yorkshire man not an Italian. They insisted and went on to congratulate me on good work and followed with suggestions of who should play the next match. This feeling of fame stayed with me a while, as I walked through the town I imagined people giving me a second look and felt I was walking a little taller. Now I know nothing of the background of this guy, his family or his habits - but others were pleased to accept him as a potential champion. I can't change the way I look, and what happens if this manager goes the same way many others have done with bad news in the press of results on and off the pitch.

Note to evening office: Lord help me to reflect you; that others may see the detail in your kingdom necessary for our story.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Closing doors

1918 - 2008

Mum passed away last month on Valentines day, 35 years after my dad; I like to think they got a long awaited valentine cuddle. My sister and I have been busy sorting out all that needed to be done and supported by family and friends found that all came together as it should. Mum was very good to us, she had notes and envelopes in the desk and all was very tidy; she had been preparing us and and the house for such a day as this. It has been something I have dreaded for sometime and as mum has cared for so many people through her life; we knew it would be difficult for her when she had done all she could.
Apocolypse 14 says...

Happy indeed, the spirit says; now they can rest forever after their work, since their good deeds go with them.

Indeed she has taken many good deeds with her.

Christened Hannah Elizabeth, her father called her Lizzy and at the age of 12 she was helping to deliver milk in the next small village as the milkmans wife was ill (no milk bottles in those days). Making butter on the farm to sell at market and all the baking and chores. Her father encouraged the children to run and held a stop watch; on their village day out (bank holiday) they would take horse and cart to the near by beach. Races were held and I am told mum did very well.

Mum became known as Bette, Aunty Bette to many, Grandma to more than just her own grand children. I knew there would be many at her funeral and I guessed there would be many I would not even know; her caring and love went far and wide (a challenge for us to try and continue). It has been a time of closing doors, not just the rented house where she lived. Finding treasures as we packed boxes, photos and post cards - her address books (invaluable) and the button tin.....

Now this button tin must hide many small treasures from days when I was but a small boy, often when I called in to see mum at home I might pick up a jug or open a drawer, expecting to find something I had forgotten; these and the button tin are currently packed in boxes either here or at my sisters. We plan to take our time and sort through together, the brass - fat old policeman corkscrew and a piece of Spitfre propeller. I must tell you about the furniture too (the Old Man) but that will be another day.
Note to evening office - slow down a little and let things settle.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Burn's Night

Burn's night 25th January and for the last few years it has been spent with close friends. We attempt to get our toungs around the Scottish dialect and recite some of the great poet's words; what fun! and the food and drink is good for both body and spirit.

A toast to the Haggis piped in with great ceremony followed by neeps n tatties; will there be room for pudding? Oh yes! says Fr Gerry. The lads toast the lassies and the lassies toast the lads (more whiskey) ending with old lang syne.

Time goes so quickly and folk are on their way - blessings and haste ye back. The washing up and putting away is soon complete and the kitchen eases into a lull. The CD player in the corner is still strumming out sounds of The Corries, I pull up a chair and settle down to a plate of cheese and oatcakes; I convinced myself it would taste much better with a dram of whiskey.

The wind was whistling round the house end and seemed intent on moving anything in it's path. Yet the haunting sound of the pipes and flute pushed the wind into the distance and memories of Scotland; another kitchen, accordion and voices came flooding back to me. A quick check round before I go to bed, the dinning room where we all had sat and as I saw where each had been, I blessed each one and went to bed.

Note to evening office: Count – literally – your blessings. Enumerate your reasons to be cheerful. Only then pray your complaints!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Windy Day

Saturday morning and it seems the whole household has slept in; Oh joy. So why am I awake? Would it not be easier to tun over and sleep for another hour? From where I lay, my windows field of view, is grey sky with clouds moving quickly from the North west. The sun is rising but has not reached my horizon; seagulls fly - alight with the morning sun, blown around by the strong wind they dart this way and that to reach their destination.

Perhaps I should make a cup of tea? heading for the kitchen I pause at the landing window, the sun has reached the wooded hillside across the valley, light is pushing a line of darkness down, down like a large curtain unfolding colour of rich browns and red. - More movement in the house and the moment of wonder is lost; till the next time I stop, look and notice.

Note to evening office: Lord help me go with the wind and correct my course as I go.