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.