Memories

I have many happy memories of my Gran. She always made piles and piles of cakes and homemade pasties whenever we came down to stay, and she’d make special effort to make the ones that I liked. Whenever we went to a park she’d go on the swings and swing higher than me – they were her favourite. And for her 80th, when we were trying to encourage to take it easy, we bought her an outside swinging sofa – and I’d love sharing a swing with her. In the mornings I’d climb into bed with them and chatter until I’d told them everything under the sun. In the evenings we’d play ‘UNO’ and she’d always gasp whenever the game didn’t quite go her way.

On Sunday she didn’t wake up. She’d had a massive stroke overnight and will never wake up normally again. She’s also got pneumonia and today they have stopped treating her. They think she’ll die in the next day or two.

Please pray that she goes peacefully and painlessly.

House

Sorry I haven’t written anything here in ages, we’ve been busy! We completed on the purchase of a house last Thursday and are now starting the daunting process of trying to bring it out of the dark ages. It’s all very scary and exciting! I’m so grateful Mr B has a good baseline DIY knowledge, and a couple of books to complement his knowledge.

The ‘dark ages’ reference is a slight exergagtion though, it has plumbing where necessary although the main pipe into the house is lead; it has central heating although radiators are sparse; and it has mains electricity although it currently doesn’t comply with legal requirements. The kitchen is currently *tiny* (for those readers who know of and remember 94′s kitchen – it’s smaller), but a builder is going to knock down a couple of walls to open up the dining room into the kitchen, making a large kitchen / diner. The electrician is also coming in to sort out the fuse box and wire in more sockets throughout the house (we’re going to do the chasing for it). And a plumber is coming in to sort out the water pipe. Most of the rest of the jobs we can do ourselves. A lot of decorating and removing the 1950′s add ons (hoping to find orginal 1890 features behind them!). Oh, and Mr B’s Dad works for Wickes so he’s designed our fancy new kitchen with us, and I can’t wait! :D It’ll be worth living off a couple of camping stoves and a mini electric oven for a month or so!

Today I’ve had a very productive day off. This morning I did some chores around the flat, sorted through my wardrobe clearing several bags for charity and packed up a car load of stuff which I then took to the new house. At the new house I bagged up 7 black bags of polystyrene tiles which Mr B had scraped off our bedroom ceiling (big fire risk and disgusting) and soaked off some wallpaper in the dining room. Then Mr B arrived and we did some more bits and bobs together before coming home and collapsing.

Those who know me, will know that I operate through lists. I have a big, multicoloured packing schedule and a big list of all the DIY jobs we need to do on the house. The packing I feel more than on top of – I’m ahead of schedule and we’ve moved over almost everything that I’ve packed, leaving behind the things I know we’ll need in the next 3 weeks before we move properly. That leaves us relatively free to do stuff on the house before we move. Which is great, except that the DIY list is so big and daunting that it’s difficult to know where to begin! For now we’re concentrating on making it safe to live in and sorting out the kitchen / diner. Oh, and because the bathroom is the other room in desperate need of attention and we have agreed to leave the main features as they are for now (financial reasons and possibility of moving the bathroom at a later date), we went to ikea and bought some cheap and chirpy accessories to make it liveable.

Heaven

When Mr B accidently sent some train tickets to our old address he popped over there to get them, and found a whole pile of post in our names. Including Greenbelt’s a ‘Wing and a Prayer’, their newsletter for volunteers and angels. I was just reading it this morning and found a very cool poem by Rosie Miles which I’d like to share.

If heaven might happen
it would look like a racecourse
full of people not horses.

Everyone would have a place to pitch thier tent
and there would be a lot of mud and weather.

We would all be the same as before
except our bladder functions would have dried up.

There would be a place
on the top floor of heaven
to be very quiet.

There would also be skateboarding,
bands playing underground where the average age is fourteen,
a smorgasbord of stall to get food.

The programme of What Is On In Heaven
would be very full.

There would be a soundtrack of eternal drumming.
The Big Drummer would slow the rhythm
so everyone could get the beat.

You would be able to sit in one corner of heaven
and watch the amazing wide sky.

In another you could listen to a man
speak clearly of how he fought for human rights
when he was alive. You could hear
a politician, a priest, a poet, a shy stuttering actor,
a Dominican monk, a cultural commentator.

You could wonder what would have happened
- what might still happen-
if Jesus had come as a girl.

You could learn to jive or tango
(step, two, three, four).

You could do none of these things.

You could sit on the steps of heaven’s grandstand
and play monster Connect 4 with the friends
who helped you pitch your tent,
watching all the people wearing wellingtons
imprinted with smarties or jelly beans.

Ten-foot transvestite angels would waft past
blowing bubbles of ambient music.

Strangers would smile at you
and people would have brought their dogs.

There would be a Big Top and jugglers on
monocycles

and all the people on the doors of heaven’s venues
checking that you were wearing heaven’s
wristband
would be unfailingly cheerful.

You would marvel at their ability
to herd an impossible number of people
into a finite space.

Blessed are they who signal to others the end of
the queue.
In heaven they shall be the salt of the earth.

And you would belong there – really belong there –
because heaven would not be about
keeping your doubt out

or your many questions.
In fact, if heaven might happen there will be
no certainty at all

just a community of the wounded
who are as lost as you are
eating churros dipped in chocolate

trying to sing
the intelligence of the heart.

Christmas

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, for the first time since I qualified I had Christmas off, so we’ve been up and down the country visiting family and friends and so haven’t had chance to post anything. We had a lovely Christmas, spending Christmas itself with my family Down South in my Gran’s house. She’s been living in a residential home for most of the past year, so my parents, sister, husband and myself stayed in her house, and we fetched her most days to join us for meals, present opening and games. This worked well, even if she only remembered it was Christmas some of the time…

My family is in the process of sorting out her house, the house she’s lived in for 30 years. Her and my Grandad were massive hoarders, so you can imagine the amount of stuff we had to sort through! They were both young adults in the second world war, and carried the ‘mustn’t throw anything away’ ethos from that era, ever since. Which of course, from an environmental view point is a good thing, but it’s not when you’re trying to sort through a live time of stuff… Even the cake tins were lined with greaseproof paper that had obviously been used many a time! We left my parents behind to do most of the sorting, as we had to get Up North, but not before acquiring 2 large boxes of stuff – everything from toilet rolls and tins of food to a vase and an old fish cutlery set. I was also glad to claim an album with my name on the side – full of my baby photos! The biggest item we have inherited however, we couldn’t transport immediately. We plan to go back down in the spring and work on it – if anyone has any ideas how to transport a greenhouse 150 miles, hopefully by car, then please let me know!

So with a boot full of stuff, we travelled Up North and celebrated my mother in law’s 60th birthday by throwing a surprise party. Well, I say surprise, she knew something was going to happen, she just didn’t know where… It was good however, to see (almost) all of my new family. In July I became an auntie to ten children and teenagers and it was the first time I’d spent any real time with most of them since the wedding. Consequently I hadn’t quite adjusted to being called ‘Auntie’. Makes me feel old, especially as the oldest nephew is only 5 years younger than me!

Anyway, we’re finally back home after truely travelling the length of the country. And as much as it’s lovely to be home, it also means that tomorrow I start three nights shifts at work – my share of the shifts over the holiday period.

How do I do it?

I get asked that so much. So much that I have a draft prepared answer in my head, which I vary depending on the situation. Something about seeing both sides of it, etc.

But it still affects you. You wouldn’t be doing it if it it didn’t. It’s just that every so often, after a bad couple of days, something really hits you. And then you ask yourself, how do I continue?

Hope. When it seems like all hope has gone.

The bottom line is, life isn’t fair. Full stop. How I justify that ethically, religiously, medically, only God knows right now.

______________________________________________

I wrote this on the 3rd and instead of posting it I rang up a close friend, told her of the issue and she met me in town that afternoon. Spending time with her made me feel better, not only because she told me some hopeful news, but also because she reminded me that it’s ok to have questions, doubts and uncertainities. So although the above babblings are still relevant, true and saddening, I’m not freaked about it making me question my religious standing. It’s just something I have to work through. And I apologise if none of this makes any sense to anyone…

Headache

I’ve had a headache for 2 weeks. Went to the doctor earlier this week about it, who said it might be sinusitus but wasn’t sure enough to hand out antibiotics. Instead he gave me a pain killer, with instructions to take them for a few days and if my headache is still there after that, then go back to see him again. Except that the pain killers have never completely got rid of it. And now I’m more certain it’s sinusitus – my face feels all tight and sinuses hurt, my glands swollen and my ears don’t feel right. The weird thing is, my nose is still clear. It just feels like everything except my nose is blocked. On Friday I went to the chemist and asked for advice and the pharmacist gave me really strong decongestants. I only took them for one day because they made me really drowsy and didn’t seem to unclog anything. The drowsiness just made me feel worse, I couldn’t walk around the flat without feeling like I was going to fall over. I’m going back to the doctors tomorrow.

It just feels like this is the most drawn out illness ever. And I have to be better by next weekend – not only is it a double hen weekend, Mr B is also taking me to see Kate Rusby! I can’t be ill! Lets hope that the illness which takes nearly 2 weeks to come to light, recovers in less than a week.

Post Wedding Stuff

Some post wedding observations:
1. I don’t get any emails anymore. I organised most of the wedding via email, so I was constantly receiving wedding related emails, and now I often don’t receive any emails for days at a time! I think this is also partly because I’ve changed my email address, so all the junk emails are going to my old account.

2. Telling everyone about my change of name takes a VERY LONG TIME! Everyone wants to see my marriage certificate and my deedpoll certificate, so as their currently with the DVLA, there isn’t a lot I can do! The list of organisations that I need to tell just keeps growing!

3. We have however, finished writing all the thank yous. Just have a residual pile to deliever…

4. We’re having marriage preparation on Saturday. A little late, I know. When we went to organise it, they were fully booked for over 6 months, but they said it’s for newly weds as well as pre-weds.

5. We gave wedding cake out to the 27 people who gave us gifts, but couldn’t come to the wedding, which means we only have half a cake left. This is fine because our kids aren’t going to be Christened / Baptised at birth, so we don’t have to save a whole cake for that celebration. It does mean however, that when I come home from the pub a little tipsy and peckish, I eat some wedding cake… I don’t really want it all to disappear in this way, maybe I should take it to our church’s next community meal.

6. We’ve completed our main wedding album. At the beginning of August when we were looking at the photos with our friends who were the ‘official’ photographers, they said that we had the hardest job now, picking out the photos for the album. They said we’d struggle to get it done before next Christmas, Mr B said ‘no way, this is Jen, she’ll have it done by Greenbelt’. And I did. I also finished it in the same week our friends who got married 3 years ago finished theirs! Now I want to do a regular album with a wider collection of photos taken by guests, our honeymoon album and a scrapbook with all the wedding preparation stuff!

Changes

I am now Mrs B. Everything on the wedding day went very well and it was a very enjoyable day. I’d been organised pre-wedding, so on the day I could just relax. My organisation included an ‘everything about everything’ pdf document which was sent to all important people and led to a comment from the best man which stated that if I’d been a Nazi they would have won the war, because of my organisational skills. I wasn’t sure whether to take this as compliment or not. I was also said to be the most relaxed bride a friend had known. I’d say that organised and relaxed is a pretty good combination! We’ve got the ‘official’ photos back and have chosen around 100 to be circulated amongst friends and family, and 50 to go into an album.

I am now more wary and cautious when outside. The previous post will probably explain why. It’s made me reflect on how our experiences and influences affect the way we perceive danger and the world around us. I’ve always been relatively relaxed about walking or cycling around potentionally dodgy areas. I went to secondary school in the middle of Moss Side, I caught the bus to school every day and I was absolutely fine. Now I have friends who live in rough areas, and previously I would think nothing of going to visit them, whereas now I would be much more cautious. Of course, my mental impact from the assult is nothing compared to Mr B’s, but it’s still made me more jumpy and wary when out and about.

We have a lot more stuff. It’s incredible how much stuff you acquire when you get married! Most of our gifts have now been delievered / unwrapped / bought, and so the amount of stuff in our fairly small flat increased dramatically. The kitchen is the main space that’s been affected, but thankfully many things have replaced our cheap and nasty versions. So we now have shiny cutlery in the drawer and a box of cheap ikea cutlery in the camping cupboard. And of course, anything that we really don’t wany anymore have given to charity. It’s not only the gifts, its the cake, table decorations, honeymoon stuff, spare order of services, etc.

Stressed now

We’re getting married on Saturday, although the stress level change isn’t directly related to the wedding. Mr B was attacked by a gang on Friday night – he was cycling home from a friend’s house at 9.30pm and a group of 6 youths kicked him off his moving bike, kicked him in the ribs and abdomin a few times before running off with his brand new bike and iPhone. I’ve just finished three nights, so was on my 2nd, very busy night, when I got a phonecall from him saying ‘I’m in A&E’. It was too busy for me to get down there straight away but I managed to go and see him in my breaks. His fore arm had doubled in size as it had hit a wall as he fell, but it was xrayed and the Dr was ‘pretty certain’ it wasn’t broken… Apart from being very stiff and waiting to hear from insurance companies, the biggest hit has been to his personality. He’s completely withdrawn and terrified of going anywhere. I’m just hoping and praying that over the course of the week he improves and feels well enough to face the 115 guests that are coming to our wedding…

Despite only having had 4 hours sleep inbetween each of my three nights, I’m still in ‘night mode’ so couldn’t sleep. Thought I’d come and share some of my feelings here, instead of tossing and turning and waking Mr B up.

I thought I’d been holding it together reasonably well. Several people commented what a good job I did in work on Friday, considering I had more than the job on my mind. And since then at home I’ve been a shoulder to cry on for Mr B, sorting out some of his meals as his arm’s in a sling, and generally keeping going. Then tonight we decided to go to our church, and surrounded by friends in a service about suffering, I couldn’t stop crying. And afterwards it was one of those ‘I can keep it together as long as you don’t ask me how I am’ moments, which of course everybody did. Then they took us to the pub and bought us alcohol.

Anyway, I think I’d better go and try to sleep again…

100th Birthday

This weekend I’ve been in Manchester celebrating my home church’s centenary. The church congregation really pulled out all the stops to celebrate it! Everyone who had been to the church in the past 100 years, who they could find a means to contact, was invited to a weekend of celebrations. On Saturday night we had a three course formal meal and we were entertained with two soloists by two young women who had grown up in the church and songs from the Jamaican Folk Emsemble. There were speeches – the first from Adrian who has attended Manley Park for 40 years, and the second from Tom Stuckey who was our minister in the 80′s. He’d overseen groups of student ministers, when the Methodist Church used our church to experiment with new, more practical based, teaching methods. Many of the students that Manley Park assisted in training in the 70s and 80s have since risen to the dizzy heights of positions at Methodist Conference – one of which is Alison Tomlin who is the President Delegate, and will preaching there next Sunday. Many of these past students came to the meal on Saturday night and to the service which again Tom led on Sunday morning. During his speech on Saturday night, Tom read a poem that had been given to him when he became President of Methodist conference. I can’t remember the exact wording, but basically it said to turn from a small person reciting poems at church into the President of Methodist conference, it doesn’t matter how much faith you show, all you have to do is attend lots of meetings! In the service the next day I gathered Tom had led more meetings than he had services, when he accidently said “The next item on our agenda is… I mean litergy.” It certainly generated some laughter!

I attended Manley Park for the first 18 years of my life, but I found out many things about the church over the weekend, that I never knew before. Like there used to be a traditional pulpit and pipe organ – in my entire life there has been a foot high stage and an electric organ. The congregation has put together a booklet with articles detailing the history of the church and the community activities that have been held there for the past 100 years. It was really interesting to read first or second hand accounts of the history of the church that I thought I knew so well. On the page featuring our church weekends away, that we had when I was younger, there were numerous photos including a posed group photo. Except that half the people in the photo weren’t looking at the camera – they were looking at a cute, blonde, one year old who could be seen crawling out of the shot! Yep, that was me! The aspect I found funniest though, was that neither of my parents were among the people watching me!

Another impressive centenary project that had been completed is the banner that will hopefully be shown below… Each of the squares on it were made by a member of the congregation, past or present – I gather that squares were sent in from far and wide and they represent different aspects of our church’s life.