Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent Is not Christmas!

This year as a prelude to the madness of the pre-Christmas period I took the opportunity to attend a 'Quiet Day' that was organized by our vicar. The venue was the very beautiful and exquisitely peaceful, Ince Blundel Hall, a Roman Catholic Convent and Nursing Home.

In his opening remarks, the vicar proclaimed, "Advent is not Christmas". In fact, he repeated this phrase several times throughout the three lectures of the day. Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, of contemplation, of expectation,  and of desire. It is easy to find this special time 'eclipsed' when so many 'Christmas' celebrations seem to be held before the fesival day actually arrives -- all the singing of Christmas Carols and Christmas dinners and parties, for example. By the time Christmas Day arrives and the festivities begin -- many of us are physically exhausted. Spiritually, many of us are not ready at all. And when this happens, Advent has been 'eclipsed' -- sometimes even before it has begun!

This Quiet Day was a good way to reflect on  this Time of Preparation. The rooms we were able to use were elegant and relaxing. I felt surrounded by prayer and holiness. The sisters were a calm and peaceful presence. The world outside may tend to scoff at the monastic life as inconsequential, but a few hours spent here and I felt I was in an atmosphere that gives to this world a presence, a force of good that continually and diligently benefits humanity.

I love it when I hear something in a lecture I've never before considered: The Advent/Christmas period is particularly suited to the North of England because the steely climate is of death and rebirth. I was reminded of these two carols, much favoured in this part of the world: 
Hills of the north, rejoice; 
river and mountain spring, 
hark to the advent voice; 
valley and lowland, sing; 
though absent long, your Lord is nigh; 
he judgment brings and victory. 
Or Christina Rossetti's
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Advent is a time of more darkness than light, but the darkness gives way to the light and the 'Kyrie' comes to the 'Gloria'.  In his concluding remarks, the vicar said that "Advent is the eruption of eternity into time." and  "The Advent season is about the pursuit of wisdom." This reminded me of the Antiphons which are a very beautiful part of the Advent tradition and are said from the 17th to the 23rd of December:
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Which emphasises another point he made several times: Advent is not just a calendar event, it is a 'state of mind'!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Eyes Have It

Yesterday I made my way to the annual appointment at the Southport Eye Clinic. I say 'annual'... The last time I went for my Glaucoma check was 3 years ago! This was inadvertent on my part and possibly due to being a confused little old lady! Because I also suffer from type 2 diabetes and have regular visits to the Eye Clinic to check my eyes, it did not occur to me that the two conditions were checked upon quite separately. So when I received a notice of an appointment for the Glaucoma check I assumed the NHS had made a mistake and 'the left hand, didn't know what the right hand' was doing.

It didn't help that in July when I had the diabetes check I was told that although everything looked fine I would probably be invited to a follow-up check-up. I explained that she should make a note that I would be in France for the next 6 weeks and any appointment should be made after that. She made the appropriate notation ...

When I returned to England I had two notices from the Glaucoma Clinic. They look exactly like the notices for the Diabetes Clinic. The first was for an appointment at the end of August. The second was telling me that since I'd missed the appointment they were referring me back to my GP. I felt like a very naughty little old lady!

After a bit of two-ing and fro-ing my senile mind understood the complexities of the issue! Yesterday I attended the Glaucoma Clinic!

The first thing was an eye test -- administered by someone other than the doctor. I had great difficulty reading very far down the eye chart with my left eye. In fact when I took the eye test in the States last May I had the devil of a time and was greatly relieved that I managed to get through it. Last March I was so worried about my ability to read highway signs until on top of them that I went to my optometrist  and got new glasses. I was amazed during yesterday's exam when after having difficulty, the girl woman giving me the test added a 'thingy' with lots of little holes over the eye hole and suddenly all the letters were clear! Magic stuff. I wonder if I made something out of cardboard with little holes all over it and plunked it in front of the left lens of my specs ...

Anyway, after the doctor examined me, and checked the eye pressure and put two sets of drops in and I asked him why I was having so much trouble seeing clearly. He said it would be because of the cataract -- which I knew I had and which I have been assuming was the problem. I then  asked him a number of questions about when did they deem it appropriate to have them/it removed. He told me a good indication was when there were problems driving!

More discussion, more tests. At least I wasn't sent away to book another appointment to come back another day to do these tests. What was really strange to me was suddenly being confronted with the next stage. I had the impression that I was being referred back to my GP to discuss the options of where I wanted to have the surgery done. Private hospitals in various places were mentioned -- as well as different NHS hospitals (I think!!!). Or I could continue going to the Eye Clinic were I was and have the surgery done in Ormskirk (8 miles away). I made the decision to stick with where I was and am now in the NHS pipeline for whatever is next.

When I asked 'how long' he replied it would be in a few weeks. 'After Christmas'?, I suggested. He indicated it probably would be (I think!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

After the Polls are Over; Many the Hopes that Have Vanished; After the Poll

Twelve years ago my heart was broken. Al Gore was 'robbed' of his rightful election victory. I was so depressed and unhappy. So relieved when four years later John Kerry was the new Democratic candidate. I thought he would be a great president. I could not imagine that George W. Bush could possibly be re-elected after all the 'terrible' things I could clearly see he had done. I got through the next four years by joining The Daily Kos and wallowing in left wing thinking and grass roots planning.

I became a strong Hillary supporter and believed that America would never elect a black President. But when Barack Obama  became the candidate I was able to support his candidacy enthusiastically. If the man could succeed through the primary jungle and the Clinton machine -- well he would be a force to be reckoned with come the election.

So I have a political view that is to the left of centre. The aftermath of the recent election has shown that there are an awful lot of people on the other side of the political spectrum who are now feeling as I did in 2000 and 2004 -- very upset and very angry. And honestly I ache for these people while at the same time feeling unbelievably relieved that President Obama was re-elected.

Last week a young woman in Arizona tried to kill her husband by running him down with her car in a parking lot -- because Romney lost and she believed she would have to leave the State and move to New Mexico. Her husband's fault was that he had not voted! At first the story tickled my funny bone -- until I saw a picture of the woman -- a police mug shot -- and she looked so angry and so young and so vulnerable. It wasn't so funny to me then...

In The Times yesterday was a small snippet about several states that have filed petitions demanding that their State be allowed to secede from the Nation. Apparently, the White House has promised to respond to those states with more than 25,000 signatures by December 12, 2012 -- 36 states are compiling or have compiled signatures. And not just states that voted Republican either -- New Jersey, New York and New Mexico, as well as California  are filing. To be honest 8 years ago I had similar feelings -- though I don't remember any petitions being filed. It didn't occur to me that a state should secede on its own, but rather that the blue states and red states should be separate countries.

There have also been petitions submitted to strip people who have signed petitions of their citizenship and exile them -- where to exile 900,000+ people, one might ask?

In the UK Scotland is having a vote on whether or not to separate itself from the United Kingdom -- I think the vote is in 2014. The Man says 'let 'em go', if that's how they feel. Well, I guess that will happen if that's what the people decide.

For what it's worth, if you are disappointed and angry with the election results I send commiserations and sympathy even if I wouldn't change the result.

One last thought. The worst that can happen in a democracy is that there is no opposition. Democracy demands tolerance and compromise. Our country was founded by people who profoundly disagreed about what kind of government was best. The  basis for many of those arguments still persist. Resolving those arguments has wrought a great nation -- let's not 'blow' it...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Energized at Last!

It feels like  being catapulted into a new life! I am figuring out all over again just what 'normal' is. Blogging and fellow bloggers  have become very important to me, but since my grandson has arrived I have found it impossible to find the time and the energy simultaneously to do much of either!

He met a new cousin!:

Began a new school:

Spent a few days in London before saying farewell to Mom...

Not long after Sam started school we had a call from our son in Italy. The  news was not good, except that it was ... He had totalled his car in an accident during the rain when his car planed into a wall when it hit a large puddle. He and the two other people in the car were 'shaken not hurt' -- though they did end up in the hospital. As you can imagine euros are needed for another car as his job teaching takes him to various different schools all miles away from where he lives as well as each other! 

Well there goes my dishwasher! Fortunately, it goes without saying, no one was hurt and no one is suing ... One of the passengers is a close friend who is able to lend him her car until the insurance runs out in a few weeks time. The last we heard he may have found a suitable replacement. This all happened the day before he was to have two job interviews! Fortune smiles on him though as the man who was to interview him thought so highly of his recommendations that he practically hired him without an interview! 

All the while our new life continued apace. Sam got through his first week just fine. The following week we were to leave for London on Monday afternoon after school. We had special permission for him to have 3 days absence to spend the time with his mother before she flew back to Korea. The weekend before he was not well -- much coughing and fatigue. By Monday we decided to keep him off to continue resting though we left for London. Tuesday we went into London and saw a few sights. After lunch we headed for a quick look at Trafalgar Square before heading off to St. Paul's. 

Shortly after getting off the bus Sam lost his lunch on the pavement -- The Man left Mom and me to it and I was so glad I had an unopened packed of tissues for the occasion! Insides cleaned out and feeling better we headed into the Cathedral. The Man and I opted out of exploring the place once again -- the 24 pound fee had a lot to do with that decision. However, my daughter-in-law and Sam made the most of their investment and not only climbed up into the Whispering Gallery, but also higher to the Golden Gallery, which is not only the highest place, but also outside! Not for me, I can tell you!!

The next day we made a silly mistake and decided to take the car to Greenwich. We enjoyed a quick visit to the newly rennovated Cutty Sark before heading off to the Observatory:

That's my grandson: Both feet in the East and both feet in the West!

In the midst of our few days came the American election. As we were staying in a one bedroom flat and both rooms were being slept in at night it wasn't possible to watch television coverage. I woke every hour or so and checked my cell phone and got the news around 4.15 a.m. 

So here we are back in Southport and for the moment it would seem there might be a routine establishing itself!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Election Day, November, 1884 by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your
powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara--nor you, ye limitless
prairies--nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its
spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty
lakes--nor Mississippi's stream:
--This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now,
I'd name--the still small voice vibrating--America's
choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen--the act itself the
main, the quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd--sea-board
and inland--Texas to Maine--the Prairie States--
Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West--the
paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling--(a swordless
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern
Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity--welcoming the darker
odds, the dross:
--Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to
purify--while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.