Tuesday, December 31, 2013
He pointed out that in the first line of the carol -- one of the oldest -- there is a comma after the word 'merry'. As long as I have been singing that carol, I had never noticed that. It means that it's not at all about 'merry gentlemen', but that we should 'rest joyful' that 'Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day.
It's still not one of my favourite carols, but I can't quite get over the difference that a comma can make! I hope you have all had a very Merry Christmas and send my very best wishes for a very happy New Year 2014.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Two days before I was to leave I was able to take my mother to her former home town to meet friends for lunch. The weather had not been very conducive to taking her out, but on this day she was really ready to get out and about. She has become much more frail over the past year or two -- and is now reluctant to venture outside of her apartment except in a wheelchair. However, it is not possible to take the wheelchair in the car and she would need to use her walker instead to get from her apartment to the car. And she did it without batting an eye! She really enjoyed her lunch and the company and was animated and lively. It was a wonderful day.
The next day I would return to the town to meet a good friend and do some Christmas shopping. Kent, Connecticut is the quintessential New England town -- the sort of place if you had never been to New England you would imagine it would be. So I met my friend and we had lunch and then browsed around the shops. As darkness fell, I thought it best to be on my way so that I could have my last dinner with my Mom. The way back is a beautiful scenic route along the Housatonic River and takes about 45 minutes. I thought I would be back just in time for dinner -- around 6.00. As I approached a junction about 5 miles from my mothers place, I did so with caution as it a hairpin turn -- meaning that it is necessary to turn oneself carefully to the right to check on-coming traffic before turning left. There is a stop sign at the junction and I duly stopped and was just about to continue when there was a terrific WHAM from behind as I felt the unexpected impact of what turned out to be another vehicle.
Initially, I sat there in absolute disbelief! Then I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what to do and wanting to burst into tears. It seemed like a long time, but was probably only minutes when I decided to get out of the car and find out what exactly had happened. The car that rammed into me was a total wreck and the driver, a man, was trying to find his way around the airbag which had gone off. My European phone was not working and I asked him if he could call for help, which he said he was trying to do. He told me that he had not seen me! I then returned to my car and thought to turn on my hazards! Not long afterwards a man appeared, he asked if I was hurt and said that the state trooper was on his way as well as an ambulance. To this day I have no idea who he was or where he appeared from. But I suspect he might have been from the gas station, which was located at the junction.
It was not long before the State Trooper appeared. He was very kind and after ascertaining that I was not seriously hurt, asked me what happened. I explained as best I could and within the next few minutes a lovely lady from the ambulance appeared and said they wanted to check out my vitals and I went to the ambulance and was checked. I was shaken and stirred, but felt no need to go to the hospital and after they reiterated that if at any time I felt worsening symptoms I was to call them. You can imagine that all I wanted was to get back to my mother, who I knew would be worrying, and to get on the plane back to England the next day! The fellow who hit me went off to the hospital -- he seemed in a bit of a daze and his car was being towed away. My car, however, was still drivable and was looked over by the tow truck guys and the trooper. We discovered when I got back into the car that an airbag in the head rest had gone off -- which probably explains why I only suffered a few minor aches and pains the following day.
As I got into the car the state trooper said the magic words -- "Don't worry, you are not at fault"! Fortunately, I had taken out full insurance coverage when I rented the car. The next day I was able to drive back to the Enterprise office and turn the car back. The rear end looked a lot worse in the daylight -- the trunk would not open and the rear end looked like it was beginning to separate from the main part of the body of the car. The agent said it would cost thousands to repair!
I then got into my sister's car and she drove me to the airport. All my planes were on time and I had once again a seat to myself on the final leg home from Philadelphia to Manchester. Funny thing, little did I know that there was a major storm brewing in England. The plane due in 5 minutes before mine had been diverted to Edinburgh! There was a slight bit of turbulence, but nothing out of the ordinary -- I had no idea until I met my husband and he told me!
From an appendicitis scare to a car crash, with an allergy scare in between -- it was a funny old trip!
Friday, December 06, 2013
In order to stem the tide of my streaming eyes and running nose I moseyed on down to the drug store to seek a cold remedy. As tends to be the case, I was overwhelmed by choices in selection but soon settled on one that said it was for people with high blood pressure. "Ah", thought I, "Just the thing for me!" And, indeed, the cold symptoms abated within a few hours...
At two in the morning I awoke, feeling very uncomfortable, rather hot and very itchy! When I looked in the mirror I was absolutely horrified. I was covered from head to toe in a red weals and totally uncomfortable. I was also worried that I had something contagious while staying in a place with many elderly people, including my mother! Every morning at around 5.30 a nurses' aide comes to my mother to put special support hose on her legs. So when she came in I stopped her and explained the situation to her. She thought it looked like an allergic reaction and called a nurse to come and have a look. The nurse agreed and brought me an antihistamine, Benidryl, and I waited. I also stopped taking my newly acquired cold remedy, Coricidin HBP Cold & Flu.
Happily, 24 hours later and the redness and weals and itching had all but disappeared. Later that day, while talking to my sister she said that she had only once had such a reaction and it was when she had taken some cold medication many years ago! The same medication!
By Thanksgiving I was completely recovered and we had a lovely celebration. You know, though what they say about troubles coming in threes? There was one final element to come -- but that was waiting for me as my visit was just coming to an end -- and no, I'm not going to relate that -- just yet!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Mom has a fully equipped kitchen, but when she moved into the retirement center left behind most of her cooking paraphernalia. She has never missed having it! Every time you mention to her that she doesn't have to cook any more she smiles broadly. Not that she was a bad cook. She was in fact a very good, if plain cook. My father was a rather fussy eater -- he didn't like fish and he didn't like cheese! His dislike of cheese made us all laugh whenever he ate pizza, which he loved. Anyway, because her 'Other Half' didn't like to experiment with different kinds of food, my mother lost interest in really developing her cookery skills. My sister, is an entirely different story! The woman can cook!
So last Sunday night, while watching the final episode of Downton Abbey, and began to feel very uncomfortable -- an ache in my right side that persisted and kept me from having a good night sleep. Around 4.00 pm the following day, when the pain did not subside, but seemed to be getting more persistent I called the Surgery to see if I could see a doctor -- if possible the next day. Surprisingly, there was an opening with my favourite doctor 45 minutes later! I was worried that maybe I had appendicitis, but the doctor thought it was probably a pulled muscle as the symptoms didn't really point to appendicitis. However, if symptoms should increase or suddenly get worse, I should call the next day for an emergency appointment. He would not be that day, but if two days later I had not improved I should call reception and tell them that he wanted to see me again. Symptoms did not get worse, but did not improve so on Thursday I saw him again -- and remembered to bring the 'water' sample he asked me to bring! As soon as he tested the sample, he could see that I had a urinary infection.
So the third day of antibiotics later and the pain has abated significantly, but not disappeared. The doctor had me take a blood test and sent the sample for further testing and did not rule out the possibility of the appendix -- I haven't heard anything back, so I am hopeful to get an ''all clear" Monday. I've never not been able to take a flight and hope this is not the first time! In the meantime, it's all put rather a damper on packing and so on. I still have the occasional twinge. So glad I have insurance that covers me just in case I'm unable to make. For one thing is for certain, I just as soon not be in the USA if I need emergency surgery for anything! My flight is Wednesday morning -- I'm holding my breath!!
Monday, October 28, 2013
Unfortunately, this is the part of projects that both Sam and I hate the most: The evaluation. Now, it is possible this may sound like a good idea to you and I do understand the point of being able to assess ones work critically. However, this is not effective for Sam, who takes criticism like a dose of poison! Therefore, it stands to reason, he is not bent toward criticising himself. And if I make 'suggestions', the instinct is for him to stomp off and head for the stairs and a good long sulk, not to mention sass...
Whoever thought up the idea of 'evaluation' did not think about the effort it takes to get some children, Sam is one, to sit down and work on a project. Reasonableness does not work. Threats work. By the end of the process and completion of the project we are both exhausted. The 'evaluation' is an unwelcome finale.
I say to Sam, "Sam, how do you think you could have done this better?"
Sam says to me, "It's fine. I don't think it can be better."
And so the final tussle ensues. The thing is I should probably let him write that. Except it's 25% of the final mark. That is 5 points out of 20. And now, why don't you guess how much it counts towards the final grade?
Nothing. Niet. Nada. Rien. Nul Point...
And now I want to know why I/we bother -- These 'projects' go on throughout the year. They are a headache. They do serve the purpose, but there should be more of a reward than, 'didn't he do well!'At least, that's what I think!!!
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Twenty-four hours later all was sorted and my sister had the rental and he had his. At the end of her stay on the 21st of August they met up again for Bill to be present when the rental was returned. For some reason, which I can not now remember, my sister ended up staying the night at my brother's apartment and the next day he drove her to catch her plane. She had never been to his place before. While she was there it seemed to her that my brother was a bit dis-oriented and it seemed to take him a long time to do things. She was not unduly alarmed, but was relieved to know that the following day he had an appointment with his neurologist and he felt that there might be a problem with his meds. How fortunate we all were that my sister had stayed with him would become very apparent only a few days later.
On the 24th of August my sister received a telephone call from my mother, who was very distressed. She had been trying to call my brother and he had not returned her calls. My mother was convinced that he was 'mad at her' and she didn't know why. Mary knew that my brother would never in a million years be 'mad' at my mother! Anyway, as she later said to me, 'alarm bells rang'! She called his son in Raleigh, who also tried to reach him, but wasn't particularly alarmed. But who heeded his Aunt. Eric wanted to call the office of the apartment complex to see if there was someone who could check his apartment.
Fortunately, my sister, notices things like names of apartment complexes and remembers! She went on the Internet and found the website and a telephone number. A woman from the office went over and found the apartment door was open. She called my nephew and told him she could not enter the premises, that they would have to call the police -- and that was how my brother was discovered by the police. He was incoherent and could not walk. The apartment was in disarray -- apparently there were pills all over the place. No one really knows what exactly happened. Except that the previous day he had seen his doctor and his medication had been altered.
When I think back on all the events of that day, I can't help but marvel at how a series of mix ups and unusual happenings can lead to crucial pieces of information that can actually save lives and end up exposing all kinds of secrets! Such as a girlfriend, who lives in Dallas, Texas, none of his siblings or mother had any idea about! As my sister, Tricia, put it -- "It's a shame the word 'awesome' is so over-used -- because she really is 'awesome'!
We also discovered how important it is to monitor the healthcare we and our loved ones receive. Because often it is very seriously lacking. We think we have found the best place for Bill to be, where there is the best specialist treatment for Parkinson's disease. He is now able to walk -- with the aid of a walker and not in a wheelchair and in a care facility that specializes in mental disorders. He has been referred to a specialist at the University of North Carolina and we must wait for further developments. There is still a long way to go, but we remain hopeful. He is also very near his son and daughter-in-law who are able to visit him every day.
Bill, his girlfriend (of some years!!!), and son were able to visit my mother and have said 'goodbye' -- this is heartbreaking, but inevitable. Fortunately, my mother is now pretty forgetful and doesn't fret too much about it. She did like his girlfriend and admonished him for keeping her a secret! "Why?" he asked her.
"Because, we could have become friends...." You tell him, Mom!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
This is a serious post about something that has happened in my own family.
On August 24th my only brother, who lives alone, was found by the police in a semi-conscious state in his bathtub. He could not walk and did not know where he was or what had happened to him. He may have been there for over 24 hours.
My brother, Bill, has always "kept himself to himself". When he was a little boy he had a paper route and we sisters use to joke about how we never knew how much money he had -- only that he always had nice presents for us on Christmas! If he had problems we never knew what they were, only that he was looking kind of sad and eventually we'd find out if it was really serious -- like breaking up with his first girlfriend, for example. What a song and dance that was! I found that if I had a quiet word with him he would tell me -- but always I had to ask -- information was never volunteered!
Three or four years ago when I was home for Thanksgiving I inadvertently discovered one of his secrets. We were at my mother's apartment and I went into her bedroom for something. Bill was there and I saw him taking a couple of pills from a bottle that looked like a prescription. "Ah", I said, "Do you have high blood pressure, too?"
All of us were relieved to know because we had noticed that often his words were just slightly slurred and his speech a bit slower -- like when some people have a bit too much to drink and try to look sober. We had also noticed the slight shuffling of his feet when he walked.
I've thought a lot about Bill telling me he had Parkinson's and the way he told me. I really think he wanted to tell us, but didn't know how -- until I asked about what I had perchance observed. It has made me wonder how often it is that people aren't really secretive at all -- they just aren't able to share problems. Maybe they don't want to burden people with additional worries -- or maybe they don't trust anyone enough to thank they will care. I expect there are many reasons for reticence -- ranging from 'pride' to 'insecurity' and 'fear'. Maye it's growing up with three sisters, who when they are together can be quite a formidable force. That he loved us all has never been in doubt -- he always has gone out of his way to see us when we are visiting and he always seems really pleased -- even content -- to be in our company.
Several years ago my brother's second marriage ended and since then he had been living on his own in an apartment about an hour away from my Mom's residence. Mom and sisters all wished he had a girlfriend, but of that there was no evidence -- suspicions maybe -- but not a shred! He even admitted to me that 'I do get kind of lonely'...
Over the past three years I've been able to visit the my mother once a year for a few weeks at a time. In that time, I've seen some deterioration in Bill's condition, but on the whole he seemed to be doing quite well and it was good to know that he was there regularly for my mother. I was looking forward to seeing him in the Fall.
As you will see in my next post -- life often interferes with expectation...
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
What I like about Sam's effort is that he came up with an original idea and didn't just copy something off the Internet or choose a super-hero. He based his design on lizards -- he loves lizards and dinosaurs!! It has a definite 'tribal' element about it, I think.
But, my goodness my grandson is a lazy boy! The mouth is a mess because I explained to him how he could make the teeth by drawing them with a marker on a clear sheet of one of those plastic clear pockets you use to keep documents from getting wet or dirty. He could then paint the mouth -- with red nail varnish and put the plastic with the teeth -- painted in with tipex! So I did a rough example to show him -- after his eyes glazed over and the inevitable, 'huhhhh??' came from his mouth!
"That's good enough" he insisted. By that time I was so flippen' sick of pushing him to get the
On the day the project was due and out of the house, I was enamoured to download two more homework projects from the school's website -- geography and RE (Religious Education). The geography project is to find out about one tourist resort in Europe and then design and make a tourist brochure, webpage or advertisement to provide information for tourists.
The RE task is to write about or make a power point presentation about "The Life and Times of Moses".
I think I've died and gone to hell... :-(
Monday, September 30, 2013
The grandson has an art project for a homework assignment. He must make a carnival mask. He can make this mask out of any material he wishes and of any design he desires. As with all his other 'homework' assignments Grandma must keep on eye on him and
While talking to his parents via Skype we were encouraged to make this mask out of papier-mache, which I readily informed them I had never done before. They both assured me that it was 'easy' and 'fun'! Use a balloon, they said... Sam was about as keen as I was to try. We went found several instructional sites on YouTube and it all looked pretty straight-forward: Make paste out of flour and water; tear newspaper into strips, get a balloon, paste the strips on the balloon; build at least 3 layers, and make the top layer from strips of white paper, such as the paper in my computer printer.
Why is it that when you want something like balloons you never have any and the first stores you go looking for them don't have any? The super market had them though I had to ask the manager where they were. It took him a while and he helpfully advised I could buy a cheaper packet that said "girls party" balloons. I told him it was not a good idea to present Sam with anything that said "girls" on it and bought the slightly more expensive packet that didn't say anything about gender. Anyway, I digress.
On Saturday I reminded Sam that we needed to start this project and he got a balloon and excelled at blowing it up to a suitable size. Then I got out a mixing bowl and made the
Then the balloon kept slipping and sliding and bouncing around the table and floor as both of us were trying to hold it down and get newspaper strips stuck on -- strips which were so sodden they kept ripping and disintegrating into a mass of yuck. When we finally managed to get the
My apron, well covered in paste, as well as the sleeves of my sweater/cardigan -- from trying to hold onto a balloon that was slipping and sliding all over the place and all over me -- I managed to somehow hold down the balloon and apply two layers of newspaper strips and one layer of computer paper strips successfully. Sam helped a bit. Although he tried to escape, I wouldn't let him! This morning the mask-to-be was dry -- it took a good 36 hours. When he got back from school, Sam was able to stab the balloon:
Monday, September 23, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Some countries, including France, have banned the wearing of this veil in public places. This has lead to certain groups of making threats of violence against those countries. In Britain I have been surprised at the number of people -- at least those shown on television -- both members of the debate forums and those in the audience -- who believe that if women want to wear the veil they should be allowed to wear it. The people I am talking about are what some would call 'real British people' meaning 'white' and Anglo-Saxon.
Personally, my instinct when I see women attired in black Muslim dress and completely covered from head to toe is to recoil. But then I am pretty much a feminist and for me it goes against too much of what I believe women have had to fight against, have had to endure to gain their rightful place -- at least in western culture. And I wonder why those who would wear such a garment would choose to live in our world. Of course, many times the answer is that these are British women, born and bred who have fallen in love with a Muslim man and converted to his faith and so chosen this path. And so they are participating in their democratic right as a British citizen. The point being that it isn't always foreigners who make this choice. I do not have a problem with head scarves, or with the burqa -- if women choose that form of attire, far be it for me to object to that.
The authorities are now in a quandary about how to handle the questions that arise from this 'right'. A woman has been told that when she testifies before a jury she must uncover her face so that the jurors can see her when she testifies. Another woman was told that she could not teach her children with a veil covering her face -- she lost her job.
One woman wrote about wearing the full Muslim dress, that is the burqa and the full veil, to work and abandoned the idea because co-workers avoided her. This, is the crux of the matter for me. For me it represents a wish to 'separate' oneself from our culture -- more than anything else we judge others by how we see their faces. For all you know, as I am sitting here, I could be wearing a burqa and veil but because my 'veil' is the Internet, it is perfectly acceptable -- but 'face-to-face', in our culture, we want to see for ourselves -- the voice is not enough.
The judge decided that the jury had a right to see a woman's face because it was necessary in order to make a fair judgement. But it has occurred to me that if this woman had worn a veil all her life would taking it off place her at a disadvantage because she did not have the experience of being so exposed to people. But then if you live in a foreign culture, sometimes you just have to go with the flow...
There could also be arguments that this form of dress holds security risks -- how do you really know it's a woman hidden beneath that garb and not some wicked man!
Thursday, August 29, 2013
It is depressing to consider the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's momentous speech coincides with the present day horrors in Syria that dominate our television news. Where is there a leader that can uplift the hearts of humankind. We are caught in a web of suspicion compounded by concern for our fellow men and women being used by world powers to ensnare our better natures toward goals that lead us we know not where.
I do not believe that military action by super powers will accomplish anything other than to make matters worse. But that doed not help resolve the pain and suffering of those people caught in the bloody crossfire of political maniacs.
I hope that those mighty "powers that be" will allow the United Nation's team time to do the investigation they have begun and to back off the posturing and threats until some kind of determination can be ascertained. I do not believe the answers to the problems in the middle east can be found by western military intervention.
I do believe, however, that it is essential that we in the west support the countries bordering Syria as they try to cope with the onslaught of war-weary refugees.l
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Monday, August 19, 2013
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
The eyes are now 'healed' and with the second operation I found it problematic to do certain things -- like reading, for example. But particularly I found it quite a strain to spend much time on the computer.
After the first operation it was easier -- only one eye was under strain while the other was completely comfortable. But it was quite a change when both had been done with only two weeks between. Monday it was six weeks since the second eye was done and I now am feeling much more back to normal. But, unfortunately, we have no Wi-Fi at the house and I now rely on either my phone mobile data (very expensive!) or coming into town to the Wi-Fi Centre and a few hours of Internet Bliss!
I now have great vision -- and only need spectacles for reading and the computer. But it's very strange being able to 'see' from first thing in the morning. Now I cannot do any close up work or reading without specs -- a small annoyance, but still takes some getting used to... There was one close call about four weeks ago. I was outside taking the washing down from the line. Since the 'line' is a rope tied onto the house at one end and a tree at the other, it is necessary to have a long pole to bring up the middle and allow the laundry to 'fly' in the breeze. As I was taking down the last t-shirt on the line -- right next to the pole -- the pole suddenly sprang forward and hit me about 1 mm clear of the left eye, the one operated on about 10 days before! I saw stars, I can tell you. And it did jar the eye and there was for a few days deterioration of the vision -- what a freak accident!
But now all is wonderful -- I can wash my hair without worrying about getting water in my eye and I can even dare to wear mascara!
Friday, June 28, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I entered the clinic at 9 O'clock sharp and left at Noon. The procedure itself took all of 15 minutes! I experienced absolutely no pain, though the injection that left the eye numb and immobile was not exactly pleasant. During the operation my eye was focused on a very bright light that moved around and at one point I heard the very high drone of what sounded like a drill. Later it was a bit disconcerting to discover that the pupil of the eye was frozen in a position looking toward the upper right while the other looked pefectly normal! After lunch I took a nap and by the time I got up the anaesthetic had worn off and the eye was looking normal again.
I can now SEE CLEARLY with my right eye! The optician put a clear lens in my glasses and so I have pretty good use of both eyes now. The good eye is doing most of the work because cataracts really do make it difficult to see... I can now read the towns and temperatures on the weather map! And subtitles! Trees have well-defined leaves. I will, however, need reading glasses. The good news is that I will be able to use the same glasses for the computer as well as for the book. Yesterday, I went back to the clinic for a check up to ensure that all is going along well and they can proceed with the second eye on Monday.
It is astonishing how quickly the eye settled down. Things are a little weird because of the difference between the vision in the two eyes and the fact that the left eye still has a cataract. However, the day after the operation I attended a lecture about Buddhism and was easily able to take notes!
Now if only modern medicine would come up with a 15 minute treatment for the aches and pains of old age to go with my 'young' eye(s). It is quite bizarre to walk around with the vision of youth and the body creaking and groaning with every step...
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
|(Photo courtesy of wikipedia)|
Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning — we tremble and are faint, we submit. We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him, helpers and companions.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The Eye surgeon that I saw on this appointment agreed that it was time to have the cataracts removed. He then asked me where I wanted to have the surgery done. I was rather flummoxed by this question because I had not idea that I had a choice about 'where' nor did I have any idea where the 'where's' were, let alone which one to choose. So I asked, didn't they do the surgery. Oh, yes, they did and he named a hospital about 10 miles away where this surgery was done. I said I would have it done there.
After speaking to him, I was then seen by a nurse who went through details of the procedure and said I would be hearing from them with an appointment for the first operation. The second eye would be done about 6 weeks after the first. Throughout February and most of March I heard nothing. I hadn't expected the wait to be so long...
Because of the impending operations, I had told many people that I would not be able to promise to do this or that in case the hospital wanted me for the 'laser'! One day after church, a friend approached me and said she understood I was not available to work on the Art Exhibition this year. I explained to her that I couldn't make a definite commitment, but that if I could be there I would be. My friend was a former head-mistress. She looked at me sternly and said,
"Where are you having the operation?"
I told her.
A pained look crossed over her face. "You don't want to have it done there... I had mine done at Drayton House. They are wonderful." She then proceeded to parade me around the parish centre meeting all the people in the congregation that had had their eyes done at Drayton House! They all agree that the named hospital was a terrible place to go!
Not only was the hospital several miles away, but Drayton House was walking distance from where I live. So I had a good excuse when I called the Clinic to explain that I wanted them to refer me to Drayton House instead. I was astonished to learn that there were several other places where I could have this work done -- all private clinics/hospitals -- all paid by the NHS! I asked to be referred to Drayton house. This was on the 2nd of April. On the 16th of April I had an appointment at Drayton House for Monday 13th May.
I went for my appointment this past Monday and by the time I left had an appointment for my first operation on the 10th of June! The second operation should be done about two weeks later instead of the usual 6 weeks because one eye will have near perfect vision and the discrepancy would make it very difficult with me to balance my eyes out.
There has been a lot in the news of late about the NHS farming out work to the private sector. The pros and cons of this have caused quite a debate. I don't quite understand all the ins and outs of this debate. I expect it has to do with money and with whether or not the doctors are NHS doctors getting paid as private doctors. It would seem that the private clinics around here have a much better reputation that the NHS hospital. I never got a date from the NHS when I was on their list -- over two months. Within two months of being referred to Drayton house I will have had my surgery.
As for the Art Exhibition -- I'll be working on that from the 7th-9th of June!
Monday, April 29, 2013
Anchors of both sexes, though from most accounts they seem to be largely women, led an ascetic life, shut off from the world inside a small room, usually built adjacent to a church so that they could follow the services, with only a small window acting as their link to the rest of humanity. Food would be passed through this window and refuse taken out. Most of the time would be spent in prayer, contemplation, or solitary handworking activities, like stitching and embroidering. Because they would become essentially dead to the world, anchors would receive their last rights from the bishop before their confinement in the anchorage. This macabre ceremony was a complete burial ceremony with the anchor laid out on a bier. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/hildegarde.asp)In time the fame of the two nuns spread and many pilgrims came to visit them for advice and spiritual guidance. As a result other noble families sent their daughters and soon a small convent was established. When Jutta died, Hildegaard was named Abbess and it was not long before she demanded from the Monestery, authority to build a convent in its own right. Although reluctant -- each postulant brought an impressive dowry with her -- the abbott was 'convinced' that it would be best to let Hildegaard have her way. She was suddenly laid low with a kind of seizure and would lie prone and immovable until her wish was granted. Hildegaard's fame and nobility were such that it was best to acquiesce to her wishes. She built the largest convent in Europe!
The second half of the lecture focused on Hildegaard's music. Whether or not she wrote each piece of music herself or in concert with other sisters, is not known though it is probable. Until then singing was in the form of the Gregorian chant and followed the words of the Latin Mass. Hildegaard's compositions were Liturgical dramas with original music and words. These dramas can compared to the nativity and passion plays we see today.
She also wrote 2 symphonia and 77 songs. Unlike the monotone of the Gregorian chant, this music soars and the notes ascend and descend. It sounds very ethereal and rather primal. it also sounds like it should be sung rather than listened too. They were 'ruminatos' -- that is music and text working together to help contemplate the deeper meaning of her visions.
Hildegaard became famous for her miracles and was allowed to go on preaching missions outside of the convent. She also had a secretary -- a monk -- who went with her and wrote down her writings. Nowadays she is criticized for her conservatism in only allowing noble women to join her convent -- only they would have the kind of education and manner to understand her work, her visions, her theology...
Isn't it fascinating to consider that such a woman making her way with such success and so respected in the 12th Century. She lived to be 81.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Upon my first visit I was warned that the unions had a habit of one day strikes -- especially affecting public transportation -- and indeed that did prove to be the case. However, in general I was not unduly affected by industrial action. My love life brought me back to Britain only 6 months later -- in June. So in the interim, Mrs. Thatcher would have been newly elected -- but on that visit political history made no impact on me at all! I had to live here before that would happen.
The move to England came in September 1980. This novice American had quite a shock as she watched the annual political conferences shortly after arrival! Words like 'manifesto' instead of 'platform' were used by both parties without the innuendo of 'communism'! The Labour party conference addressed its delegates as 'comrades'. You don't hear that word used by the Labour Party any more!
Then in November Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States -- and 'the die was cast'...
Around September 1981 we moved to the town of Southport in the north west of England from Diss in Norfolk -- just after the Toxteth riots in Liverpool. Margaret Thatcher and her government were facing down the unions and the battles had begun. A newcomer to British politics, I was an enthralled witness to a very different kind of political drama than what I was accustomed to in the United States. Battles between the 'right' and the 'left' would be violent and prolonged. The miners were convinced they had the power to bring down the government -- as they had once before. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to stand firm and she did not flinch. The cost to the miners is still being felt today.
My politics do not coincide with those of Margaret Thatcher. I did not like her stridency. Her hectoring voice could give me a headache, while her attempts to sound calm and reasonable seemed false and insincere. But I did admire her forth right candour and her toughness. . She was right about Gorbachev, who I greatly admire, and I give her credit for the influence she had on Reagan.
There were moments when she took my breath away -- such as her strength of character after the Brighton bombing. I agreed with her when she demanded that Europe pay back the money Britain had owing -- and which ironically still has not been paid. Her appearance when she appeared in Parliament for the last time was phenomenal.
I believe that Mrs. Thatcher exhausted those of us who had to live with her. I can remember the feeling of relief when John Major with his authentically calm voice became Prime Minister. The arguments prevailing over her upcoming funeral bring it all back -- Her premiership was eleven years of that kind of vitriol -- and whether she was right or she was wrong, it was exhausting.But I don't believe she was 'evil'. Perhaps her policies were a necessary evil -- and even though I and many others think there could have been 'better ways', we will never know, because things just are what they are. She was a force of nature and she changed everything. I do believe history will be kind to her.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
On Maundy Thursday it is traditional in many churches to re-enact Christ washing the feet of his disciples just before the last supper. It is customary for the Pope to participate in this re-enactment also, usually washing the feet of selected clergymen. But this year our newly elected Pope went to a prison and washed the feet of a rapist, a murderer and a thief. For me, the implications of this are very powerful and imply that this man is breaking away from the inculcating protection of the wealth-bound glory of an enthroned papal head. (In addition, it should be noted that he also washed the feet of a Serbian Muslim woman inmate.)
Pope Francis 'gets it'! Christ is to be found among the poor, the wretched, the people who believe and those who do not; not in the edifices and trappings made and built to glorify him. We, his community, bring Christ to these places, we do not find him there otherwise. Places are spiritually powerful because of those who come -- and have come before us.We find Christ in our humanity toward and for each other -- whether we are rich or poor, white, black, English, Chinese, Korean, German, French, saint or sinner...
I am writing about this in response to the Good Friday service I attended this year. The Vicar made a special reference to the Pope's actions on Maundy Thursday and made the point that the sign of a successful church is in its 'diversity'. Society is now multi cultural. This may well take us out of our comfort zone. We may long for past days when life may have seemed simpler. It doesn't really matter because this cultural diversity is here to stay and it is the lifeblood of the church.
It seems to me that the history of Christianity has been one of struggle: A struggle through persecution and intolerance. As often happens in history, the persecuted became the persecutor, those who were not tolerated, became the intolerant. We do indeed "see through a glass darkly".
Thursday, March 28, 2013
We have had a problem of another sort. I would call it Addiction to Games. In our house, he has had access to two gaming machines: an X-box and a portable Sony Play Station. Both of these have been confiscated. An I-Pad, which was given to him by one of his aunts in Korea just before he left to join us, has also been taken away from him and he is given only very limited access.
When Sam plays a game he becomes transfixed, mesmerized. If you speak to him, he does not hear you. His face becomes beet red and the eyes glassy. If he plays for much longer than an hour he will develop a headache and he will vomit. I think it's a kind of allergic reaction.
For the first few months Sam was here we wanted to show that we trusted him and we also wanted to allow for some 'mistakes' in order for him and us to learn about each other and our boundaries. When it comes to games, we can not trust him as far as we can throw him... A few weeks ago, I caught him red-handed at night when he was supposed to be in bed -- lights blazing playing the X-Box. I later learned that he had been doing this for quite a while. I removed the 'controllers' and they are in a place where he can not get to them. It will be a long time before they will be available to him again.
As for the Sony Play Station -- I/we told him that he would be allowed to play with that when we went on long journeys in the car. As a matter of trust I kept it in the bottom drawer of my desk. I later discovered that rather suspicious behaviour on his part was because he was plugging the damn thing in from the bottom drawer and playing his little heart away when I was busy elsewhere! I thought he was watching television. Well, the Play Station is now where he can't get his little mitts on it! He can now spend more time looking at the scenery!
I asked him one day, if he felt he wanted a cell phone. He said he used to have one in Korea, but that his parents had taken it away from him --
'I got in trouble', he said.
'Games?', I asked.
'Yes', he replied, with a sigh...
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Since living in England this has been a struggle for me. Not because I have a problem with my children having homework. My problem was that I just believed them when they said they didn't have any! To put it bluntly they were Lying Toads. In the Connecticut town where I spent my homework years, I would not have dreamed of not doing my homework and it would be done on time, too. I had homework in every subject every night -- hours of it in high school. We had to turn it in. It was part of our grade come report card time. There was no escaping it!
And that is another thing. The schools here don't have report cards! In fact my mother kept all of my report cards and gave them to me a few years ago! Report cards came out 6 times a year and had to be returned, signed by a parent. Report Card Day was a big deal...it was reported in the paper, the names of A and B honour roll students were in the paper. The kids could not keep it a secret very easily.
So it never occurred to me that my boys would not do their homework or that they would deny having any. I don't know where or when it was, but alas and alack for Sam, I have discovered how it works. First of all I now know about 'homework books/diaries'! I know that I'm supposed to sign them each week. I also know that if I don't sign them, I won't hear anything from the school.
My brother has a theory about homework -- at least it's true for where we went to school. He says that if you do your homework every night, you will do well in school ...
Homework here is quite different. But then school is different. In Sam's school the schedule is over two weeks and you do not have the same core subjects every day. Core subject to me are English, history, a foreign language, mathematics, science.
Now it is 2013 and we have the Internet. Things have modernized! Sam's school has a website and on the website there is a 'Learning Zone' where I can go and download major project assignments -- like two that Sam is working on at the moment -- and which I am over-seeing. I look at my job as teaching him the difference between doing what is 'necessary' and doing what is 'the best' he can do. Usually, we have to compromise. But I only compromise a little!!! At the moment he has two projects about medieval castles. One, in history, entails learning enough about the nature of a castle to design one himself and to develop a budget from a list of what you would need for your castle and to defend it from enemy attack. The other project is to design two medieval characters to be used in an animation for an IT game. The biggest problem is that Sam tends to be sloppy and lazy in his work and convincing him that he should use the computer and transform his sloppiness on the computer. He is always pleased with the result, but it's always an matter of firmly insisting he do it!
But the third assignment is the 'jewel in the crown' for me! The assignment is to research 5-6 ofShakespeare's plays. Imagine being 12 years old and not knowing anything about Shakespeare -- other than having heard of Romeo and Juliet!!!! How does one begin -- besides joyfully, that is? The best part is that Sam is loving it! I confess to have chosen the six -- two tragedies, two comedies, and two histories. (Of course, he only wanted to do five!!!). I am not making him read the plays -- He has found synopsis and I shall pick out a couple of famous passages for him. The first one he read was Richard III -- which I chose because it is topical and I thought it a good opportunity to read about the play that has made it so topical. He was completely absorbed. Now he reading the synopsis of Hamlet! I'll let you know what he thinks -- but he has been quietly reading for a while now and seems to be giving out very thoughtful signals ... Coming up are Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and Henry V. And then write his own version of what each play was about -- he probably won't like that bit ... but you never know!
Friday, March 08, 2013
My friends live in Baycliff, a pretty little village overlooking Morcambe Bay. Morcambe Bay is an unusual area of sea and sand noted for its rich stocks of seafood and dangerous and fast-moving tides. Carnforth, which I wrote about in my last post, is located on the opposite side of the water from Baycliff.
When The Man was a navigator in the RAF he often flew over this area of Britain and was keen to visit Barrow-in-Furness and to check out little Piel Island while we were there. I had only recently heard of Piel Island -- by way of television actor and personality Martin Clunes in his program Islands of Britain'.
The drive to Barrow was interesting, but not particularly beautiful. Our first stop was the Roa Island Life Boat Station and Piel Island Ferry landing. Windswept and cold is how I shall remember it best! Fortunately the gates were locked shut so we didn't have to endure a walk around the building!
|My first glimpse of Piel Island -- looking quite |
mysterious and a bit forlorn!
What better way to end our day than with a meal in a local Baycliff pub/hotel, The Fisherman's Arms, followed by another glass of wine before the fire of the very English Farmers Arms on our way home! Cheers!
Friday, March 01, 2013
One of the most iconic British films ever made, Brief Encounter, is a bitter-sweet story of two people who meet while waiting for a train. Both are married to other people ...
Brief Encounter is a 1945 British film directed by David Lean about the conventions of British suburban life, centring on a housewife for whom real love (as opposed to the polite arrangement of her marriage) brings unexpectedly violent emotions. The film stars Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey. The screenplay is by Noël Coward, and is based on his 1936 one-act play Still Life. The soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, played by Eileen Joyce.Several years ago, The Man was in the area and decided to visit the train station. He was rather impressed with the fact that it had been turned into a fascinating museum that paid tribute to the movie by keeping the station as it was as a movie set. All of the pictures I used in my last post were in the movie. So on our way home from a lovely visit to Ulverston in the Lake District The Man decided to take an alternative route to the M6 Motorway, which took us through Carnforth.