28 February 2013

#lentphotos - 14 - food

A food collection took place for our local Trussell Trust Foodbank in early December 2012 (as part of the ‘Every can helps’ collection fronted by Tesco that took place nationwide).  As well as the enormous collection that took place in a local Tesco store we also facilitated a smaller one in a Waitrose store.  Happily our three hour shift was so busy that there was very little time to take photos.

In this last week Trussell Trust have been promoting a country wide trolley push, to keep promoting awareness and to raise funds to enable expansion of the Foodbank network.  There are social media buttons on the web page (here) so sharing the information takes just a mouse click. 

Another Foodbank is in the process of starting up in our local area to meet ever increasing need and wherever you live in the UK this is a real problem in your neighbourhood.  When food collections take place a few people we speak to cannot believe that people in the area are going hungry.  Yet some of those who donate most generously at these collections often appear to have very little of their own.

We probably all know of a number of people who give up certain food/s for lent, an optional exercise in self denial to feel good rather than genuine and costly spiritual discipline (yes I'm being judgemental here.)  

Views about lent aside, for some people forgoing food or meals is a very real situation, a daily struggle and simply not a choice.

To get involved with these issues on a larger scale the Enough Food IF campaign enables you to lobby your MP and keep up with global actions and responses to world wide hunger. (I am currently waiting for my local MP to respond to a call to action on this one from two weeks ago!)

27 February 2013

#lentphotos - 13 - trusting

If you are a patient in hospital you can be joined by any manner of people around your bed rubbing their hands together.  Alarming as it looks this is nothing more than evidence of the fact that anti-bacterial hand gel has been applied and is being massaged into the hands. 

Should you see someone with this badge is it someone you feel that you can trust?

26 February 2013

#lentphotos - 12 - refreshment

Our household drinks a fair amount of tea and coffee and a considerable number of Christmas presents we received last year were on this theme.  Here are just some in a festive photograph.

The verdict?

All the teas taste lovely and are equally refreshing. 

However the Malt Whisky Flavour Coffee is neither (I added more coffee and the Scotsman added at least another dram of whisky to his).  Not really refreshing.

The mugs are a reminder to pray for the work of The Anchor Coffee House whenever we have a brew.  It is run by Vinelife Church and if you are ever in Manchester town they would love to see you for a cuppa!

25 February 2013

the instrument: an ode to childhood's passing

It is a representative of many but it is the instrument

How do you love all your children equally? Anyone knows it is impossible to cut a smartie into three.

So the flute of one is the instrument. It stands today as a symbol for the end of an era.  Player of the silver-plated tube turns 21 today, the baby.

The instrument is itself a line, a demarcation under childhood.  

Other instruments too have passed through during the journey.  Recorder, piano, trumpet, violin, cornet, percussion, almost the entire saxophone family and not forgetting all manner of guitars.  

Recitals, concerts and exams. Recorded for posterity on photographs and paper certificates. A rush of internal sensory memories, sometimes triggered by hearing just a fragment of music.  

Music that has been a travelling companion along the way to adulthood.  

Hours of time exercising fingers and the mind (not always willingly) but over time aligning the kinaesthetic with the acoustic.  
Imperceptibly changing the brain. 

A legacy that has passed from one generation to the next and given wings to fly onwards and upwards, having packed some of the instruments to carry along the way.

Shared exclusive conversations. 

A secret language.

The gift of the instrument has also passed back to its source and right back into the very heart.

She treasured these things in her heart, holding them dear, deep within herself (Luke 2:19)

(Linking with Tanya Amber and friends for #concretewords – communicating the abstract through solid things.)

#lentphotos - 11 - navigation

Since we have been married our family has moved on average every seven years.  We have made three major moves to different parts of England and additionally have undertaken smaller moves within an area, to a different residence.

The maps here represent all the areas where we have lived.

A microcosm of several lives on a journey.

23 February 2013

#lentphotos - 10 - a prayer

The final verse of O come all ye faithful is traditionally only sung on Christmas day because of the words 'born this happy morning'.  

Let this be a prayer today, everyday, not just Christmas day.

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord

22 February 2013

#lentphotos - 09 - food for thought

My son and daughter-in-law's wedding rings are sitting on the text used on their wedding day (Romans 12).

It was a very happy day anyway, but the thing that really made my heart sing was that so many of the guests came away talking about the message that the Speaker gave on this passage.  

He had genuinely given people food for thought.

21 February 2013

#lentphotos - 08 - a focus

A little poetic licence...

our trusty ford focus
(parked up at Cnoc an Torrain, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Sept 2009)

Cnoc an Torrain is the village where the Scotsman's grandmother was born.  It took a little persistence to find because we forgot to take the up to date map, did not have a sat nav and road signage is evidently not a priority expenditure in this corner of the globe.

The village consists of no more than 30 houses, so we parked up on the cattle grid and set off in search of people.  

We encountered more midges.  

Funnily enough although this is Scotland where there's way more midges and sheep than people, it's quite unusual to see many of the little critters on the island. Due to frequent windy conditions the wee beasties spend the majority of their time on the ground.

The only humans we saw were two builders, who came from South Uist, therefore did not know much about Cnoc an Torrain itself.  

However since that visit we have discovered that the Scotsman does indeed have living relatives in the village (not that we really need an excuse to go back to somewhere as beautiful and remote as this.)

Only question is, when we do, will we be travelling in the trusty ford focus?

20 February 2013

#lentphotos - 07 - quiet

crofter's cottage
Sollas, North Uist, Outer Hebrides

I make no apologies for posting a number of photos of North Uist on the blog (there will be more).  

This is a well-known scene on the island which encapsulates the breathtaking peace and quiet of the surroundings and is frequently used in tourist information.  We were fortunate on the day we visited that the weather was favourable and therefore the photo opportunities were good.

Its picture postcard tranquility disguises the fact that real, every-day life is hard for North Uist inhabitants.  The peat stack against the outbuilding will disappear during the winter months; it will be used as fuel for warmth during the harsh winter months.

For the visitor it is a quiet place to wait, to drench thoughts in the expanse and restfulness of the view, to taste saltiness on the wind, with the occasional interjection of a seabird's cry.

#lentphotos - 06 - a luxury

An instant reaction to this topic was to think of valuable items in our possession. But to post a photo of such an item in public seemed more like an open invitation to would be burglars to do their thing.  

The Scotsman until recently was a church minister and is also fascinated by language. I'm sure there's more than this in the house, but for now:

bibles, in translations & languages

Wycliffe Bible translators tell us that there are still 209 million people speak languages for which there is no scripture translation.  Some still only have a New Testament or just a single book of the bible (see more statictics here.)

So these six versions of the same book are a luxury compared to what many people in the world are able to have.  On the left are King James (given to me as a baby), New International and my favourite The Message.  From far right working in are Hebrew (Old Testament), Greek New Testament and Scottish Gaelic.  The Scotsman likes to get right into the nitty gritty of the text in the original language. Since he discovered a few years ago that he has deep roots on the remote island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, the Scottish Gaelic translation was added to the collection.

18 February 2013

#lentphotos - 05 - a a place to pause

Sometimes at the end of a piece of music there is a ‘cyclops’ symbol above the final note or chord. In the original Italian this is a ‘fermata’ which literally means a hold or pause (full definition here).   It is something of the composer’s intent that has been added to the music.  When it is placed at the end of a piece of music the fermata gives the sense of coming to a standstill and emphasises the completion of the piece.

Pause is nearly always intentional on the part of the person who is doing the pausing.  There may be external factors which necessitate a pause, such as waiting at traffic lights.  But even then the decision to move off is with the driver; whether they rev the engine and accelerate when the lights change to amber or to wait for the green light to steadily move on, it is a personal decision.

Teaching music students how to interpret a fermata is quite tricky when they are young (and the symbol is used, in even the most simple pre-Grade 1 pieces).  I used to teach piano and pupils would question ‘How long is exactly right’? I would mostly suggest as counting one or two longer than the value of the note written.  However over time and particularly if music is studied to a higher level interpreting a fermata becomes more intuitive and the player or performer begins to feel how long is ‘right‘.  At the end of the day for either beginner or experienced, the length of pause is at the discretion of the instrumentalist.

The piece in the photo is the end of a Chopin Etude.  It is one of my favourites by the Polish pianist composer, partly because it is in the key of F minor which appeals to the introspective nature I carry.  It was one of two given to me to study by a teacher so that I could master the art of playing differing values in each hand (this one is three against four).  At end three understated, repeated chords bring the piece to a conclusion, with a fermata over the final chord.  You can listen to the whole piece here.

the cupboard

In the kitchen. White doors but instead of white handles, 1980's signature cheerful red and cheap MFI design. This was the only cupboard you could not manage to open, empty, rearrange or mess up because we kept a piece of string tied on the handles. A house we lived in for five years with the cupboard-you-could-not-open, filled with cherished events of which He is the author.

We were three when we moved in and five when we left.  Two more precious lives erupted onto the scene and into our story in those years.  Your not so little brother very nearly made his way into the world, next to that cupboard-you-could-not-open.  The fact that his shoulder got stuck during the journey towards birth probably prevented another kind of red spilling all over the kitchen floor that morning.

Throughout daylight hours your brother required almost non-stop feeding and provided golden opportunities for you to perfect your mayhem-creating skills while I was not looking. When the Health Visitor called, you were surreptitiously sticking all the clean new toilet rolls down the toilet and as she left you twinkled your ‘it wasn’t me’ blue eyes at her. You managed to break several fridge locks resulting in uncooked omelettes on the kitchen floor on more than a few mornings.  A cursory rubber-gloved hand down a blocked drain indicated that you had been posting most of our teaspoons and a large amount of sand from the sandpit down the chute, over a period of time.

In flitting between the cupboard-you-could-not-open, cooking tea, with your brother in his near permanent place on my hip at this time of day, I managed to melt a cake box on top of the grill.  The birthday cake inside was unharmed, but the box was a sorry molten plastic mess, which took forever to scrape off the cooker.

By the time your sister arrived just 21 months after your brother you two boys played together more and gradually the cupboard-you-could-not-open became less important to you. It was also safe to start leaving the string off the handles, since the cupboard-you-could-not-open never held the same fascination for your younger siblings.

Your sister almost from the moment she could sit up became a ringside participator in your games on the red carpets.  Red carpets in two rooms that meant pink knees on almost every garment of crawling infants.  There was that Sunday night when she first giggled from her bouncy chair during the madness of trying to bath three children in oily eczema-treating gunk and put them to bed without Dad in the house.  A sweet glockenspiel tinkle chiming in over usual fraught thoughts and a pulling back into the moment to participate in these messy times, not just endure them.

So you see this house with the cupboard-you-could-not-open holds precious memories I never, ever want to forget.

(Linking with Amber and Tanya for #concretewords – communicating the abstract through solid things.)

16 February 2013

#lentphotos - 04 - simple food

preparing patatas bravas

In the autumn of 2012 friends gifted The Scotsman and I a holiday in Southern Spain.  We stayed with these friends in a complex adjoining a rural village Alfaix in Andalucia.  To buy food we went to a neighbouring village which had a supermarket.  The fresh fruit and vegetable section was tiny in comparison to what we are used to in average British supermarkets and the range of choice was limited too.  However everything that we did buy tasted truly delicious.

I have long rated Spanish fresh produce well below that of Britain (mainly based on superior tasting strawberries all coming from UK growers).  It would seem though, that the Spanish keep the best fresh produce for the home market (in our experience in the same way that French retain the best wine and Dutch the best Gouda for their own consumers).

In order to hang on to a taste of Spain when we returned, I started to cook patatas bravas on a regular basis.  Literally translated it means poor man's potatoes, with these ingredients is really quick and easy to prepare, exceptionally tasty and has swiftly become a regular family, simple food favourite.

15 February 2013

#lentphotos - 03 - a place to reflect

American Military Cemetery, Cambridge, UK

We had been staying with an old school friend in Cambridge and had spent some time discussing how  important it is that sacrifices made by servicemen in armed conflict should never be forgotten.  We shared our children's experiences and the impact these had made on them (his son had made a visit to at least one French WW1 cemetery and two of our children had been to Auschwitz when they were on school trips abroad).

My husband (The Scotsman) and I have not had opportunities to visit overseas sites yet, so our friend suggested that we paid a visit to the American Military Cemetery on our way home.  The memorials stretch almost as far as the eye can see and this is by no means one of the largest military cemeteries.  Every single one of the men commemorated was someone's son and some were husbands and fathers too.  Given that my own two sons were of a similar age to many of them, the impact of reflecting on the sheer numbers, their circumstances and thinking about the effect on their remaining family was simply overwhelming.

The salty tears of gratitude soon mixed with the pouring rain, on my face.

We owe them a great debt

14 February 2013

#lentphotos - 02 - temptation

Blue device sits on the coffee table, tempting me to spend time watching programmes and then nothing in particular, before switching off...  

#lentphotos - 01 - wilderness


Via a friend's re-tweet this morning I came across #lentphotos a list of 40 topics on which to take or post daily photos for Lent.  It is the first Lent activity which immediately struck a creative chord.  I am aiming to follow this, with a photo and short blog.

As I am a day late starting there are two posts today.


Culloden Moor, Inverness

The Battle of Culloden was fought on this very ground on 16 April 1746, the last pitched battle to take place on British soil (more details here).  For many wilderness is a place of natural, unspoiled beauty, a scenic landscape. Biblical wilderness is also portrayed as a place of threat, chaos, alienation and hostile conflict.

Here is a place where I see innate beauty, for the terrain has been left much as it was over 350 years ago (save for the modern day obligatory visitor centre).  But the soil was soaked with the blood of so many men in cruel, fierce battle and I felt a connection with that desolation of the soul whilst walking round.  

For me the heavy, leaden skies in the photo enhance and encapsulate all these elements. 

13 February 2013

this blogging thing

So I have been thinking and procrastinating about doing this for ages, this blogging thing.  Mulling over ideas, thinking who might read, does there need to be yet another blog out there.  I have absolutely no idea where it will lead if indeed anywhere but here goes..

Dipping your toes in the water can be a variable experience on the shores of island Britain.  With its diverse geology, unpredictable climate and hidden elements below the water line, appearances can be deceptive.  But you have to enter the water obtain the fullest sensory experience and if you just look you will never know what it feels like.

When our eldest was a toddler we lived near the South Coast and took trips to nearby Bournemouth. The best time of the year was September, after the schools had gone back and the crowds of tourists had left.  1989 happened to be a glorious Indian summer and therefore ideal to take this curious young child for his first sea experiences.  The prolonged warm weather and the shallow edges of the shoreline served to make the sea deliciously refreshing and made this family paddling experience a joyful time.

Several years later when our son was on the cusp of the teenage years and had been joined by a younger brother and sister, we spent a few days on the Devon/Cornwall border.  Beaches were quite shingly and the weather not conducive to spending long periods sitting around, so we were all in and out of the water frequently. I was standing in the water near some rocks and all of a sudden I was knocked off my feet by a more forceful wave and onto the rocks.  Sheepishly I got to my feet and started to walk out of the sea nursing a bruised ego.  However I noticed the water turning pink as I got to the shallows and realised my right big toe had been gashed by the rock.  Being in the relatively cool water had numbed any pain, so the first realisation of any injury was visual.  It was not long before I was yelping in pain and the dashing young lifeguard came running over to see if he could do anything!  Handily it was flip flop weather for the few days following, so the wound healed relatively quickly.

My husband (The Scotsman)'s grandmother hails from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides and in 2009 we were privileged to be able to take the long haul up there to see for ourselves the ancestral land (to take the shortest sea crossing entails travelling right across Skye to catch a ferry).  North Uist is the flattest island in the archipelago. This makes for a general lack of trees on the landscape and those that remained had the appearance of hunch-backed and knarled elderly widows, defiant in their battle to stay in the ground against fierce, Atlantic-borne winds.
Another effect of these powerful ocean breezes is to grind the sand on the shore so fine that in the sunlight it looks dazzling white.  Indeed if the sun is out on one of the rare days, walking on the beach it is easy to imagine that you are on an exotic Caribbean island, until a sharp wisp of wind slashes across your face and you realise that it is at least 20 degrees cooler.  As inviting as the shoreline looks it is impossible to stay paddling in the sea for much longer than 10 minutes at a time, because despite its breathtaking beauty and dazzling azure hue, the water it is just so cold.