Don’t squish the caterpillars!

I was giving a friend a lift the other day and as we followed the twists and turns in the road I avoided the caterpillars along with other wildlife. The caterpillars, though, were the topic of conversation.
I thought everyone avoided them in August, soon I learned I was in the minority. But surely I said, you avoid the frogs in the autumn and spring. No I just avoid cars she replied.
I love caterpillars, I love the way these slow cumbersome hungry crawlers transform into delicately beautiful fliers. I love them as caterpillars too, the way they know to eat particular plants, even when it is my cabbages.
There is a symbiotic relationship developing in my garden. The Rosemary bushes are covered in the pods left by ladybirds, the ladybirds in turn are eating the greenfly. And as I watch the caterpillars eat the leaves of the buddleia I know that in time the shrub will earn its name, butterfly bush.
I can’t explain the dog eating strawberries, a mystery for another day.
I will, however continue to swerve to avoid the hairy black caterpillars or maybe start a road safety class for them, along with badgers, rabbits and hedgehogs!

From scratch

It was one of those days where I had to be in three different places at the same time. Not sure of who to let down, not sure of the welcome available after that. Unsure of how to get to the three locations, here, twenty miles away and eight miles respectively, do what needed to be done without appearing rushed to get to the next task.
Added to that is the constant pressure of the new house food rules, which I have to say put my draconian diet of rice and peas in the shade, tackling the first outbreak of gout and the continued outbreak of H.S. We have decided to remove nightshades from the diet and also yeast extract, anchovies, alcohol, fizzy anything, meat extract, stock among many ingredients. Nightshade vegetables, for those of you who are saying, ” that’s not too bad I can do without Marmite!” Nightshade vegetables are potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum and chillies.
So my mind recipe file has been thrown out, no tomato based sauces so no pasta and Bolognaise, lasagne, chilli con carne, pizzas. Bah humbug, but then take out every Indian and Far East dish I make, all the spicy African and Mexican food and I can’t even start doing bland Irish food.
Today, like I alluded to earlier was ‘one of those days’ and have you seen the rain, I can’t even take Lorelei for a run (Irish rain kills you know!)
I have two of the tasks done, Milton bath – check, meeting with D – check, am now at home waiting to take Smudge to see Sarah and so I ended up with free time.
Well when I say free time, I have three services to prepare for: one on lovingkindness, one on doom, gloom and hope and one on extra mile living, three Bible studies to write, two on parables of Jesus And rewrite one on Jude so it finishes on Friday and doesn’t hang in the middle. So there is stuff to be done.
But instead, I made puff pastry, turned that into vol-au-vents and made three different mixtures to go in them, did I mention my faddy eaters! There is a tea brack baking in the oven (God bless Ballingrane’s Phil) and I have time to write the Bible study tonight on Lost and Found.
All good, I was particularly pleased that the D meeting went so well, good things to come I am sure.
So I turned to my devotional and the verse that caught me was: 1 Corinthians 6:19 which took me back to another time and another place and the delightfully witty Hilary. A good dose of laughter reminded me of the joy found in every day life, in the small things. A wise guy coined the phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff” I think he should do a sequel, “Delight in the small stuff”
Sometimes we need to get our hand in dough, handling butter incorporation with care, sometimes we need to do a bit of manual labour, weeding, knitting whatever to just still our minds and focus on He who is worthy of all praise. Small stuff comes and goes, but jumping in puddles with a muddy dog – priceless. Making stuff from scratch – timeless. Being made into a new creation – for evermore.

Noni travels

This was written in June 2014, the full story has been given away

The whistle blew in the factory just as Noni had lathered the slipper sole liberally with glue. Her hand hovered as she contemplated just putting it down and not completing the menial task but years of training forced her to apply it to the slipper and sending it off for pressing.
She took off her work pinny and replaced it with her basic pale blue cardigan, a woman of no frills or fusses, Noni had worn the same kind of clothes all her life. She had one good pair of black low heeled shoes for weddings, funerals and services on Sunday, the rest of the time found her in the slippers she worked on, the ones that didn’t pass through the searing eyes of Mrs. Quintet, the supervisor. She would in the old days have been the foreman but new words had to found when they allowed women take on roles above their previous station.
Hosiery for Noni meant full tights with a cotton gusset, her cousins in Romchester worked at the hose factory and she received a parcel of off cuts once a year at Christmas, family looked after their own was the byline of all the families in this northern town with its stone walls and stone employers. There was never enough money for wage increases and yet the gas and electric kept going up and the price of flour was shocking.
Her wardrobe contained three skirts, a black one for funerals, a navy blue one for formal occasions and the grey A line skirt for everyday use. She would never wear trousers and the mere thought of denim jeans brought a flush to her cheeks.
Jeans were not the only thing to make Noni blush, she was shy, painfully so, unable to join in the crude banter of the married women around her and too old to join in with the young single ones that she found brash and vulgar with their lipstick and chewing gum. They drank in the bars like men and Noni just couldn’t bring herself to join any of their conversations. It was a different world to the one she was brought up in.
This evening though, as that whistle blew, it was Noni’s last day, last slipper, last time with these women she knew nothing about. There were a few sandwiches and tea put on by the bosses and all the women wished her well. Mrs. Quintet presented her with flowers and a photo was taken. When Mr. Hogarth came in to the room, the chatter ceased and he gave a short speech, commending Noni on her work ethic and longevity. When he got to the point where he said, “Miss Brewster has been with us forty six years….,” the women whistled behind her. She had a good twenty years on any of them. She worked with their mothers and aunts and had seen many come and go.
She straightened down her plain, cream blouse, and managed a quick thank you before scurrying out. In the locker room she retrieved her purse and flattened down her hair, forever it wanted to kick up a fuss but she pushed it down at every opportunity to the tidy grey bob she kept now.
She wondered if anyone knew her plans, whether they were trying to work out what she was going to do as they finished off the egg and cress sandwiches or did they just go back to berating their children and husbands as they did each work day. For them it was back to work on Monday, for Noni it was the beginning.
The suitcase was ready at the door and she dropped the keys off at McGinley’s on the corner with instructions to pass them on to the estate agents on Monday. The house was being compulsorily purchased by the council for the new road. She was the last to leave, Billy Grimshaw, was the same as when they were in Miss Pickles’ junior class. Just as cheeky and full of life. She didn’t know what came over her as she poured out her plans to him over tea, that Saturday months ago. Afterwards she thought perhaps it was because he knew her as a child before, well before she went to work in the mill. Billy was in charge of the row of terraced houses the council needed, it was his job to help the residents find a different place to live but because he knew Noni’s plans he let her stay two months longer than the others.
He also took to visiting on a Saturday afternoon for tea with one or more of his grand kids in tow. Lovely children, full of chatter and curiosity, just like Billy had been. They chatted about the old Junior School, long since torn down and they teased his grand kids with tales of birch switches and Miss Pickles’ world famous temper. Back then kids took it on the chin and just got on with it, nowadays parents were up and down to the new school complaining about this and that.
Noni was at the bus stop waiting for the bus to Manchester, she was early. There was a young couple in the first few baby steps of a relationship sitting next to her having a stilted conversation, probably the first or second date she thought. A loud banging stopped her daydreams as the whole Grimshaw clan, even Katie Clark as Noni thought of her, Billy wife. The children were there, all seven of them and each had at least one babe in arms and a toddler or young child at their feet. Then came their spouses, Billy was very proud that all his children married and none were living over the brush. Following them were a rag tale band of onlookers wondering what all the noise was about. The noise Noni saw immediately were Billy’s eldest’s children, twins Rachel and Teresa, seven years old and full of mischievous bangs and scrapes. They had two dustbin lids each and impromptu cymbals were made. Billy’s doing, she thought.
Billy hushed the crowd just as the bus was pulling in and shouted at the top of his lungs “Noni Brewster, go get ’em, and send us a postcard when you get where you’re going!”
The first postcard arrived to the Grimshaw home two weeks later. I picture of the beach in Nice on the front, on the back, in the small script she had learned as a child, she brought them into France with her, the markets, the style, the people and at the end telling them she was moving on after having her hair styled.
Billy sat and stared as Katie put her large flapping arms around him. “She was always different, Bill, but I never in a million years thought she’d have the guts for this.”
“Ee, lass, come here. You never knew her at Juniors, she were just like us all till that last year. It broke a lot of lasses, did that one, Noni survived and now let’s watch her go. It isn’t for us, we’re as content as two love doves, but her, she needs to, what do they say nowadays, she needs to find herself. Beneath that egg she’ll is a beautiful chick, she just has to get at it.”
“You’re a right soft lumpeth and no mistake, Billy Grimshaw.”
Just as the nights were drawing in and the smell of coal fires filled the streets the next postcard was waiting on the the table next to his dinner when Billy got home. “She is after getting to Prague, Bill.” Katie shouted from the larder.
He read the postcard slowly as he chewed on the braised steak and onions. She seems lighter in tone he thought. She needed to, she was like tightly coiled spring taking on the tension of the world. He was surprised on their re-acquaintance that she was still chapel going. He had long since given up, so long ago he wasn’t sure if Katie’s kin had ever gone. He had five more years to work before he could make a plan, it wouldn’t be anything like Noni’s. Maybe a small bungalow at Southport for all the clan to assemble, or there was a cottage in the folds of the hills a couple of miles away. Close enough for family but far enough away for unwanted neighbours. As if bringing them onto himself, Sally and John from next door started a slanging match. From the sounds he could tell one was up and one was down. He thought about Katie, never had a cross word passed her lips until that Saturday he called on Noni. When she had calmed down he stirred up the mud again by insisting on going again. “You’ll take at least one of the small ones with you, if you do, I am not entering my sixties with an affairing husband, I am not!”
So that was the deal, he could visit with Noni but only if one of the grandkids went too. They loved the trips to Noni’s and being with Granddad so they were pleasant trips. Billy skirted around that last year in school but Noni either didn’t or couldn’t remember and he didn’t want to push it.

Badal talking

The temporary separation is finished and the way it turned out was not a separation as such but an enlarging and joining.
Let me try to explain the wondrous work that God has achieved in my life. I have had a year of transformation ( again ) and it has been awesome to watch and be a part of – cos it was happening to me. It was reminiscent of Scotland’s World Cup song when Billy Connolly in incredulity says “and he was passing the ball to me.”
I have been so blessed by the community of believers up the country whilst knowing there was a bunch of people praying for me back in Kerry. In one small way I have been able to join the two together so roll on September and let’s see how that works out.
Being transformed over and over means being open to that transformation, letting go of self and embracing Him totally, submitting to His will. I hope that I continue being this open to Him.
And so I am back in my home territory but it feels less like home now. It feels more temporary and I think that is how The Lord wants me to think about it, for now.
And what of the relationships made up above, it was easier to let them go than home relationships but links were made and love was shared. Some people found it hard to let go of me but having heard from congregations around the country this appears to be normal. They like the ownership of being the church that had a person on placement.
And now, what for me? Well I enter a period of rest. A time of reflection, prayer and regrouping. A time to refresh and renew until the next test. I am more comfortable than I have been about going on and also more comfortable with not going on. I am comfortable resting in the arms of The Lord and His will. Back to Doris Day “que…..”

Comfort skin

There is something very comforting in stroking a cat or a dog. They want more and more until finally satisfied and then fall to sleep whilst still being stroked.
Do they realise that we, the strokers, are getting just as much out of the rhythmic pattern of running our fingers through they shiny coats. For me it helps me de stress, or cogitate on some matter. Or just to let go of all the troubles of the day, it helps me focus on important things, filtering out the distractions and tapping into my prayer life.
When I was younger my ambition was to be a washer up, the rhythmic clatter of pots and pans over a hot steamy sink was a delight because it allowed my mind go free. Any mechanical, rhythmic craft like knitting or embroidery that requires a certain amount of skill but the letting go to the rhythm frees the mind to mull over events in our lives.
Factory piece work, like that of slapping on soles for shoes or driving screws home. All of these offer us the opportunity to realise a different potential inside of us.
People have used products like Soma to produce this meditative state but us strokers and knitters know that hallucinogenic drugs are not needed just the slow rhythm of hand on fur, stroking, stroking, stroking.
In the last couple of months I have found myself comfortable in my own skin. It has been an awesome journey to this place of contentment and it has made it all the more urgent within me to go. To keep the skin comfort and go to uncomfortable places, not as a rabbit caught in the headlights but as a striding confident person, who knows her root, and continuously taps into that root.
I never understood how a person got comfortable in their own skin and I didn’t know of it at all. Last night someone told me I came back changed, in a good way. I like that concept, that going away for a time of learning and sharing makes growth. It means I am open to that growth and open to people teaching me and open to that teaching.
I look back at the hurts of the last year and I laugh at the hurts, I pour love on the hurters and feel comfortable with all the times I kept God’s counsel and my own.
A few weeks ago I got deluged with barbed comments but I could see them for what they were, hurting people lashing out. Amazingly this comfortable in skin thing is making me step back comfortably rather than thrusting “me” forward. I have made a few decisions involving other people and using their gifts because letting go completely meant I didn’t have to do everything.
That was the old way of doing things. Being comfortable in my own skin sometimes means doing perceptibly nothing but perception is the key. Praying looks a lot like doing nothing but it is the most powerful weapon against barbed comments and hurts.
I feel like shouting “bring it on” but I was told a cautionary tale regarding that so I won’t attract the devil to my back.
I am taking time to stroke my kitten and puppy, taking time to meditate on God’s word and taking time to be his child, resting and renewing and looking forward in excitement.