29 May 2017

Theology

M: Are there dogs in heaven?

Me: I don't know. God made dogs and everything else and called them 'good', so-

M: The Bible doesn't actually say though.

Me: No, it doesn't. But it doesn't say there won't be animals in heaven either. And we're told the Earth will be made like new again one day. Put back to the way it should be.

M: I think there SHOULD be dogs in heaven. Especially police dogs that have died while they were working.


24 May 2017

You are running low on storage space

(and this is probably why...)

No shopping bags in the back of the car + a stubborn reluctance to pay 5p for carriers trash the planet = the above


Please note: Only 15.5p / 100sht


Evidence submitted for independent Gobbit review. I lost.


A tiny far away person who is probably normal sized when you get close to them. But I was far away.


Chasing blossom as it falls off the tree. She got really happy when she caught some before it hit the ground. Adults don't do this and I'm not sure why.


The demise of Calamity Ganon. Oh yes.


Girl in a box. Just because she fits.


Our old dishwasher being left at the tip. Sad until I realised it could make a new friend. It had a long and (mostly) useful life. 


A seagull on a bin by Tesco. It was about to commit an act of littering until cunningly distracted with tiger bread. 


A new jogging walking fast door to door record from Jen's to mine. Woo hoo.  

... plus many, many more moments of randomness that in the age of 35mm film would be lost to obscurity.

The End


27 Apr 2017

T'was the night before Easter...

For the last 3 years I've signed up to the #40acts - a series of daily emails on the 40 days leading up to Easter aimed at encouraging generosity (rather than giving stuff up) for Lent. Each email contains a short blog, a Bible reference and 3 suggested activities depending on how much time / money / skills / courage you have to give. It's fun and it's easier than giving up chocolate. Or alcohol. But it comes around at such a mental time of year for us that I end up doing slightly less than 40 Acts. This year I did three. (Three and a half - if you count the chocolate giveaway which involved some of the chocolate coming right back to me).

Anyway, we live under grace and not the law so I'll focus on the 3 and a half Acts that happened:

#Act3: Roots
We can live somewhere for decades and never really put our roots down there. What does it look like to get more deeply rooted in our home community? Today's act will help you to explore ways of generously investing in your home town.

Action: Joined a gym
This was a complete surprise to me too. I have never joined a gym in my life. I do not consider myself to be a gym type of person. Do you ever wake up from a dream having behaved in a particular way and feel confused because it was SO out of character for you to have done something? That's what this whole thing was like. I mean why pay good money to sweat indoors when you can sweat outdoors for free by walking or jogging anywhere you have the energy to go? Or sweating almost for free in the comfort of your own home to a 2nd hand Davina McCall DVD?

Answer: Because I don't. I need people to sweat alongside me. I am a rubbish solo exerciser. I've literally just realised this. And not wasting money is a great motivator to get me to do anything, so the prospect of paying for a gym membership I never use is worse than joining one in the first place. So there we go - I'm attending 2-3 classes a week, putting down roots and becoming bendier with pilates. 

#Act12: Chocolate Tuesday
Slip a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench or on the train.

Action: Bought chocolate bars to give away
Recipient (husband) shared chocolate with me without prompting. I think that's allowed. He's permitted to be generous too. ✓1/2

#Act24: Stand
It's easy to get weighed down by the injustice and need we see all around us, and to imagine that there's nothing (or very little) we can do about it. Choose not to shy away from a cause today. Lend your voice to the voiceless, stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, and don't wait for someone else to be the solution.

Action: Standing as a Lib Dem councillor on May 4th
This is in a local safe labour word I am PROMISED I have no chance of winning. It's purely a paper exercise so the party can gauge their support base and perhaps attract protest votes. Although the party has experienced a surge in membership since the snap general election announcement so now I'm a little anxious that a bunch of people may actually vote for me even though we've never leafleted and I'm not really sure what councillors do aside from attend meetings and listen to complaints about hedges. I just got fed up of complaining about the way things are and God clearly said not to wait for someone else to be the token opposition solution. 

#Act33: Hats Off
Matthew 22:34–40: Jesus answered 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Action: Went to a Jehovah's Witness meeting
#act33 arrived in my inbox on the same day as an invitation from the Jehovah Witnesses to attend one of their services. I concluded these 2 events were related and God wanted me to go: These people are my neighbours and I don't know who they are. And that's more my fault than theirs - they knock on my door maybe twice a year and I never knock on theirs. So I went. I explained why I was there to the woman on the door (I'm doing #40acts and you're my neighbour) who excitedly ushered me in and found the woman, Kirstin who had given me the invite. I sat next to her and listened and heard some familiar stuff and some unfamiliar stuff too. We talked for a while and I commented on feeling underdressed in ripped jeans and a hoody (Their church is very suity and dressy. My church is neither of these things). She said that didn't matter and it was nice to see me. She said it was brave of me to come on my own and not know anyone. I said it wasn't really brave because it didn't faze me and I shaved my head 5 months ago for my best mate who was having chemo and raised a grand for charity and lots of people said THAT was brave too, but really it wasn't because that didn't scare me either. We chatted some more and she said, 'I don't get the impression you're here searching for anything.' And I said 'No - I'm not!' Then I left. 

#Act33: Scene 2
Except the Lentish lesson continued.

Kirstin turned up on my doorstep 3 days later on good Friday with another woman from their church and they came in and we had coffee and we chatted for about an hour about the Bible and religion and #Act24 and why they don't ever vote.

And then I didn't sleep properly that night because I'd played Breath of the Wild for about 7 hours that day and watched the kids play for another couple of hours on top of that (they are further ahead than me). THEN I read a load of theology about JW beliefs on my phone in bed which triggered a weird tangle of  BoTW/JW half dreams which involved climbing and gliding and searching all over Hyrule for fragments of truth which made my Sheikah sensor beep like crazy as I approached them, but when I was JUST about to reach them, the beeping would stop. And Kirstin was there, talking to me like she was holding something, but her hand was empty.

At 4am I was still awake and exhausted and lonely and unbelievably SAD because I desperately wanted to talk to Jesus about everything on the one night of the whole year between Good Friday and Easter Sunday when we remember when he wasn't around.

And then I realised what was different. There was a huge undercurrent of expectation and rules in how Kirstin had explained her beliefs to me. The closeness of a father/child relationship was absent. Doctrine had dominated our conversation - and I had gone along with it. 

And now, in the middle of the night on Easter Saturday I was still looking to doctrine to reconcile her theology with my own, but Jesus wasn't there and I realised I was grieving for Him. Like really, proper missing him. Aching because the love had nowhere to go and I was lost in Hyrule with a broken Sheikah slate.

Come back- please.
I never left. I'm right here. 
Oh thank God!! Where did you go?
Nowhere - You were wandering all over the place. I was following you.
I couldn't see you.
I saw you the whole time.
Don't ever leave - please.
I won't - I can't. I love you.
I love you too.
It's 5am. Go to sleep.
OK.




29 Mar 2017

Article 48... Article 49... Article 49 and a half...



As a directionally challenged person who has never been to London alone before, I felt unable to join the 100, 000 strong Unite for Europe march last Saturday in case I never made it home again. I've therefore emailed Donald Tusk instead and asked him to disregard Theresa May's letter triggering Article 50 until we sort ourselves out and decide what we want. What we really, really want.

This is the most recent small gesture in a series of small gestures which have included voting Remain on June 23rd, writing to my MP, signing a few petitions, leaving some comments on a group Facebook page (which I quickly unfollowed as both sides stopped listening and threw insults back and forth instead), joining the Liberal Democrats 4 months ago and offering to stand as local councillor in in a nearby ward at the next local election on the understanding I have no hope of winning it.

I honestly don't know what else to do. Life is busy enough already, you know?

Human beings have lived in times of social and political upheaval before, but social media has made it waay too easy to YELL ABUSE at strangers who happen to disagree with your point of view (regardless of how informed or ill informed that may be). The strength of feeling and rate of escalation in conversations is hugely disturbing, yet a conversation earlier tonight with Spawn X freaked me out even more. It went thusly:

Me: So Theresa May's letter should get there tomorrow and Article 50 will be triggered.
Him: Yeah, I know.
Me: I'm emailing the President of the European Council and telling him I don't agree with her.
Him: That will never work.
Me: Yeah, I know. But I want him to know anyway.
Him: Why? What does it matter? Brexit will happen anyway.
Me: What does it matter? Don't you realise nothing would EVER change if everyone believed nothing ever would?
Him: But we have a democracy - people voted to leave.
Me: People got the vote because other people fought for it - people who lived and died before we got here.
Him: And the people voted and have spoken.
Me: If you're white, male and straight you have nothing left to fight for. Are you too privileged to care about what happens?
Him: No - I just don't think it's worth fighting anything you have no hope of ever winning.
Me: But can't you see that every massive change in society was at one point unwinnable? Don't they teach you about Martin Luther King in school? Ghandi?? Why the conformity?
Him: It's not about conformity - I think that people voted and they should face the consequences of their decision - even if it was a stupid decision.
Me: But... but... You're the one who's going to have to live with it - for longer than me! And your kids. And your grandkids.
Him: That's what democracy means, mum.
Me: Yeah - and it also means that we can protest about it. This isn't North Korea. You disagree with them there and you get carted off and loose your thumbs.
Him: Aaaargh.... You're wasting your time. And you're winding me up.
Me: So you think we should just do NOTHING?
Him (Pulling his hood up over his head and wrapping the cord around his neck in slow motion): I'm. Just. Saying. I. Think. You're. Wrong.
Me (Reality check): Oh my gosh... I'm being like Grandma with anything involving alcohol. Aren't I?
Him (Nodding): Twenty minutes of my life. For ONE joke about beer...
Me: I'm sorry.
(We hug and he goes to bed)

Ah well. Zig-a-zig-ah. Happy Article 50 Day, UK.

12 Jan 2017

System overload


Adulting is exhausting me today. Too many emotions for one tiny shaven head. Ok - we have:

Irritation that the work day has been spent doing lots of things with very little to show for it
Anxiety that the to do list for tomorrow is even longer now 
Relief that the end of financal year almost up 
Happiness with brand new filing system (2 empty folders with pre-labelled dividers)
Disbelief that child X has stumbled upon in-app purchases and spent £450 in last 2 days
Gratitude towards bank who realised there was unusual activity before we did and blocked our card
Anger that X bought pixels without authorisation
Irritated that in-app purchase function wasn't disabled as I had believed it to be
Disappointment that X would even try to buy pixels when you can play the game and get everything in it for free if you waste enough hours of your life playing it
Fascination with gaming currency (gems) vs 'real' money (pounds sterling in this case) and how inter-changeable they both are when there's only ONE swipe between them
Realisation that if I'm struggling with the above, how much more abstract a concept is this to a small/medium sized person who does not yet have a bank card
Annoyed with X for not making the distinction anyway and clicking 'Confirm purchase'
• On 20 separate occasions
Compassion at the level of shame and remorse he is currently demonstrating (he has been crying hot, silent tears and snot into my left thigh for the past hour and shows no signs of stopping)
Anger with the nature of the world and the fact we even need money in the first place
• (This is not new- See here. And here)
Anger at the Clash Royale people for making it so easy to spend large amounts of real money in a short period of time
Admiration of the business model that makes large amounts of real money in a short period of time
• Shame that as an adult, I did not identify the in-app loophole and close it myself
Annoyance at Apple who have taken all our money
• Slight stirrings of Hope that they might not keep it
Growing excitement during online conversation with Apple support who want to investigate and see what they can do
Immense relief at their decision to refund 80% of the bill
Happy dance around living room
Anticipation in telling X the good news
Impatience that X has showered, gone to bed and cried himself to sleep so I can't tell him yet
Overwhelming Love as I watch him sleep 
Gratitude that we get to have him in our lives - despite the complications this can involve
Empathy with the impulsive addicts who get sucked into shallow rewards and loose their homes, marriages or sanity because of lack of control. (Usually because of something far heftier than Clash Royale pixels, but the underlying principle is surely the same)
Gratitude for the people in my life that have shown me grace when I needed it
Delight that we have wine in the cupboard


12 Nov 2016

Currency Exchange (part 2)



We were recently given a €500 note from a customer during a conference in Ireland. I didn't know such notes existed until I was holding one in my hand. Like notes of any currency that aren't in pounds sterling, I have a sense of unreality when handling them and even after mentally converting them into something I use and understand (£445 in this case #thankyoubrexit), they still feel strange and toy-like.

Anyway. We gave the customer his change and I emailed his receipt an hour or so later. By the end of the 3 day event, a small stash of €50's and €20's had joined the €500 note in a plastic wallet along with 3 £20 pound notes which we shouldn't technically have accepted, but arrived via our lovely client who pays us to work for her and who really needed her remaining Euros for beer.

Back in the UK a few days later I go into town with Manchild to bank the euros. We have sterling and euro accounts with a well known high street bank who shall remain nameless. The woman behind the glass screen is very pleasant. Yes of course you can pay euros into your euro account. I shall take them for you now.

It takes ages. Several people get served at the till next to us and leave. An alarm of some description goes off twice behind the glass screen. It's bearable for us, but deafening for the cashiers, judging by their faces. Then there's another problem with the magnetic lock on the bank's front door - it activates and locks the customers inside while a queue forms outside of people who can't get in. 'Are we hostages?' asks someone. No, thankfully not. The bank is not under seige. The branch manager appears and the alarm stops for the second time as the door is released. Great.

The branch manager then retreats through a locked door and reappears behind my cashier. Apparently my request requires her assistance. Another alarm sounds. The cashiers can't find the source and it's on OUR side of the glass this time, not theirs. I eventually walk up to a self deposit hatch and shut the lid which had been left slightly ajar by the last user. The alarm stops. Hurray! Says everyone in the queue. Do I want a job here? smiles the cashier. No, I just want you to bank my Euros so I can leave and get on with my day I think. Manchild wants a chip and pin card account and we were planning to make enquiries about it here. Do you trust these people to look after your money? I whisper. Absolutely not. He replies. They don't have control over their own front door.

OK. Now there's definitely a problem. The bank cannot accept my €500 note. It is not a forgery to their knowledge. There's nothing wrong with the note itself, but there's no button on their computer that they can click on to book it in and register it as received. Clicking the €100 button 5 times isn't allowed. They have to account for each individual note they take receipt of and as there's no button for my €500 note, they can't do anything with it. Sorry about that. They suggest another bank.

Irritating. I can't argue because if the branch manager doesn't know what's happened to the €500 button and accidentally made hostages of half a dozen people when no one had a firearm then I'm not sure shouting at anyone here will help. I grumpily thank the cashier after she checks there's nothing else she can help me with today, then leave while the door still opens.

I try an alternative bank which is equally unable to help, especially since I'm not even a customer of theirs. The Post Office won't exchange the note because they would be unable to sell it on. They suggest a travel agent who is likewise unable to take it as they would also struggle to sell it on. The bloke there is confused that our own bank can't help especially when we've gone to the trouble of opening a separate euro account to make these kinds of transactions possible. I am also confused and ring the Irish venue who hosted our meeting to ask if they routinely deal in €500 notes (just in case Google is lying) - and they do. This is reassuring. Then I ring the business helpline of the bank who shall remain nameless and am informed it's a national policy NOT to accept €500 notes. Ever. Even if you have a Euro account. No, I don't know why that is or when we made that decision. Sorry.

Aaaarghhhhh. What sort of stupid system is that? This explains the missing €500 button though. Some software engineer has been paid to disable it. Maybe they should make this clear to customers, I suggest to the helpline person? And maybe the bank staff who are happy to offer the service and bill us every month for using it should be aware of its limitations?

Anyway. We reverse the problem by making it not ours. We we send the note back to the customer and debit his account and (here's the clever bit) offset the change we have already given him at the registration desk against his flight expense which pretty much matches his claim, bar an additional €4 which is now my fee for fannying around all morning. Result.

But still annoying. And kind of fascinating. Having a note of currency that you are unable to pay into a bank account of that same currency kind of emphasizes that there's nothing intrinsically valuable about it in the first place. The only thing that makes money have value is that a bunch of people all got together and decided it did. Then it's a self fulfilling prophecy - in both directions. So if people get together and collectively decide that a particular note is no longer bankable, then so be it. (Although they could have told the rest of us).

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or worse! - stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. (Mat 6:19-21)

Yayyy! Go Jesus. Except stockpiling treasure in heaven is a rather abstract thing. Even for Christians who claim to believe in and live by this stuff. If we can't see the immediate short term effects of investing in a particular cause, then it's harder for us to get excited by it. The principle works for other things though, so the logic should be transferrable. We understand the value of an athlete avoiding pizza before a competition or putting up with morning sickness in order to grow a baby. We just need to think a bit longer term than a 25 year mortgage or (insert own example of longer term thinking here).

Don’t store up treasure for yourself in €500 notes because these ultimately can't be sold on. Didn't I mention it while I was there? All earthly kingdoms will crumble eventually so the Euro will inevitably follow the Roman Denarius, the Sudanese Dinar and the Franc into oblivion. Sorry about that. However my currency's performing really well so invest in that instead. Just take whatever money, time or skills you have and use them for things that straddle this world AND the next one. Grab those opportunities- they're everywhere if you look properly. And I don't need much to make it happen because my interest rates will blow your mind. I can take the smallest act of kindness or courage and multiply it beyond anything you thought possible because your thinking is small and I am big. I take your little trinkets of paper and metal or 1s and 0s on a computer screen and expand my kingdom one life at a time when you faithfully give to a cause bigger than your own immediate comfort. You make heaven touch earth in a million tiny ways when you choose to forgive someone who hurt you, hug your gobby teenager, write to your MP or buy a Big Issue. Tell your mates. My treasure holds its value indefinitely and I'm always looking out for new investors. 

6 Nov 2016

Statements you really don't want to hear from your teenage babysitter

'I took a pychcopath test when you were out and it said I have tendencies but I don't think it's that accurate and I only got 32 out of 80.'






17 Oct 2016

Growing up

Turning 16 is a reasonably big deal in the UK. It brings about a few rights and responsibilities that were previously denied - like driving a moped, changing your name by deed poll, consenting to sexual activity and getting a national insurance number. Whoo hoooo!

This is truly exciting. But the human brain soon adjusts to the new normal and by the time you balk at the idea of going anywhere on a moped, have paid HMRC a proportion of your wage for the best part of the last 30 years and are midway through a lifetime promise to have sex with the same person from this day forward, for better or for worse until one of you dies, you may have decided to purchase a wheeled shopping trolley. Like this one.


This is my Granny Trolley. I absolutely love it. No one else in the family will use it. They think it makes me look like this.



KEEP CALM AND SHOP ON is clearly not the healthiest life philosophy, but it helps reduce our carbon footprint a little and it's not tartan. It's also strangely satisfying the way the kids are uncomfortable to be seen with or near it. Especially after days like yesterday.

Keith was away with work and me and the kids were doing a food top-up shop. Plus ManChild turned 16 last week and we needed pizza and treats for him and his friends who were coming round to celebrate that he can now join a trade union or die for his country.

We walked into town with Granny Trolley because it was sunny. This was uneventful. The shopping itself was equally ordinary, but this was later contested. Here is my version of events:

It was Saturday and therefore busy. We did not have a definitive shopping list and were winging it. This was my modus operandi until 3 years ago when something flipped over in my brain and now I really need a list.

We got a Big Trolley to transport Granny Trolley + shopping. We weren't getting a Big Shop and the kids are really good at not asking for stuff. But they had birthday treat permission-to-ask and made some really good suggestions.

About half way round there was an announcement that today's shoppers can get a free stainless steel peeler. Just go to the top of aisle 2 to claim this. We were genuinely peeler-less until yesterday. The original peeler we got as a wedding gift fell apart about a year ago and the plastic handled thing we bought to replace it lasted only a few months before the blade started twirling round halfway through the first carrot so we chucked it out and kept forgetting to buy another. Now Tesco are offering me a FREE peeler. It's a no brainer. ManChild encourages me to go claim it for our household while he trolley-sits in the Toy and Book aisle.

In aisle 2 there's a very jolly girl in an apron standing by a wooden counter. There's clearly some demonstration about to happen and she beckons us closer to see. The demonstration is NOT for my free stainless steel peeler, but for a Mr Whipstir that froths milk, scrambles eggs and mushes potatoes. I am tempted to walk away but I want my free peeler.

I watch the demonstration. The jolly girl is very thorough. You can whizz skimmed milk with this thing and make it so thick that you can turn the container upsidedown and the froth does not fall out. I start to think about the lattes we could have at home for 17p rather than the ones in town for £2.85.

Watching jolly girl in the crowd is a woman with gorgeous red and orange hair - like flames tumbling down her back. The ends are almost luminous. I am shaving my head in about 3 weeks time to raise money for a local cancer charity. My friend, Lis, who is shaving it off for me is looking for a mad colour to dye her hair as shaving her's off completely would be awkward for her job. Maybe I've found the colour for her?

The demonstration continues with the miniature version of the Whipstir. Like its parent, Whipstir Jr also creates maximum froth with minimum effort. Madi appears at my side wondering why I've taken so long. We watch the rest of the demo together.

Jolly girl finishes up and starts handing out free stainless steel peelers to her audience. I get my free peeler. I also take a Mr & Jr Whipstir pack as I spontaneously decide to start Christmas shopping and did not bring a LIST today to prevent such impulse purchases. I realise I can no longer see Flame Haired Woman who must have taken off as soon as she got her free peeler.

Madi and me make our way back to Big Trolley, me glancing up each aisle for Flame Haired Woman. We don't see her. The boys are still by Big Trolley in Toy and Book aisle playing on their phones and  looking fed up. I present our free peeler. They are impressed. We like free things.

It's now even busier than it was when we got here. Which was a while ago. We make our way to the check outs. I'm heading for self service because in my head, this is still just a top up shop in a Big Trolley.

I suddenly locate Flame Haired Woman and dart off to speak to her without informing ManChild where I'm going or which direction he should continue walking in. I say 'Excuse me...' to her then launch into a full explanation of why I'm drawn to her and ask for details of the colour she uses and Please may I have a photo of your hair because it didn't feel right to sneak up behind you and photograph your head without consent. She initially appears a bit taken aback then realises I'm not a crazy stalker and agrees to the picture. Her hair looks like this.



ManChild is now more irritated as I bogged off to talk to a randomer and left him blocking the aisle with all the shopping and lots of people tutted at him. I sense that if these items were not for his birthday he would have already abandoned us. I also sense we should conclude the shopping experience swiftly.

We reach the self scanner. I place Granny Trolley on the scales and tap 'I brought my own bag'. The self service till does not believe us and a light flashes until Tom appears and overrides it and we begin scanning. Hmmm. There's a lot of stuff in Big Trolley. We scan the first few things before the scanner errors again. Tom comes over and overrides the system again and comments on the volume of things. Would we like to go to a till he asks. No, it's fine, I reply. We like scanning things. Although by this time Madi is playing on the railings by the checkout and J's on his phone catching Pokemon and pretending he is not here. Only ManChild is scanning things and muttering under his breath. Including the Whipstirs, we scan through almost £80 worth of items. The scales flash another 3 times. During this time another shopper tries to squeeze past Big Trolley and the railings. Madi tries to disentangle herself from them in a hurry to let her past, but forgets which way her legs bend and the shopper almost trips over her feet instead.

When we finish scanning there's too much stuff to fit into Granny Trolley, so we buy 4 carrier bags and load them up to bursting point. M and J isolate some items to consume now - like Frijj and cookies and tiger bread - so there will be less to carry home.

We get outside. It is raining. I stand in the drizzle and divvy up the tiger bread. ManChild refuses the bread and says he'll walk ahead. He grumpily takes the heaviest bags and strides off without saying goodbye. J empathises with his brother's discomfort but is not quite far enough into adolescence to be mad at me yet. Madi is 10 and can't understand why there's a problem.

I realise in that moment that as fun as it was to be 10 and as exciting as it was to have new freedoms at 16 and then 18, it's far more liberating to be 44 and not actually care if Tom or a Flame Haired Stranger thinks you're mental. Granny Trolley is heavy and it's raining and the journey home is almost all uphill, but I pretty much giggle to myself all the way there. M and J don't understand why, which only makes it funnier.

(Disclaimer: E has just viewed this account and claims he did not 'mutter under his breath,' but stated clearly and audibly 'This is stupid- we should go to a proper till' without muttering).