30 Dec 2012

Conversation of the day

Me: I should have a bath

E: Yeah you should

Me: Cause I smell

E: Yeah you do!

Me: And I have a very cheeky son.

E: Yes I know. His name's Jackson

17 Dec 2012

F•R•I•E•N•D•S and dysfunctional lovers

As Joey Tribiani once said, there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed. The good-deeder always gets something in return, even if it’s purely the fuzzy satisfaction of having helped the deed-ee.

For the remainder of the FRIENDS episode in Season 5, a philosophical battle ensues as Pheobe desperately attempts to prove Joey wrong and provide an example of true altruism because ‘I just gave birth to three children and I will not let them be raised in a world where Joey is right!’ 

But sadly she is unable to do so. Because people are basically egotistical and selfish (either due to sin or the evolutionary instinct to outrun your neighbour so they get mauled by the lion- take your pick cause both of them work) and to be fair, she only had 30 minutes to gather her evidence.

While I reluctantly agree with Joey on this one, I’d like to further explore the warm fuzziness and see what happens when that runs out.

I've been a Street Pastor for a few years now (www.streetpastors.co.uk/) which, as a nocturnal person who likes to talk a lot and listen a lot, is more fun than most people imagine. The majority of people we meet at stupid o'clock are so appreciative to see us there, awake and sober that they are more than happy to pass the time of night and take a lolly before the customary kebab and taxi home. Fuzzy satisfaction in abundance- for punters and pastors.

But then sometimes there are nights like this:

• It’s 3am and our team have been dealing with a large group of friends in varying degrees of sobriety for over an hour.

• No one seems to know exactly how many of them will be getting in the taxi which is arriving imminently, or who’s house everyone will be staying at.

• One of them is having a panic attack.

• One of them has lost her coat. Or maybe she loaned it to someone. She can’t remember.

• One of them is desperate to get home to her toddler son as the babysitter was expecting her home 2 hours ago.

• One of them has done a runner and is hiding somewhere after allegedly cheating on his girlfriend.

• Cheated girlfriend is in a drunken heap with a massive lump on her head, crying out for cheating boyfriend. Repeatedly. And loudly.

• Two taxis come and go again because everyone isn’t ready and waiting. They still haven’t decided where everyone’s staying tonight. And no body wants to leave cheated girlfriend with lumpy head. Besides- the paramedic hasn’t turned up yet to confirm whether her vomiting is due to excessive alcohol or an intracranial hemorrhage.

I have now lost all fuzz and warmth.
I have bits of vomit, mud and blood on me.
I tell cheated girlfriend that if cheating boyfriend really did what he did tonight then he doesn’t deserve her. She continues to cry out for him anyway.

Paramedic arrives and diagnoses no intracranial hemorrhage (yeah!) but advises that cheated girlfriend must not be left alone tonight. Hmm. Probably too early for reconciliation with cheating boyfriend.

Sleepy looking relative of cheated girlfriend arrives in a car. Paramedic hands over to him (yeah! again). We quickly ascertain that group can somehow get home and make a quick exit back to the warmth of the base. Then go HOME. Thank you God.

Before I go to sleep I am flicking through a book I’d looked at earlier that night when I get something far heftier than a fuzz of warmth and satisfaction. It’s like the BAM of exposed pride and the realisation that God is far bigger and far more loving and gracious than I can ever imagine.

(‘Dangerous Wonder’ by Michael Yaconelli, pg 146. Scenario is a High School State Final 2000 metre race. One of the contestants has deformed legs and is limping badly. It is later revealed that the only reason she's in the final is because no one else from her small-school region competed).

When the gun went off she began racing. I assumed that although she was limping, she would be able to keep up with the rest of the runners. I was wrong. After the first lap, she was a quarter of a lap behind, and by the time everyone was finished she still had a whole lap to run all by herself. As she went down the back stretch I could see the agony on her face. Every step she took was excruciatingly painful, but she would not stop. Without realising it, all of us in the stands had risen to our feet. We were all cheering her on. As she passed by the front of the stands, the noise was overpowering. We were all screaming in unison 'Go Go GO!' When she finally crossed the finish line, the crowd erupted in a lengthly ovation.

That race was a very long time ago. To this day I have no idea who won the girls' 2000m, but I will never forget the girl who was last.

The grace of God says to you and me 'I can make the last place more significant than the first. I will use prostitutes to teach others about gratitude. I will use lepers to teach others about cleanliness. I will take men who persecute the church and make them its pillars. I will take the dead and give them life. I will take uneducated fishermen and make them fishers of men.' God's grace does not exist to make us successful. God's grace exists to point people to a love like no love they have ever known. A love outside the lines.

Something massive shifted in my chest and my head as I read this and thought about the events of the previous few hours. I could almost feel the new understanding seeping into until-now numb areas of my brain as I realised just how much grace was demonstrated that night. And not by us- supposed agents of God walking the earth, but by the cheated girlfriend with the lumpy head.

She was totally devastated about the situation with her boyfriend- most of the time we spent with her she was wailing that she loves him and crying out for him to be there. Granted this is not a healthy example of love, but doesn't it beautifully demonstrate how indiscriminate and shocking grace is??

Undeserved favour.
When nothing can be gained for the giver.
And I almost missed it cause I was frustrated by the context.

I have tons of God stuff to learn.

How much do I miss because I get distracted by the wrapping paper or think that the warm fuzzy bit is actually the thing?

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. (Matthew 6, The Message)

I love Phoebe. She's the Friend who is least likely to be distracted by the packaging. And her efforts to prove the existance of selflessness in order to be right still amuses...

25 Sep 2012

Seeing and believing

According to Google the human eye can differentiate over 2 million different colours. 2 MILLION. That’s a lot of colours. I’m pretty happy with that (and the corrective contact lenses I constantly wear so my world doesn’t blur together into the mid-grey colour of tumble dryer fluff). How many colours ARE there exactly though- and what would dulux call them all?

Also, just because I can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there, right? So how many actual colours are there in total? How much colour creating did God do before he got bored and moved onto sound waves? And why did he choose to limit the human eye to 2 million shades of everything when bees and jumping spiders see ultraviolet and snakes and TV doofers have infra red?

And sound. Being married to a guitarist / sound engineer I know I’m not the best person to comment on the technicalities of noise. My qualifications begin and end with having 2 ears. But does anyone else feel slightly paranoid that bats and dolphins can chatter away to each other without us ever being able to hear them? That’s just rude.

Even the sounds that I was programmed to hear are dwindling a bit, resulting in me being deaf to the mosquito alarm outside our Spar which causes the kids to walk by it with their hands over their ears. For similar frequency-related reasons I also heard absolutely nothing from the little black plastic contraption in our ex-neighbours front garden, which the children convinced me was a motion activated anti-cat device. Apparently it emitted a high buzzing when you walked too close to it. I wouldn’t know. I couldn’t hear it. There were never any cats in the garden though.

Thinking about sounds I can't hear makes me think of what God CAN hear. What does the song of our hearts really sound like? You know, pure worship. Lost in his presence. My only reality is you and I'll sing my heart out without thinking about the person sat next to me. That type of thing. Or for those of us who don't often manage that, even just collectively singing out to our creator while half thinking about what to have for lunch / Has baby puked down my back / Are kids singing or messing around - are our teeny human ears even capable of hearing what’s really going on? Probably not. If science can demonstrate that there are stimuli in the natural world that our 5 senses can’t process, there’s bound to be stuff beyond the fringes of the jumping spider and TV doofer that God can hear just fine. And that’s without the Angels joining in.

I need different contact lenses. And some sort of amplification. And probably a little less care about the person sitting next to me.

4 Sep 2012


Potteresque moment on arriving home this afternoon. All from Welsh water rather than Hogwarts, unfortunately...

29 Jul 2012

Testing testing

Have just washed and tumble dried a purple felt pen ... and it still works! It was a 40 degree wash then 60 mins on high if anyone wants to test their own appliances...

7 Jul 2012

Falling down

Solution to ever increasing cost of replacing school trousers = shorts. This does mean that J's knees pretty much always look like this. But skin heals for free.

11 Jun 2012

Perks of the job

We have equilibrium between blue and white Mr Bumps. All is well with the universe. Whites in common family tub, blues stashed away for my own personal consumption.

1 May 2012


I have just spent the best part of an hour ironing in the kitchen. Ethan has kept me company for most of this time, having his supper, doing his homework and chattering on and on and on about the ipad3.

Ethan (walking past me and the big pile of laundry): 'Night then mum'

Me (peeling off a percentage of the pile and offering it to him): 'Wait- take these with you mate. And put them away in the place where they live.' (I add these 3 words as I've recently discovered a sizeable stash of his clothing, mainly unworn, on the floor behind his sofa bed).

Ethan: *SIGH*** (accompanied by rolling of the eyes)

Me: 'You realise that most of the laundry process in this house is automated, don't you? You wear the clothes, stick them in the wash and they get cleaned, dried, folded (or occasionally ironed) and all you have to do is put them away. You're onto a good thing really, yeah?'

Ethan: *SIGH*** (accompanied by rolling of the eyes)

Me: 'Oh- and the dressing of yourself. You do have to do that bit too. Are you going to need a hand with that one?'

Ethan: 'You know the ipad3 is faster than our broadband??'

20 Apr 2012


I have certain OCD like tendencies which manifest primarily in tidying up and the ordering/reordering of my immediate environment. This does NOT necessarily mean cleaning by the way- because if you tidy a room it will LOOK clean without it having to be so. (Write that one down).

I fully appreciate that not everyone lives with this affliction and I am secretly jealous of the ability some have to be surrounded by mountains of junk and NOT CARE. But I do. I really can’t help it. Actual physical clutter congests my mind and suffocates my thought processes to the extent that even if I have something pressingly urgent to attend to, the presence of more than 4 icons on my desktop, a pile of filing or a single piece of un-opened mail can rudely jump the queue in my head and demand to be dealt with first. Much to the frustration of Keith (who incidentally possesses a normal brain).

I should also point out here that I don’t care if other people are surrounded by junk of their own. In fact, it often won’t even register. If I’m visiting a mate, then I’m there to see them and will almost certainly not see the clutter that they choose to live amongst- unless they invite me to notice, or refer to it in some way.

So take my order-possessed brain and put it in a situation where I am suddenly surrounded by rubbish that is not mine and the culprit (my ex-tenant) is not present. Now imagine that the location is a house that I used to live in and am still legally the owner of. Now suppose that the potential new owner is imminently arriving to this house of junk and may or may not still want to purchase it due to its current condition. In this situation I have an acute and overwhelming awareness of how much clutter there is, along with the urgency to do something about it.

The quantity of rubbish was massive. Perhaps our newly ex-tenant had been subletting to kleptomaniacs or vagrants or a family of badgers? We moved house ourselves 4 months ago with 3 kids, a cat and a business and and we didn’t generate this much stuff. The rubbish had clearly been accumulating for some time. Most of it was bagged up (helpfully) in the front garden, but much of it strewn around the back garden and sneakily hidden in the two-foot wide 'L' shaped gap between the boundary fence and the playhouse, which slowly became visible as said playhouse was dismantled. My personal favourites hidden here included:

A hamster cage (Madi now wants a gerbil for her birthday- I wish I'd kept it now)

The rotting remains of a cot-side

A mouldy Bertini pram (chassis was still in good nick though)

A sodden wet rug (it left the living room a long time ago)

A double duvet (covered in mould and crawling with wood lice)

Ah, but the crème de la crème of crap was actual real crap which I presume originated from from the boxer dog which the tenant owned.

Picture the scene- I have spent the best part of an entire day cleaning and hoovering my soon-to-be-ex-house with the help of some fantastic friends and neighbours and between us we have almost eliminated the smell of incontinent dog (yeah!) and replaced it with the peachy aroma of shake’n’vac.

Between us we have disposed of 2 skips worth of rubbish and an unmarked white vanfull of scrap metal (which conveniently appeared just after the second skip was dropped off -otherwise it would have been 4 skips).

All that remains now is to wheel the green garden-waste wheelie bin from the back garden to the front kerb, scrub the (manky slimey) decking underneath where the bin used to be and voila! Time for a bath then Costas with the lovely Michele.

However, on grasping and pulling the wheelie bin, it does not move. I do. I literally skate right into it, sliding on the thick layer of algae and motor oil which coats the decking. I try to tip the bin to manoeuvre it, but it refuses to budge. I open the bin to inspect the weighty contents- and almost puke right there on the spot.

It contains approximately 2 years worth of fossilised dog crap, a handful of children’s play balls, some carrier bags and a smattering of leaves and twigs on the top - which will maybe fool the recycling people - you never know.

No wonder the neighbours reported never having seen her walk the dog.

It took a whole 20 minutes, strategic planning and 2 of us huffing and puffing and pushing the wheelie bin over the manky slimey decking, around a manky slimey corner, up a slightly less manky slimey step and into the front garden. And then a call to the environmental health agency– who obligingly emptied the whole thing 3 days later. Free of charge. Maybe they forgot to ask for a forwarding address for the invoice. Or maybe the woman just took pity on me because I wasn't responsible for the fossilised dog faeces.


The last memory of our old house is a sad colourless version of the one I had when we left it, over 2 years ago. Even with the rubbish gone there was wear and dog-related tear throughout which couldn’t be fixed in one weekend. There was damage to the front door that suggested (according to the locksmith who fixed it) that the door had been kicked hard at some point - perhaps more than once. And a couple of kitchen cupboards were damaged at head-height. The whole house was soulless to me - tainted with an undercurrent of dog urine and domestic violence that I couldn’t imagine having ever lived there - or even wanting to.

Back at home, and after a few hours of self pity and slight over-reaction to the kids leaving toys around (‘I am NOT here to pick up your things. Put that away NOW otherwise you will grow up to be an overgrown child who thinks their mess is someone else’s problem!’) I thought about what God maybe felt like after it all went pear shaped in Eden.

Just picture the brand new perfect world that he’d made, loved and delighted in. It was absolutely perfect in every way- fresh and clean with no rouge DNA or viruses or anything. Did the whole planet smell of new-born baby and freshly mown grass? Did newly created reds and greens and purples sparkle with vibrancy?

Then when Adam & Eve cocked it up for the rest of us, how did God feel? When sin and the stench of death came to a spotless planet that was hardly - I don’t know, a day, a week, a month - old, what did that do to the heart of its creator?

Was he like ‘You’ve wrecked it now- I can’t live here anymore. I love you but I can’t look at you or have you look at me. You broke my creation.’

Does he look at people today and say the same?

- To one who claims to love another yet lies and manipulates and lashes out: ‘You’ve broken LOVE’

- To the inadequate and insecure parent who constantly yells at their kid, crushing another's spirit and stealing joy: ‘You’ve broken my CHILD’

- To those who put their own selfish needs above others and abuse and rape and assault: ‘You’ve broken SEX’

These thoughts offered perspective. It was only a house. I didn’t build it- with my own hands. Keith and me didn’t even own it outright when it WAS ours. There were lots of things about it that we would have changed had we stayed there longer. But I still grieved for what it once was.

I guess God cries even more.

18 Mar 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's Day treat: sudoku, empty house, cup of tea and some blue Mr Bumps that the kids don't know about.....

5 Jan 2012

Trouble in ze burrow...

(Aftermath of sibling argument which did not reflect well on eldest)
Me: You can go now. But you need to do something first don't you?
Ethan: (Nods)
Me: You need to go and say sorry to Jackson, don't you?
Ethan: (Nods again)
Me: Why?
Ethan: (Blank stare into my eyes).
Me: You know why, don't you?
Ethan: (Blank stare continues)

Me: I'm not getting on at you. I just need to know (hold his head in both my hands) how this brain works. Cause I don't understand how it thinks...
Ethan/Big Paw Meerkat: If you do that to theez brain eet only eez making it angry.
Muzzar Meerkat: (Drops paws from his head) Oh- I am not wishing to anger eet... Perhaps I love eet instead? (kiss his forehead)
Big Paw Meerkat: (Shocked expression) If you arr doing theez a fuse weel blow and thee brain weel explode!
Muzzar Meerkat: Hmm. Perhaps maybes you weel just say sorry to yor bruzzar and we weel not discuz it furzar?
Big Paw Meerkat: Theez would be much bettar. I go now and see heem.
Muzzar Meerkat: Thanking you

(Psychologists could have a field day analysing our family....)

4 Jan 2012

Merry New Year x

Despite hailing from North of the border, I don’t like many things that are inherently associated with my homeland. Haggis. Whiskey. Rab C Nesbit. Deep-fried Mars bars. And New Year. (I’ve actually had my heritage questioned in the past because of these aversions). I also struggle to remember when Burns night is, which does not help.

The worst has to be New Year. I have always found this to be a depressing time. As a child this signifies the end of the festive season, next Christmas is positively a lifetime away and the only thing to look forward to is the possibility of snow/the school heating system packing up/any other unplanned occurrence which necessitates school closure for a few more days.

However, I can remember vividly when my New Year aversion plunged to new depths. I was 6 years old and had just worked out (all on my own) that just as the days of the week repeated themselves in an endless loop, so the months of the year also came round again in (slightly longer) endless cycles. I used this knowledge and understanding of the world and concluded that the years must likewise come round again eventually- at some point – if one waited long enough. I brightly enquired of my parents when it would be 1978 again, honestly expecting confirmation of my logic and an approximate timescale.

Instead I was told the devastating news that it would NEVER be 1978 again. Ever. 1978 was as good as dead. The year had come and gone (well- there were maybe 3 hours left) and the millions of moments, both good and bad that had collectively created it would never be repeated. Not even if we waited a  r e a l l y long time.

I was numb with shock. 1978 was almost over and would never be back again! The implications were just astounding: I would never have my 6th birthday again. I would never have Mrs Bonelli as my teacher (unless she moved up a class). I think I may have cried a little bit. I really liked Mrs Bonelli. (And it was WAY past my bedtime) The synapses whizzed across my brain as I processed this new information, and the significance it brought.

So time moves forwards.
And once you’re on the conveyor belt you stay on it until you die- getting older all the time.

This made no sense to me whatsoever. Even as I processed this, people were actively celebrating New Year and being all happy about 1978 being dead and gone forever –didn’t they know how this works for goodness sake??

Fwd 30+ years on... and I still love Love LOVE Christmas (the incarnation gets more and more wonderful and astounding to me every year. Why God, why? What a risk. What a de-motion. Seriously. But I SO love you for it…)

And I have come to accept and appreciate New Year, sharing many of them with some ace friends who tolerate all-nighters of pictionary, uno and wine. I understand why people celebrate. Family being together. Friendships. Reflection. Making plans. Looking forward to new things. Having a legitimate excuse for a bender. All that stuff.

I still don’t like it though and THINK it’s because I’m rebelling against the flow of time which is out of sync with my soul (I want heaven now!!) I could never have articulated it at 6 years old, but am sure I realised that day- I am not meant for this world.

‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main objective of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.’ CS Lewis

PS. ‘He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.’ (LOVE it…)