Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Our Ruth

Ruth and Naomi, painting by Sandy Freckleton Gagon

Whatever beliefs surround it, the bible is a great work of literature. It is packed to the rafters with amazing stories of inspirational people. Tonight I've been reading the story of Ruth. For those of you who haven't read it before, get comfortable, it goes (vaguely!) like this...

There once was an Israeli woman called Naomi who, during a massive food crisis, moved with her husband and their two sons to the nearby country of Moab. Naomi loved her husband and sons and devoted herself to them. However, while in Moab, he husband died. Naomi's sons met and married two Moabite woman, Orpah and Ruth. When all seemed to be settling down Ruth's two sons also passed away. Full of grief Naomi decided to go back to her homeland of Israel and urged her daughters-in-law to cut their loses and marry again. Naomi would return to Israel, a widow with no providers, in the hope that she would find support from someone from her past. Orpah accepted her mother-in-law's request and tearfully said her farewells but Ruth clung to Naomi and refused to be parted from her. Instead Ruth made the long journey back to Bethlehem with Naomi and vowed to stay with her always, even if it meant she would never marry again.

In Israel the famine they originally fled to escape was still going strong and Naomi and Ruth desperately needed food. Ruth, risking her safety, went out to follow behind the harvesters and slave girls in the fields to try and gather enough food for her and Naomi to get by. While out harvesting Naomi met Boaz, who took pity on her and had heard of her sacrifice for her mother-in-law. After a brief bit of late night snuggling (I paraphrase!!) Boaz announced that he was a relative of Naomi's husband and would marry Ruth and so provide for the two women. Ruth and Boaz married, had a beautiful baby boy and lived with Naomi in Bethlehem. The really twist in the story comes as this baby boy, born of a woman lower that even the slaves in the fields, was the Grandfather of the future King David.

This story really spoke to me about someone very special in my life. At the moment I am trying to write something to say at my Grandmother's funeral next week and I realised that what we had in our midst was a real life Ruth. My Grandma sacrificed a million times over for the good of her family. She always did what was best for us without grumbling and she looked after many people, event distant relatives, because it was the right thing to do and they had no one else. And I realise now that I, and others in my family, are living off the benefits of the sacrifices she made. It has made me see that so often we are drawn into the flashy things in life but it is the small things, the simple acts of love and kindness, that lays the foundations for Kings.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Things are about to get yummy

A big cupcakey hint about my new blog.....!
Blog friends! I have launched a new blog! Dum da da dum! (That was supposed to be some kind of fanfare, go with it.) I remember when I began this blog over a year and a bit ago that I was welcomed into the blogging world with great enthusiasm, which I very much appreciated. This has been my own little space for ranting about hedges and the like and I've met some lovely people through the comments that have been left for me. So never fear, this blog shall continue, nay it shall go from strength to strength!

My new blog, however, is on a different theme. I am branching out in my writing into a number of different avenues, one of which is feature writing. I'm part way through a course with the London School of Journalism and it was while writing an assignment for them that I decided I wanted to do some food writing as this is one of my favourite past times. So rather than bore you all here with information about grazing and cupcake-making I thought I would dedicate a whole new blog to these antics. So allow me to present to you...

As the name suggests there will a lot of talk about tea and baking (naturally) and all sorts of other home-made fare. I'm not setting myself up as the next Jamie Oliver (urg, who would?!) but I am looking forward to sharing hints, tips and fun things I have discovered in my culinary adventuring.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

In which I rant about hedge trimming

Today I received this marvellous flyer from my local council.

Oh yes. I am serious. Not only does the flyer outline that pavements are ‘for people not plants’  and that unruly hedges are ‘untidy’, don’t you know, it then goes on to give examples of offending hedges.

You can witness my bewilderment. For the sake of neighbourly relations I do attempt to trim my hedges thought I fear one particular bush is looking alarmingly like the one pictured, so much so that I had to scan the picture to check if it was actually my house. The problem arises here in a diverging of concerns. I don't care about hedges. You can walk round them. Get a grip.

This episode, however, perfectly highlights the utter ridiculousness of our council. In our area, which has a very posh area and a very poor area side by side (through which they once built a wall to keep the poor people contained – I kid you not), they have just sacked our youth worker because of lack of funds and they are attempting to close our local library. We are now fundraising to try and keep the youth worker in place for a couple of days a week and try and provide some continuity for the kids in the area who desperately need this input.

And yet they can afford to send us leaflets about HEDGE TRIMMING, which might I add I actually paid for through my council tax. RAGE. 

This concludes my Thursday rant. You may go back to your business now. :)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Meadow life

This week I decided to slow down. In my mind I saw myself retreating to a lonely place, a meadow or something, strewn with flowers where I could contemplate life and enjoy just being. Sadly I don’t live in a Jane Austen novel and my plans were quickly scuppered by that dreaded thing – real life.

I am, however, committed to my original plan of at least having a marginally slower pace of life this week (do you see how I compromise?! Oh, for shame!) starting with cooking dinner at a leisurely pace this evening and without trying to simultaneously garden/learn Greek/answer emails. Progress indeed.

Having several jobs seriously exasperates the tendency to multi-task and writing certainly doesn’t help. The thing with writing is that there are always more stories to write, more articles to research, more edits to do. And, annoyingly, I really love it and become a tetchy nightmare if I don’t get the chance to put some words to paper at some point in the week. I am constantly looking for opportunities to write but not wanting to do myself in with too many early mornings and crazy working days. By Friday I’m throwing myself onto the sofa in a melodramatic fit exclaiming ‘I never have time to write’!

A book I started reading recently by Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way – a truly life changing book) called The Right to Write, has really given me food for thought about how we approach our time. As a writing tutor Cameron finds the most commonly repeated phrase to be ‘I don’t have any time to write.’ Her response being, ‘do you have fifteen minutes a day?’ Her very wise logic is that you can either moan about your lack of time of start using your fifteen minutes, what will get you a novel on your desk faster?

She comments that we are always looking for great swathes of time and when we don’t see them we decide we have no time at all and feel frustrated. Granted, this is the kind of behaviour that can lead to the aforementioned crazy multi-tasking but I would also say it could apply with rest. I may not have days for hanging about in meadows but I do have the chance to carve out some time this week for a bit of quiet and recharging. The secret, Cameron says, is to grab those little nuggets of time when you see them. The hovering can wait. I’m off lie about in my garden and pretend I found that meadow after all.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

That's what friends are for

One of my very good chums is being very brave just now. I don’t need to name names (you know who you are!) but I have found it very inspiring indeed and feel privileged that she lets me be her friend. It has also prompted me to ponder a few things and the question I keep asking myself is this: Who told us that we must always be fine?

We have these funny notions that to be a good friend/family member/employee we must be a self sufficient, wonder woman who never has an off day, never struggles and is always smiling/making gourmet dinners/being wonderfully creative/generally kicking life’s butt. I count myself in that number!

Most of all we feel we must be in control of our lives to be considered successful. We must get married at the right time, get the right promotion, have a baby – whatever it is.  But here’s the thing - we are never in control. The world has all sorts of plans for us and life is going to get tricky at one stage or another. The brave people are the ones who ask for help, who have humility enough to admit they don’t have all the answers and that they need other people to help them through.

Because we all need each other. Which one of us was built to be alone? None of us! And true friends love to be there for one another. We spend our time thinking about our friends and family; we worry about them, feel proud of them, celebrate the highs and join them in the lows. It is a privilege to be part of their lives. I once heard that marriage is like embarking on a PhD with your lifelong thesis being to understand your partner, as only by really knowing them can you encourage them to seek the very best in their life. I think friendship is like that too. We work to understand each other because we want the best for our friends. Asking for help is just helping along the process and it is a good thing to do.

I have a blackboard in my kitchen that has this message on it:

Every time I see this firstly I have a little chuckle and secondly I think my goodness how true is that?! Because do any of us really know what we’re doing? And don’t we need one another to navigate the maze that is life? I’ve come to think that it’s not a lack of problems that makes us strong or admirable, it’s how we overcome the problems that we have. That’s what makes for someone to look up to.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Being a semi grown up (ish)

It's alarming how quickly things change. On Saturday night I was sitting in a pub, very maturely bouncing up and down on my hands and giving the waiter evils as I awaited the arrival of a much anticipated cheese burger, when some students came in and took over the table next to us. Oxford students are particularly hilarious as not only do they do the usual student-y things (drink, swear, fall over, talk crap) they do it in a very posh accent. It really is value for money.

So anyway, this delightful gang began talking loudly about their impending visit to a lap dancing club in between downing shots of sambucca while I tried to relay my plans for home decoration to my in-laws. Looking over at their table I thought firstly – please shut up and secondly - I'm so middle aged. These people had clearly not spent the day wandering around homeware shops and discussing the merits of antique furniture versus new (as if there is even a debate, pah!) They were probably still hungover from last night eating breakfast at noon in a greasy spoon.

When was the tipping point at which I favoured a good red wine over a double vodka? I sometimes wonder if I will ever enter a nightclub again. I just can't muster up the enthusiasm when there is a bottle of wine, a Gilmore Girls DVD and a pair of pyjamas waiting at home. And, this is going to really put the final nail in the coffin, I really like being in my house. It's cosy and benefits from all those hours spent trawling homeware shops on the weekend. Plus I can play whatever music I like (Glee), there is a free bar (or at least it appears so as the Sainsburys man just brings it to my house) and I don't have to pretend I like trance or pay for a taxi home at the end of the night.

I suppose the trick is to do whatever stage you are in well. I was a great student, obnoxiously so, and would have given that lot a run for their money. And now I hope I'm a good (gulp) late twenty something, partly behaving alarmingly like a grown up but still to be found with a cocktail in hand in fancy dress every once in a while. So here's to being a semi grown up (ish)!

Friday, 10 June 2011

tearfund Update

For those of you who expressed an interest in the work of Tearfund in Myanmar and in the Eden project that I mentioned in a previous blog, a prayer update I have written has been published on the Tearfund website.

You can access it here.

There is lots of other good stuff there to have a look at so do have a poke around. Meanwhile I am busy penning an update on the earthquake response in the region so I shall love you and leave you and be back with my usual ramblings in the next few days!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A great night at bafta!

Pic from

Last night I went to a comedy writing Masterclass by Miranda Hart at BAFTA. If you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend you will have heard me go on about this endlessly since I got a last minute ticket a couple of weeks ago. Miranda is one of my favourite comediennes because she really doesn't give a monkeys about what is cool, she just likes to make people laugh. And anyone who is willing to do a fart curtsey on national television is very high in my esteem. International people you can check her out her views on Galloping on You Tube to see what I'm on about!

So after dashing out from work early and heading for the big city, I found myself at Piccadilly and outside BAFTA who's entrance is a bit like trying to get onto Platform 9 3/4s to catch the Hogwarts train. After an anonymous person buzzed me in I found myself at the bottom of an extremely well hoovered marble staircase with the big gold BAFTA masks on the walls. I was a little early so praise God there was a bar where - top tip about visiting BAFTA - the wine was very reasonably priced and jolly tasty!

Most of the people in the bar looked very important, like they were having meetings to mastermind the new season of Doctor Who or something, so I made myself scarce and phoned the husband in an attempt to look busy. Somehow, however, I had managed to end up at the back end of the theatre where they were setting up and who should emerge but Miranda! I managed to stay cool for all of about two seconds before squealing down the phone like the crazed fan that I am.

The talk itself was fantastic. Lots of writer-y chat about character formation and story-lining that was hugely beneficial but also a real sense of the amount of hard work and persistence it has taken for her to end up where she is now, writing and staring in her dream sitcom. What also really struck me is the niche that she has carved out for herself. She spoke about the days of stand up at Edinburgh festival (well, years really to get a break!) and how stand up never really would have suited her and doing sketches was always going to be her thing. The whole concept of the show was based around the persona she created and her willingness to be unique in the sitcom world today, which I think is what has struck a cord with people and made the show so popular. She really created something to fit her rather than moulding herself to fit into someone else’s vision.

Anyway, it gave me food for thought in terms of sticking to your guns on what you personally have to offer and to continue being a cheeky mare (see last blog post!) - perhaps even to ramp it up a little! It has also reminded me that what seems to be universally needed to be successful is absolute dedication, hence why I'm up writing a blog post at 7.30am! It can be easy to slip back into normal life and lose the faith to be bold and strive for big things. As Miranda said, she worked as a temp right up until 2005 to support herself, and that was after ten years of being on the comedy circuit. What dedication! So all in all an inspiring evening and an inspiring lady! Not bad for a Monday!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The great benefits of being a cheeky mare

Recently I have had some great luck from being just plain cheeky.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before that the simplest way to get something is to ask for it but now that I have started asking I am receiving rewards for my cheekiness in spades! 

Take next week for example. On Monday I am off to a comedy workshop at BAFTA with Miranda Hart. I LOVE Miranda Hart and have actually got to the point of near hyperventilation with hysterics watching her programme so this is a major scoop for me. And how did I manage it? Well by being cheeky of course! I saw an advert for the workshop on BBC Writers Room a week ago, knew full well it would be fully booked, but phoned anyway only to find out some returns were going on sale in 40 minutes time. Thanks to Starbucks and my friends Mac, the tickets were mine!

Then on Wednesday I’m off to Wycliffe Hall in Oxford  (a rather spiffy theological college) for a retreat  day. Again, some pestering and phoning around got me in there at the last minute, something I never would normally have done as picking up the phone to chase people is somehow hideously unbritish but what can I say, it works!

And THEN (yes, there’s more!) I was sitting at home last night thinking lots of grand theological thoughts and scanning my bookshelf for my next book to read when my eyes settled on a book by a theological pastor based in Oxford. I thought to myself ‘well I bet he’d be able to help with these questions.’ So I thought, ‘Right. I’m going to email him and ask.’ So I did and now I’m going for coffee with him next week to pick his brains. Much better than flicking through a paperback eh?!

So friends, I advocate the cheeky way to you as a proven technique of greatly enhancing your life. If you want to go somewhere, phone around till you get in. if you admire someone, call them up and ask them to meet up with you. Apparently it works!