Monday, 26 November 2012

Tis the season to....

.sit in a pub, drink beer and have a proper old chin wag. Right?

I haven't given much of an update on here about village life as quite frankly all I've seen of it is has been in complete darkness as I cycle between home and college at 7am and back again at 7pm! This Saturday however was a real turn up for the books and I finally had a free Saturday with no inclination, or previous commitments, to go anywhere further than a three minute walk.
Natalie Dee rules!
Luckily our village is abundant in pubs. Pubs are one of the major pluses for living in England if you ask me. And not just any pubs. Local pubs. When we lived in Aberdeen it was either slightly terrifying local dive bar that was reminiscent of a bomb shelter (and called the Broad Sword, I mean, really?!), one dingy student pub where they look at you funny for asking what wines they have or it's into town where you jostle with people who are 'out-out' when you just want a quiet one.

Local pubs are different. It's all jolity and chatting with the neighbours. Think wood burning fires, local ales and gleefully letting a couple of hours tick by. In our local this weekend there was a dog behind the bar, paws up between the beer pumps. I mean seriously, how bloomin' brilliant is that?! I was desperate to take a picture but was worried they would think I was some loon reporting them to environemtal health rather than enjoying the 'dog as bar staff' hilarity. 
So this Saturday I chucked on a thick knit jumper and some woolley boots and my long suffering, provider of all my meals and generally hard working husband and I spent a couple of blissful hours catching up over a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen. I also managed to negotiate stopping by the gem in the crown of this brilliant place, a little second hand furniture and home shop. It had had a little Christmas makeover and I got myself a couple of new decorations for the tree and some gorgeous glasses for a cheeky Christmas cocktail or two. Aren't they beautiful?
So all in all, amid the essays, VERY dark countryside (whats with all the lack of street lights? Light pollution, pah! I want to see where I'm going!) and slightly perilous cycle rides on flooded roads, all is well here. I'm still a townie and I can't wait to be back and forth into Oxford a bit more once term ends (Shops! Fifteen different options for Coffee!) but for a lazy Saturday, well, what more do you need?!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Remember Africa

Remember Africa
the loop held in small hands
rolling towards me
it reached me like the rays of the sun
setting over the land.
Remember Africa
words spoken over the fire
flames lick the blackness
and we danced
sang a new song that day.
Remeber Africa
what you shared with me
on the sandy pathway
lifting up your eyes
to the hopes we created there.
Remember Africa
of dedications, things we kept behind
when tomorrow was as lost
 so we hung on to today
like children on a mother's arm.
Remember Africa
what we found there
a pearl in a holy place
one buried there
that spoke of richness, recovery, new beginnings.
....because sometimes it is good to remember.

Christmas Bliss

I was very excited to notice on my calendar today that as of next week I have three weeks left of this term at college! Can you believe it? I barely feel like I've put a foot in the door and term one in done. Rest assured the work doesn't end there as I will be at my placement church making papier-mache snowmen (or something!) over the Christmas season and spending a fair share of my time knee deep in the reading I've abandoned under the pressure of essay deadlines this term.

I will also be dedicating myself fully to Christmas. This is not simply the hanging of a few bits of tinsel and the occasional glass of mulled wine, no! This is full scale dedication to the Christmas cause. I feel slightly virtuous in this as Christmas was the time of year I became a Christian so all the merriment is tied up in a deep seated and very real joy. I've got a reason for the season, that's for sure!

But I am also an unapologetic lover of chintz, Christmas bling and stuffing my little face with any kinds of Christmas fare. Call a spade a spade and all that! A mince pie a day is pretty much standard and the house is always transformed into a veritable winter wonderland. Out with the running reindeer, the twinkly lights and slightly wonky but much beloved tree. There will be Glee Christmas, Michael Buble, Christmas movies on continuous loop. Bliss.

I'm also going to dedicate myself to friends and family this Christmas. Finally a chance to meet up with people, visit for more than one afternoon and enjoy the fruits of winter rather than battle them as I cycle full on into darkness and bracing winds. Then I will be sitting under a blanket, listening to windows rattle and cackling to myself with Glee that I am indoors (there's some Christmas spirit for you!!). All in all, bliss.

I'm also going to dedicate myself to my duvet. I miss my duvet. We meet so briefly, cling on for dear life on a Saturday morning but very soon are cruelly yanked apart. I will study under my duvet, have blessed lie ins. I will reconnect with my sewing machine, wear my Christmas hat with every outfit, stir and sift and bake the afternoon away. Bliss!

But for now it's plodding on with just the twinkle of a fairy light in the distance to sustain me. I am tired dear reader, very tired indeed. My quota for 'exciting challenges' is running low, I'm about to go into full hibernation mode. In fact, thinking about it, perhaps I ought to crack out those mince pies and Christmas cheer a little early?!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hospital Visiting

Every week this year I'm spending an afternoon with the chaplaincy team in one of the hospitals in Oxford. I've wanted to work alongside a chaplain since I worked as a nursing assistant up in Aberdeen. The chaplains there were amazing. After the Piper Alpha Disaster in the North Sea the chaplains provided a safe space in the chapel where relatives could wait for news and then have someone to fall back on whatever the outcome. I found it fascinating, to see people go to the depths of human devastation time and again and still be happy, smiling people, usually with a fantastic sense of fun. It just seemed so illogical, surely being surrounded by all that suffering would harden you? That you'd lose your sense of joy in it all? But I never saw that.

I've often wondered if there is something in that. If travelling through 'The Valley of Sorrows' with people, as one of my favourite psalms puts it, really does bring a sense of peace that goes beyond all explanations. It's something I feel drawn to wherever I see it. So when the opportunity arose to do a placement in hospital I knew it was one to go for. I'm afraid of it, that's for sure, but I seem to have an irrepressible urge to go into those fearful places. As I spoke to one of the chaplains today she smiled when I said that and responded 'that's what chaplains do'. That combined with my love of being out in the world, on the cutting edge, left us mulling over if there might be some chaplaincy work in my future. Watch this space!

Today I visited the Childrens' Hospital. It's purpose built with play rooms in every ward, chill out rooms on the teenagers floor and bright colours everywhere. Of all the time I've spent in hospital this was the most upbeat and uplifting environment I've been in. Thank goodness for that for the sake of those children that call this place home whether for a few weeks of cancer treatment of an unexpected trip to surgery after a nasty fall. The bravery was palpable in the air. Heroic kids, Mums and Dads worthy of awards for just being there and keeping a smile on their face.

The chaplain was inspiring, wearing a dress covered in daisies and popping her head round the curtains to say hello, hear stories and to let people know there is someone about should they need them. We talked about her day to day, the literally life saving work of helping someone back from the emotional brink at the loss of a child. I've never seen a minister involved so much, so often, in the darkness of human experience and I couldn't help but think that if Jesus was about today that is where you'd find him. What a relief from all the infuriating technicalities and politics of church. This stuff really matters.

If you're the praying sort then do remember these kids and parents in hospital tonight, I know I will.