Thursday, 31 December 2009


It's that time again.

The sands of 2009 are running out fast.

I'm not good at New Year's Eve - abrupt ending of comfortable familiarity and contrived expectation of shiny newness is just too much.

Melancholy sets in - particularly on a grey, raw day like this.

Apricot had the right idea this morning - see left.

My most memorable 31/12 was tequila-fuelled, at least I assume it was memorable. I only remember how I felt on 1/1.

One NYE, my sister's boyfriend dragged us to Trafalgar Square as he wanted to "mingle with the traditional throng". My sister and I decided to kiss a policeman - well, it used to be traditional - which we rather enjoyed, and so did the policeman; but mingling and thronging was just very cold.

So, my thronging days being over, I don't want to go out; but don't want to stay in either.

Can't face staying up till midnight; but really don't want to go to bed either.

It's like watching the ending of a film you've already seen.


I'm actually well this year - no pleurisy; no 'flu, no shingles.
It has been the most amazing year that I can remember.

I 90% sorted out my office this afternoon. Getting there...

AND... on Channel 4, there's 20 best CBB moments, so it's not all bad.

2009 goal of reading minimum 2 new books per month was achieved - easily.

Some admittedly lightweight - Adrian Plass Churchmanship for one; On Royalty for another!

Some less so - Audacity of Hope; Netherland; Cameron on Cameron; Revolutionary Road...

Best book of 2009 - The Shack - by a country mile. Breathtaking.

First two for 2010; Celsius 7/7 (Michael Gove) and Abraham Lincoln (James McPherson). - two hours to go.
May our New Year be peaceful, happy, healthy and fulfilling.

May we recognise how blessed we are and take time to savour this precious life we've been given.

Monday, 28 December 2009


If the last blogpost seemed unusually heavy, here's a cake that Harriet and I made on Christmas Eve for light relief.
As you can see, we rather liberally iced the worktop (and attendant doggies) as well.
thank you Nigella -as ever.
plenty left - so if you live in Shaftesbury, come and have a slice.


...well, according to Richard Dawkins - that's me - the Wrong Kind, that is.

I'm currently pinned down by (thankfully quite mild) tracheitis - slept for most of the last 24hours - then on surfacing, thought I'd listen to Start the Week. Themed on scientific topics today. Generally scholarly, thought-provoking and fascinating.

Professor Dawkins had been invited to discuss and comment on this year's Darwin anniversary, all fine and measured until he made one of his predictable side-swipes at Faith-based groups & their response to Darwin's theories - in this case, natural selection.

That's fine - the more freedom of speech and discussion - the better.

However, he made one extraordinary observation.

Apparently, when he talks to the "right kind" of Christian, eg. "Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals", they appear to be less antagonistic than others, ergo the "wrong kind".

Sorry, Professor Dawkins. I don't believe that our Maker (sorry, more fairytale nomenclature) differentiates between right and wrong kinds of Christians.

We enjoy different ways of expressing our faith; but one is not more valid nor important than another. However, the exercise of authority is another matter.

These "right kinds" of Christian occupy positions of authority, where they have to balance spiritual and political leadership. Their responses would, of necessity, be tempered by pragmatism and an understandable reluctance to become media targets.

Anyway, I am evidently the wrong kind of Christian for Professor Dawkins, believing 100% as I do in Divine Creation.

However, I would not be totally dogmatic in the belief that each of the seven "Days" of Creation was necessarily a 24 hour period.

But it could have been, couldn't it? We'll find out in good time.

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Lovely to have had a (dysfunctional and often short-tempered) Christmas, and really the best to have so many of our friends from Shaftesbury for drinks yesterday morning.
Finally grabbed some time to take Apricot for a proper walk. Fresh air - no one interfering or criticising - bliss!
Returned to find my father in the cellar about to reset the boiler... obviously should have given him a tricky new piece of software or difficult puzzle to occupy his mind.
Last night, I was sadly too stupidly exhausted to cope with watching Hamlet - and stupefied by the germ-laden tropical heat that my dear parents feel is mandatory for existence. OK - they are quite elderly; but still...
I loathe central heating, except in the very coldest weather. Bad for one on every possible level , makes me even more bad-tempered than usual and just appalled that people feel it's their God-given right to be warm in a T-shirt in midwinter.
So instead, while doing some nice relaxing cooking - roasted butternut and sweet potato soup + blue cheese biscuits - to leave for parents. I indulged in light relief on Facebook, doing the 2009 Status Collage. Brilliant. Especially thoughtful of the App-Meisters to have a nice blue template option for me.
It really was an exciting year - once the persistent after-effects of pleurisy and viral tracheitis finally left me - and this "high-level" (software-speak) reminiscence triggered many more memories.
2 local election campaigns - as candidate for the first time. The best fun! Even won the second one.
Who'd have thought I'd end this year as a Local Councillor?

I'd forgotten that I'd been so tempted to deliberately deliver campaign letters to the wrong addresses in certain streets, to get people to talk to each other.
I'd forgotten the frantic fortnight before we started Job Club.
I'd forgotten that I only discovered NCIS this year. (Typical - I only discovered MASH in 2002)
I'd forgotten just how cross & frustrated I was about Total Place.
I'd forgotten that I taught a brand new flautist - she now plays in our Church band.
I'd forgotten people's individual concerns that I'd been able to help with.
The single best thing about having a "profile", is having the platform to make a difference.
I am so thankful, both in this community and beyond, to be involved with so many interesting and (hopefully) worthwhile causes and projects.
I felt helplessness in the face of friends' illnesses - & respect for the devotion of caring families.

I so appreciate my wonderful friends - old and new. Especially those who know me well enough to be honest with me...
I was moved beyond belief by the things people said and wrote about me during the Cambridge selection process.
I learned what it was like to be ridiculed online - and found that I didn't really mind at all!

And so much best of all - should have been top of this list - long-delayed spiritual renewal.

My hopes for 2010 - still thinking about it... apart from practical stuff like making my office more functional and more comfortable. More like an office in fact. I'll do it on New Year's Eve.
And (please God - please) playing some golf!
One thing is certain; it will be mid-March before we know it, and I will have had yet another ski-less Winter. With my skiable years dwindling fast.
I could book a week now - and am seriously tempted. But we all know why I won't be doing that, don't we? Tory Girls and Boys!!

Thursday, 24 December 2009


Hector the Puppy finally exhausted and asleep - in the wrong bed, of course, so bound to be disrupted in a minute. Enjoying momentary peace and quiet...


Hector the Puppy is settling marginally... but still two more to arrive!

aged parent not thrilled. Will need pacifier (scotch) on arrival. His dog - a massive French "Croisee" is perfect of course.

so perfect that it stole the turkey two years ago...
Just remembered I'd better cook the tagine for tonight.

Looking forward to playing at the Crib service at 6pm. Exuberance bordering on chaos.


I'm just feeling sad for all those who don't have the joy of large, dysfunctional families.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


it doesn't matter if lunch is two minutes late.
it doesn't matter if James says (again) that Paxo was perfectly fine for his mother...
it doesn't matter if someone puts something away in the wrong place.
it doesn't matter if I find one of my better saucers under the vast rock pressing out the tongue.
It really doesn't.
it does matter if I spend the next three days in a sweaty panic and forget that this season is all about love.
it does matter if I forget to appreciate what we mean to each other.
it does matter if I behave differently at home from the way I behave in the street and in church.
it does matter if the point of all of this is submerged in goose fat and brandy butter.

We really can't expect to be magically transformed into the Disney fantasy by a roasted bird, glittery baubles and the Queen's speech. Real transformation takes rather more than that; but I hope that setting out from this perspective will mean happier memories, less guilt and fewer regrets after this year's festivities.

Happy Christmas - May we all experience great joy and deep peace.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Playing flute today for Shaftesbury's annual outdoor nativity. (Sunday - 12.45 Town Hall)

Cold weather makes it difficult as the flute and the great outdoors are not generally Best Buds.

So, enter my latest brainstorm - the flute cosy!

Knitted during Strictly Final (really pleased C-Ola won) and tail end of Love Actually.

Note purple blanket stitch (for Advent) - first time I've attempted any sort of non-button sewing since I was twelve...

Would have liked a fleece lining; but this should do the job. Deliberately chose uncharacteristally dull colour to tone with fetching costume...

With thick fingerless gloves and a couple of heated pads to keep the fingers mobile.

Sub-standard in sub-zero ? No way!

Thursday, 17 December 2009


Only a Jewish festival would bestow on its followers a divine command to eat deep-fried food...
But during Chanukah - the Jewish Festival of Lights - we wallow in doughnuts, latkes, zalabia and fried gefilte fish, as we remember the miracle of the oil.
One day's supply of Temple oil burned for eight whole days, so the Temple could be cleaned and reconsecrated.
It's the most wonderful, timeless feeling to know that candles have been lit to celebrate this festival down the ages since 162BC.
I've not succumbed to the fat-laden calories just yet; but making sure that noone round here will escape unscathed when I make rugelach.
Rugelach are sweet yeasted pastries, filled with chocolate or cinammon or jam or - well - anything really.
I'm creating a chocolate / peanut butter version tomorrow! Watch out Job Club...
It's getting me in the mood for Christmas cooking - yes - Chanukah and Christmas - or Chanu-mas as we call it.
Early pressies(Chanukah) - carols(Christmas) - cards(both) - candles (both) - making decorations for the tree - what's not to like?
But there is a problem. That tree. Do I eschew my lovely Christmas tree as a forbidden pagan ritual? Do I compromise with a glittery plastic version? Or do I tough it out, buy a tree and ignore the question for another year?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Why is everyone so worried that there will be no agreement in Copenhagen this week?
Does anyone honestly think that Copenhagen will be allowed to be a PR disaster?
In two days time, after a flurry of compromise and armlocks, commitments will be signed, broad grins all round (and no doubt Gordo will have saved the planet again) and everyone flies off - if their airline isn't on strike.
The US will then fail to ratify whatever treaty has been agreed.
It happened in Kyoto and it will happen again.
These earth summits have to happen - if only for raised awareness; but top-down target - driven initiatives are never the answer to anything.
The Cambridge City Council system of micro-community champions is far more likely to make a significant and long-term difference, as people become aware of the real-life consequences of their actions.
This low-cost initiaitive is certainly worth rolling out across other councils nationwide.


It's paranoia revisited.
All those sensations which - I was convinced - had been consigned to the past.
Ever-present low-level nausea. A distracted search for displacement activity. Trying not to watch the clock. Secret calculations. Loss of appetite. The stomach-flipping reflex when the 'phone rings or a text buzzes through.
No - I'm not in love... though looking at what I've just written, I'm sure a reader would conclude that I was; the symptoms are virtually identical.
My darling daughter is jumping a new (and very young) horse in the ring this evening. She'll be working in just now - and I'm not there to check her girth, write her number on the board, find her hat, tie, spurs; chat up the ring steward, (could Jill still be there? surely not) hold the rugs, run up the stirrups, buy her a hot dog etc etc...
Most importantly, I'm not there to encourage her nor absorb her nervous outbursts.
And you'd think after ten exhausting, emotionally draining, financially punitive years on the road in a lorry, with Harriet, the ponies and horses, I'd be just so relieved that someone else was doing the whole freezing to death in the Cambridgeshire Fen thing this evening.
But in fact, although nowadays my horsey activity is limited to patting the odd nose and helpfully holding a bridle, I'm actually itching to be there.
So much so that at lunchtime, I very nearly decided to drive 3 hours back up to Cambs just to watch a couple of tiny clear rounds.
Good luck Harriet and Sassy... that's another half an hour accounted for, and she should have jumped by now...