Thursday, 30 January 2020

Discovering different lives: 5 books that changed my viewpoint

One of the things that characterised 2019 for me was the feeling that I was suddenly hearing from a lot of viewpoints that I'd never heard before.   I realised that most of the people I know are a lot like me, and that other people have a very different way of seeing the world.

Put like that, it seems dumb not to have realised that before.  But most of these books have been published in the last 4 years (Americanah is oldest, from 2013), so maybe, too, these are voices that just wouldn't have been heard, and experiences that wouldn't have been talked about, a decade or more ago.

I feel like these books have made me think more about prejudice, identity, and my assumptions about them.  But more than that, they've taken me to new places and helped me to see the world through different eyes.  And that's what books, at their best, are there for.

Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch


Afua Hirsch was born in the same year as I was, and grew up barely 30 miles from my home.  Like me, she had family links to another country outside of Britain, and spent some time in that country.  But unlike me, the colour of her skin has meant that she has spent her whole life having her Britishness questioned.

The similarities we share made the differences all the more startling.  This is a life where hairdressers don't know what to do with your hair, fellow delegates at a conference assume that you are a waitress, and your sister's baby is described as "like a little gangster" - all in the same kind of environment that I am familiar with, but where, as a white person, I was utterly oblivious to these challenges.

The details from Afua Hirsch's own experience are backed up by references to wider research about race in Britain, and all of it is eye-opening, informative and engaging.

Good as You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn


This is another book which had a personal resonance; the 30 years in the title correspond very closely to the first 30 years of my life.  But once again, those 30 years are looked at very differently from the way that I saw them.

How does it affect your life when "people like you" are represented only negatively, or not at all?  When you have no role models for a settled, loving relationship?  And how do things change when, gradually, you see singers, TV characters, and film actors who share your own feelings and experiences?

I never had to ask myself those kind of questions, but many people did, over those 30 years, and this book explores some of the answers.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I'd already read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's moving novel about the Nigerian civil war, Half of a Yellow Sun, so I knew the quality of her writing when I picked this one up.

Ifemelu, a Nigerian girl, moves to America, and discovers that in America, her nationality is irrelevant: she is black.  And being black comes with a whole host of expectations about what she can say, how she can say it, how she should behave, how people will behave to her.  She writes an anonymous blog about race, to much acclaim, but then, when she moves back to Nigeria, has to reconsider her experiences and identity yet again.

This is a powerful story dealing with some big themes.  In some ways it covers similar ground to Brit(ish), but from a fictional perspective.  Like Afua, Ifemelu moves between countries and finds that she is labelled differently in each one, and doesn't fit completely in either.

Al-Britannia, My Country: A Journey through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson


Unlike the other books here, this is written by an outsider to the community he is writing about.  But James Fergusson is clearly sympathetic to and genuinely interested in the faith and lives of Muslims in Britain.  He - and I - see a country we hardly knew existed, as he visits Muslim schools, mosques, and even cage fighting events in Birmingham, Bradford and Leicester.  He brings out the humanity and community behind the shock headlines of radicalisation and riots, and asks questions about the role of faith in society, and what it means to be British.

Here is yet another layer to the Britain that I think I know - once again, a strikingly different experience but with surprising similarities.  Like churches, mosques are struggling to hold out much appeal for the younger generation.  Muslims, like Christians, are dealing with the complexities of holding a faith in an increasingly secular country, with the added pressure that Islamic religious fundamentalism is often equated with radicalisation, and legislated against.

James Fergusson finishes his book by undertaking the Ramadan fast - not as a statement of belief, but more as a kind of homage to the Muslim faith.  One thing that really stood out was the way that this changed his relationship with his Muslim neighbour.  Before, they had barely spoken, despite living next door for several years, but as soon as the man found out that Fergusson was also keeping Ramadan, he invited him over, and brought him meals several times.  The shared experience created a bond that might not have formed any other way.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett


Simone is a teenager who's HIV-positive, black, has gay parents, and is directing a student production of Rent at her Catholic school, while dealing with someone who is threatening to make her HIV status public.  All that sounds like it should be far too much to fit into one book, never mind one character.  But Simone manages to be real, likeable, brave and fun - much more than just a way to challenge stereotypes.

Admittedly, this book is not for the faint-hearted, especially if you have children coming up to the teenage years.  Simone and her friends are definitely not shy about sex, even if they get pretty embarrassed when their parents try to talk to them about it.  If Judy Blume was straightforward, Camryn Garrett takes it to another level - but she manages to keep a good dose of humour in there, as well.

Like the other books, this deals with questions about coping when you are rejected or stereotyped based on who you are - both the parts that you can hide, and the parts you can't.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Christmas 2019

January is whizzing by, and Christmas was almost a month ago!  It's far too late to be writing a Christmas post really, but the blog has got cobwebbed and dusty from neglect again, and it's an easy place to start.  So let's go.

Carol singing

Toby and Theo had an outdoor carol concert at school, in the absolute falling-down rain.  The parents peered out from under a multi-coloured array of umbrellas, the kids sang their hearts out from underneath dripping gazebos, a live donkey and horse made their appearance during Little Donkey, and the teachers did a flash-mob style rendition of Snow is Falling at the end, to much applause.  It was great.


Graham joined the church Christmas choir and spent two months booming, "Rise up, shepherd, and follow!" at odd intervals.  We finally got to hear the complete carol on the Sunday before Christmas, which was packed with a nativity service in the morning and two carol services in the afternoon.

Lights and other shiny things

The Lichfield cathedral illuminations are well on their way to becoming one of our Christmas traditions.  The west front of the cathedral is bathed in a stunning light show, and the inside is filled with art installations, candles and Christmas trees.  This year they used the front of a separate building for a sequence featuring swaying spinning tops, giant presents and galloping reindeer.  Then we walked around to face the cathedral and watched the Christmas story unfold, as angels descended, the stable glowed, and wise men trekked on their camels under whirling starry skies.






On a slightly less exalted level, I helped out with the village Christingle service, jamming sticky sweets into juicy oranges and trying to light the candles without setting the small and crumbling parish church on fire.  Bizarre though the ritual is, it's one of the few times that the church is actually full, and it's a lovely little service.

Family and friends

We hosted Graham's family this year, which meant that I had to cook a proper Christmas dinner for the first time in many years.  There were only 7 of us so it wasn't a huge undertaking - although I did vastly over-cater, so it was a good thing they stayed for a few days to help eat all the leftovers!  Some friends gave me the tip of cooking and slicing the turkey the day before, then reheating it in the gravy on the day.  It does away with that whole last-minute palaver of trying to chop up the meat while frantically stirring gravy and dishing up everything else - brilliant!




Apart from the food and the presents, we managed a cinema trip to see Frozen 2 (a little sadder than I expected), a snowball fight at Cromford Mill, and a few board games.



A local garden centre has an ice rink for the season, so we went with a few friends to try it out.  This was the boys' first attempt at skating, and my first try after about 15 years, so we were all a little shaky.  By the end of the session we were mostly letting go of the edge, and Theo keeps asking when we can go again.

After New Year we visited my parents, and had a good couple of days catching up.  The boys clamoured to go to their favourite place - a nearby science centre which they love - and we went for some walks and dug through the Lego box and ate good food.



Oh yes, the presents

Despite Toby saying he doesn't believe in Santa, he and Theo decided to rig up their bedroom with string, tape and a camera, to try and catch Father Christmas in the act.  He has had many years of evading small boys, though, and simply left their stockings by the door, with a note saying, "Don't try that trick next year!"

They were up at 5 am on Christmas Day, which is our earliest start for a while.  The rest of us got up about 6, and the living room was a sea of wrapping paper by 8:30 in the morning!  The boys had to do a treasure hunt to find their biggest presents (another tip from a friend).  Toby discovered a new bike in the garage and Theo found an electric guitar under the stairs.  They were both very pleased.


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

When the teacups are overwhelming

No one becomes a Christian because they love washing up teacups.


Credit: Lisarlena via Wikimedia Commons

Not many people become a Christian because of their passion for meetings about church budgets, either, or their desire to lift 50 padded chairs every Sunday morning, or because they have a strong opinion about the colour of the church carpet.

And even those of us who enjoy a bit of robust intellectual debate once in a while, didn't become Christians in order to pick apart the finer points of doctrine.

If you have become a Christian, and moreover continued to be a Christian, I would hope and suggest that it is for two reasons.  Firstly, because you believed that God had done and is doing something which demanded a response from you.  Secondly, because you found a community that also believed that God had done and is doing something, and invited you to be part of it.

And you found yourself washing up teacups.

But if it becomes all about the teacups, and even the more important things like the social issues and the mission projects and the theological debates, it's easy to forget why we got involved in the first place.  Not because of of this stuff that we're doing.  But because of something that God has done.

I guess Paul knew that.  I recently re-read his letter to the Ephesians, and was astounded to realise that the entire first half was all about what God had done.  That's a good couple of pages (double columns, small print) without a single suggestion that his audience should do anything except remember what God had already done for them.  He talks about the blessings God has given, and the way he made us his children, and the "immeasurable greatness of his power", and how he raised Jesus from the dead, and what that achieved, and...  well, go and read Ephesians chapters 1 to 3.  It's well worth it.

It made me realise how quickly we often gloss over what God has done, in order to get to what we have to do.  I listened to a sermon which included the quote: The gospel is good news, not good advice.  Good advice, the preacher explained, tells you what you ought to do.  But good news tells you what has already been done.

In the kind of churches I go to, the good news is often reduced to a single phrase: Jesus died for us.  It covers the basics, but it doesn't provide much to dwell on, when we need to remind ourselves of the foundations of our faith.  Other churches use a creed, a statement of belief, which expands the basics some more.  Even that falls a bit short of Paul's enthusiastic explanation.

When the arguments and the teacups and the budgets overwhelm us, we all need something to come back to.  We need more than a one-liner or a casual cliche.  We need to remember the good news that got us into all this in the first place.

Here's mine.  It's not quite as long as Paul's, and it's not quite as good as Paul's (and I borrowed his first and last sentences), but this is some attempt to remind myself - and hopefully you too - of the good news of what God has done.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.  He sent Jesus to live among us and to suffer with us, so that we might know the God who is close beside us in our pain.  Through Jesus' resurrection he has enabled us to have life in all its fullness now and forever, and given us hope: hope that changes lives, hope that rescues those in darkness, hope that transcends death.  

He has given us his Spirit to work within us, so that we can be changed in ways we never thought possible.  We thought we would always be stuck in the same old patterns of thoughts and behaviours, but he has set us free from those, and given us a new sense of self-worth and purpose.  Not because we did anything to deserve it, but because we now understand that we are completely loved.  God loved and accepted us at our worst, and the more we comprehend that, the more we find ourselves loving and accepting others at their worst, too.

He has brought us together with people who are utterly different to us.  We are part of a worldwide church; anywhere we find others who love Jesus, we have something in common, however unlikely that may seem.  He has given us a rich variety of experiences, so that we can all learn from each other and rely on each other.  At its best, he has given us a loving community where we can grow in trust and faith together.

And he has changed not just us but all of creation.  In some mysterious way, Jesus submitting to the forces of evil in his death provided the power to overcome them, and now we no longer have to fear either evil or death, even though both are still very present in the world.  He has given us the desire to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation, secure in the knowledge that injustice, war and hatred can never have the last word.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Sand, sea, skulls and sleepless nights: Gran Canaria

We boarded the plane to Gran Canaria with 2 suitcases, a rucksack apiece, and a few loads of expectation swinging from our shoulders.  It was the first holiday abroad since Toby had started school, and Graham and I were hoping it would be worth the extra hassle and expense.  We were looking forward to seeing a different part of the world, but aware that family holidays are never quite the oasis of rest and relaxation that we still, somehow, found ourselves hoping for.  Meanwhile, the boys had learned the Spanish for ice cream, and were happily chanting, "Helado, helado por favor."

...and we're off!

Perhaps fittingly, the holiday lived up to those mixed feelings.  We had days where we were seriously considering booking an early flight home, and days where we were very glad we'd come.  And of course, we had plenty of helado!


The good bits

The sea

Well, we do like a bit of sea.  Graham went scuba diving, the boys paddled, and I swam and got splashed a lot.




One day we caught a boat to Puerto de Mogan, a few miles along the coast from where we were staying.  It was a lovely little port town, with colourful flowers swinging over our heads, and colourful fish almost swimming under our feet as we hung over the edge of the docks.  We climbed steps past higgledy-piggledy houses with singing canaries outside, and got a birds-eye view from the platform at the top.  At the other side of the valley was La CaƱada de los Gatos, an excavated cluster of indigenous houses dating back over a thousand years.

Puerto de Mogan

the steps

the archeological site

on the boat

The food

We may have relied rather heavily on cheese and salami for lunch, but on the whole, we ate pretty well.  As we sat outside in the warm evening air at El Guanche Grill, on the second night, it was the first time we felt like we really were relaxing and enjoying ourselves.  The tasty Mexican food helped, too.



There was a good bbq at the hotel one night, followed by a show by the Acrobattys, a couple of ladies who could do the most spectacular contortions.

waiting for the show to start

And Graham and I treated ourselves to an amazing platter of tapas in Puerto de Mogan - followed, of course, by ice cream.

look at all this!



Cocodrilo Park

Once we actually got there (see The bad bits) we really enjoyed Cocodrilo (Crocodile) Park.  The BIG zoo on the island is Palmitos Park, which was relentlessly marketed on every bus stop and road sign, but Cocodrilo Park is part zoo, part rescue centre for animals seized by the Spanish government.  It was nicely laid out, mercifully shady, and just about the right size.  We got to stroke a few of the animals and watch the crocodiles being fed.  If they weren't quick about grabbing the food, the feeder would bash them on the snout with a raw chicken leg to get their attention!




The remote-controlled car

As always on holiday, we seemed to spend a lot of time buying more food.  Outside the supermarket was a little stand where you could rent a Theo-sized car, with a Toby-controlled remote to drive it around.  Of course we had to splash out and let the boys have a go.  They loved it.



The skulls, surprisingly

You didn't expect that, did you?  We all enjoyed our visit to the Museo Canario in Vegueta, a town just south of Las Palmas.  It had a collection of pots and tools from the pre-Hispanic era, a reconstruction of an aboriginal house (with a virtual-reality viewer which fascinated Theo) and, bizarrely, a room full of skulls in glass cabinets.  With our limited Spanish, we never quite worked out where they had all come from, or whether their descendants had minded them being put on display.



Vegueta also contained the beautiful Catedral Santa Ana, and several squares where we ate lunch and fed pigeons.

pigeons in Plaza Santa Ana


in Catedral Santa Ana

cathedral columns


The bad bits

The sleepless nights

It turned out our hotel had entertainment almost every night until 11:30pm - right outside our apartment.  Very loudly.  The only way to attempt to sleep was to close all the windows, at which point the rooms became instantly hot and stuffy.   Trying to get an early night meant lying there listening to bad karaoke and wondering if you could even bear to have a sheet covering you.

Once we'd adapted to Spanish time, it wasn't quite so bad.  The boys were going to bed at 10:30 and waking up at 9 am, and I'd go for a late walk in the relatively cool air instead of pretending I could sleep.  But Graham is not letting me book a hotel again in a hurry!

this guy was the entertainer!


The bit where we missed the bus

Cocodrilo Park advertised a free bus on Mondays.  On Monday morning we got to the bus station in plenty of time.  And we waited.  And waited.  Finally we asked, only to be told that the bus went from the back of the bus station, and we'd missed it.

Somehow that threw the whole day off.  We made some attempts to recover and enjoy the day, but even a splash in the hotel pool and a lizard-spotting walk along a coastal path didn't restore our mood.  Sometimes you just have to draw a line and hope the next day is better.  And, to be fair, it was.


And the in between

The sand dunes

So we got to Maspalomas on the bus about lunchtime, and we walked through the hot hot streets and across the hot hot sand dunes (admittedly worth seeing, but the Sahara has gone waaay down my list of places to visit).  But then we got to the sea, and walked barefoot through the cool shallow water with a breeze blowing all the way back along the coast, and we weren't too hot at all.  Although it was a nudist beach, so we got some ...interesting views along the way.

biiig sand dunes!


The mountains

The mountainous centre of Gran Canaria is spectacular.  I would definitely recommend going there.  Just not with complaining kids in the back seat, on a 40°C+ afternoon.

Caldera de los Marteles

We stopped to admire Caldera de los Marteles, a volcanic crater, then made our way up to Roque Nublo.  The walk to the rock from the car park was just over a kilometre, but the heat was seeping out from every rock and tired strand of grass.  The boys and I soon wilted and retreated to the shade, leaving Graham to go on by himself.  Some enterprising soul had set up an ice cream stand next to the car park, so we all had to have our second ice lolly of the day, to recover.



The way back took us down a terrifyingly bendy road which wound its way down the edge of a gorge.  It seemed to disappear as soon as we'd driven it - I kept looking back, trying to trace the route we'd taken, but I never could figure out how someone had put a road there at all.

the photo doesn't do it justice


The hotel

It wasn't really our kind of hotel, or our kind of town (Puerto Rico is built entirely for tourists).  But it was clean and convenient, and it was great to come back and splash in the pool after a hot day out.



And when the sky does this, almost anywhere looks beautiful. 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Finding common ground

A recent report by the UK Methodist Church, entitled God in Love Unites Us, has generated a lot of debate about same-sex marriage in the church.  There are already dozens of articles putting forward the views from each side.  But in such a divisive issue, I felt like it was important to remember what we do agree on.

These are six things that I've heard from both sides of the debate.  We may doubt that others believe them.  We may disagree drastically on how to live them out.  But if we can at least assume that everyone believes them, then they may just give us a tiny piece of common ground to build on.


We want to be welcoming and loving

At their best, churches can be places where everyone feels welcome - where lonely people find a family, the unloved find love, and the outsiders find a community to belong to.

At their worst, churches are places where everyone who doesn't live up to our ideals is made to feel excluded, ashamed, and even hated by God.

We would all prefer our church to be more like the former, but we have to admit to ourselves that they often fall short.  The booklet Christian Role Models contains 20 moving and inspiring stories from LGBT Christians around the world; almost all of them experienced rejection from fellow Christians at some point.  Fortunately, many also found encouragement and support in their faith.

Whether or not we believe that our theology around same-sex marriage should change, we know that our theology includes a God who is love.  We know that having the right beliefs is useless, if our actions are not expressing this love to others.

And so we realise that making a choice about our marriage theology is just one step in a long walk.  It's possible to refuse to offer same-sex marriage and to be a church where LGBT people feel welcomed, accepted and included.  It's also possible to register a church for gay marriages but to have an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

Either way, we realise that LGBT people have felt rejected from our churches, and that our beliefs have been used to push them away from God.  We realise that our actions and words need to address the hurt and assure people that God loves them.

We all agree that our church should make everyone feel welcome.  Let's find common ground to make that a reality.

We value the Bible and try to be guided by it

I recently followed Humanists UK on Facebook, simply because I'd read some comments on the page ridiculing those who used an ancient manuscript to get instructions from some old man in the sky.  I felt like I might sometimes need a reminder that viewing the Bible as important in any way is rather unusual in itself.

It's easy to frame this debate as "I follow the Bible; you don't."  It's easy to think that if other people really valued the Bible, they wouldn't read it like that.  But if you step outside of church culture for a moment, you realise how much importance we all, within it, place on what the Bible says.

God in Love Unites Us says that "a report...identified seven different attitudes to biblical authority" (don't you love the Methodists - what other denomination would even count?).  So it's not surprising that we can read the same words and come away with different convictions.

But let's try to avoid suggesting that we are the only ones who really understand God's word and live by it.  Let's do each other the honour of recognising that we both read and wrestle with the Bible, and that we are still learning from God in the process.  Let's shy away from describing one viewpoint as Biblical, with the implication that the other is not.

Let's find common ground in our value for the Bible - and if you need persuading of that, go and read a few humanist comments on the subject.


We want to pursue God's righteousness

I'm not the sort of person who often cries in a church service.  If I do, it's usually because something else in my life is causing me to be emotional.  This time, it was because a Bible verse landed in my mind with the force of a ton of bricks.  You load people with burdens hard to bear, and you do not lift a finger to help them.

Ouch.

That was Jesus speaking to the experts in Jewish law (Luke 11:46) - the ones who thought they had righteousness all sewn up.  Do this, don't do that, everyone respects you and God's happy too.  Simple.  And Jesus said, no, but the way you go about it heaps burdens on others while you get the easy life.

For me, the easy way isn't caving in to popular culture.  The easy way is to keep the status quo, where the people I know are middle-class Christian families who are basically a lot like me.  And however unwittingly, my easy way has been putting barriers in the way of others, which I personally don't have to face, and which I haven't lifted a finger to move.

The hard way, the God's righteousness way, is to find out what those barriers are, and what I can do to help.  It probably involves lifting lots of fingers.  I'm not even sure I can do it.  But I'm pretty sure that's what pursuing God's righteousness in this matter means for me.

For others, pursuing God's righteousness may mean standing up for their faith in the face of opposition.  It would be easier, they feel, to abandon their conscience and agree to change, but the hard way, the God's righteousness way, is to affirm traditional morals while finding new and radical ways to love and include those who live outside them.

Let's recognise that we may all be moved to tears by our failure to live up to God's righteousness.  And let's find common ground in supporting each other to hear God and follow him.


We care for the church

With all this talk of welcoming and including those who are outside the church, we sometimes forget that there are people inside the church who need caring for too.  It can be disorientating and frightening to have to re-examine beliefs that you have held for years - especially if you feel like you are being forced to change them whether you like it or not.

I vividly recall a time when I felt like I was desperately trying to dig down to the solid rock that I had been told my faith rested on, only to find that it all seemed to have turned to sand.  At such times you find yourself questioning your identity, your community and your entire worldview.  It is not a comfortable experience.

Most changes in our beliefs are considerably less drastic.  They occur gradually over time, as a result of meeting new people and doing new things.

The trouble comes when either a change, or a lack of change, is seen as harmful.  For some, changing to accommodate same-sex marriage in church is dangerous.  It calls into question the authority of the Bible, offends against God's holiness, and may even risk people's salvation.

For others, holding on to a traditional view of homosexual relationships is dangerous.  It has caused people to turn away from God, believing that they cannot be loved by him; it has contributed to marginalisation, violence and suicide; and it has led people to believe that Christians are bigoted and unloving.

Given such high stakes, it is no wonder that we feel like we either have to force others to agree with us, or split apart completely.  But underneath all of those fears of danger is a deep care and concern for Christ and his church.  Let's hold each other's fears as fiercely as we hold our own.  Let's find common ground in our care for the church.

We are aware that our Christian faith is affected by our culture

You know that something's become mainstream when Sainsbury's supermarket has a banner outside supporting it.  I'm afraid my reaction was slightly cynical: well, of course they support LGBT rights now, when they know it won't lose them any customers!

All of us within this debate are well aware that it wasn't even a conversation 50 years ago.  The culture has changed, and we have already changed with it.  Even supermarkets are taking a moral position.

But let's not equate one position with "keeping the faith" and one position with "uncritical acceptance of culture".  We both look at the world around us and see the good and the bad, and we incorporate that into our faith and our lives.

It's impossible to separate out our beliefs from our friendships, our experiences, and the culture around us.  All we can do is to try and ask ourselves the right kind of questions.  Do I think this because it's easier for me?  Does this make me more loving, or less?  Does this fit with what I know of Jesus?

Even then, it's easy to have a horrifyingly large blind spot - a log in our eye, as Jesus puts it.  Sometimes we need other people to ask us those questions.  And it takes time to ask them and answer them respectfully, carefully and prayerfully.

So let's not be quick to assume that other people are blindly following a party line.  Let's assume that our blind spots are at least as large as theirs, and let's find common ground as we gently and graciously try to reduce them to a speck.  Let's be aware that we are all affected by our culture.


We trust in Jesus

Ultimately, our faith doesn't depend on our Biblical interpretation skills, our ability to adapt to popular culture, or even our personal morality.  It depends only on our trust in Jesus - and fortunately, he is in heaven interceding for us.  Let's pray for each other and for our church, that we may rely more and more on Jesus and his all-encompassing, death-defying, terrifyingly wonderful love.  Let's find common ground in him.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Easter celebrations

The rest of my eco-Lent flopped badly, I'm afraid.  Life has an annoying way of not stopping so that you can concentrate; in fact, it usually gets busier!  However, saving the environment was always going to take more than 40 days, so at least there is more incentive now to carry on.

But for all our failures, and our fears for the future, we still need hope; and for that, there is Easter.

And we did manage to do Easter!

Here's our decorated mantelpiece: crafts by the boys, banner by me, flowers from the Co-Op and foliage from the garden.


I made a Simnel cake (11 marzipan balls for the disciples, omitting Judas), and some 'empty tomb' bread rolls (a marshmallow inside melts in the oven, leaving an empty hole - ta-daa!)



On Good Friday we did one of the Cadbury/National Trust Easter egg hunts at Calke Abbey.  It focused on looking for signs of spring rather than following clues, which disappointed Toby ("an egg hunt ought to have proper answers!") but we found some beetles, admired the waterlilies, and saw a frog in the lake, which was properly exciting.  And yes, there was chocolate at the end.



Saturday was the local Messy Church.  Toby and Theo enjoyed colouring in a sign and hammering it on to a stake (several bent nails; fortunately no bent thumbs).  They also did a 'proper' Easter egg hunt, with, yes, more chocolate at the end.



On Easter Sunday we went to church in the morning, then to the park for a picnic, and came home for a proper Sunday roast.

I should tell you that Toby was very proud to have won his school eggmobile competition.  They had to build a vehicle which could carry an egg, and go the furthest when rolled down a ramp.  Of course this was right up his street.  His prize was - you guessed it - another chocolate egg.  He said, half-jokingly, that he'd like to fill it with ice cream and put mini eggs on top, and I said, "Actually, that's not a bad idea for dessert..." so we did it!


And to work off all that chocolate, ice cream and Simnel cake, we went for a good long walk on Easter Monday, on a ridge of hills called the Roaches.  It's been a beautiful weekend in all sorts of ways.