Sunday, 26 March 2017

Flowers and family

Mothers' Day today and I got flowers. I felt really bad because my son had ordered them and the combination of a ring at the door, cardboard box delivery/ signature and then putting flowers in the vase was so reminiscent of the days before and around the funeral that I inevitably got the shakes, hammering heart, nausea and so on. I felt really frustrated and cross with myself for being such a wimp about what was after all a lovely present from my gorgeous sons. I  was heartened though during a conversation with a friend from the bereavement group this afternoon who told me she promptly burst into tears on receiving Mothers' Day flowers yesterday again because of the associations with her husband's funeral.It made me feel a bit more like I might just be quite normal and not some kind of freak,;thank goodness for the chance to talk to people who understand and have been through it.
The flowers are really very nice, and even nicer was a call from the youngest son and a chance to chat to him. He is going on holiday to Budapest and then Sweden tomorrow and rather sheepishly confessed that he had been so busy that he didn't order a card until quite late on- had it arrived? No, it hadn't but I am looking forward to it some time this week so told him not to worry.
My family has been fantastic over the last few months and weeks. The only difficulty I've had has been trying to persuade the youngest to take more money and the eldest that he doesn't need to give me more money!  am very lucky in that I get a small pension from Kev's work and this currently pays for the living expenses and accommodation for our youngest (Oxford is not cheap.) It is actually slightly less than we used to give him and so I always expected to have to top  it up by a couple of thousand but he won't take the money insisting he can get by! However, this week he texted me to ask if I could transfer a hundred pounds into his account just as a float for while he was on holiday. I transferred several hundred and got a text telling me it was too much and I would be getting some back. I think we might fight over this one! Kev and I always wanted him to have enough and, without being extravagant, to make sure he enjoyed his undergraduate days. My eldest son is just the same, he is working part time  on the minimum wage and for the last few years has given us money towards his food and keep. He now wants to increase this and is learning to drive in order to give him the chance to look further afield for  a full time job.
I do feel really proud of the way they have both rallied round and at just how grown up and supportive they have been. You'd kind of expect this is how family should be, unfortunately I know quite a few people, mainly in the bereavement group, who have had conflict and difficulties instead of support. Maybe we got something right in the way we brought them up or maybe they are just naturally lovely people. I might be biased, but I think so anyway.

Monday, 20 March 2017


I received a text  from friends yesterday letting me know they are about to book tickets for them and for me to an open air theatre production in July and asking "is that OK?" in a way that implied they expected it would be. Kev really loved this particular event; we've attended it along with these friends for years and always aimed to have a picnic in the grounds first depending on the weather. I've got a real dilemma now as I just don't know if I will be able to go.
One problem I've had since Kev's death is that I've struggled to return to places that evoke strong memories, whether good or bad. It is not just that the experience is emotionally painful, I get physical reactions such as intense nausea, heart pounding and shaking, then often flashback nightmares which will involve that particular context. Sometimes these reactions take me completely by surprise. For example, just recently I had to drive past the turning to the canal where we often used to walk the dog/ go for a cup of tea. As I approached the turn off, I had the feelings of nausea again and began shaking so badly that I had to pull over as I didn't feel safe to drive.
The reason for this is very likely to be the sudden, unexpected and traumatic nature of Kev's death ( I found him along with my son and attempted to resuscitate him, the flashback nightmares always involve this.) In fact my doctor has now diagnosed post traumatic stress syndrome and given me medication which stops the heart pounding but has little effect on feelings of nausea and distress or  the nightmares which follow and/ or precede a visit to places with strong memories. These reactions began very soon after Kev's death, I never anticipated that I would still be suffering from them five months later. My doctor has explained that having had a history of childhood sexual abuse has made me more likely to develop PTSD and has offered to refer me for bereavement counselling.I'd like to say that I will be OK to go to the play in July but I can't be in any way confident that this will be the case.
Although this couple are in many ways very good friends, we always did things together, we never really talked at any deep level. I've been out with them for lunch and been round to theirs for a meal  but if I have ever mentioned Kev, I've sensed they feel uncomfortable. Their incredibly kind way of helping me is to offer company and trips out rather than talking. In many ways I have to say this suits me just fine but I suspect if I told them why I don't want to go they would be uncomfortable and embarrassed -and I might be as well.
So, what to do? I could a. tell them b. make a general excuse c. say to book and then cancel later if needed. Why does life have to be so complicated?

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Philip North

I read with sadness the news today that Philip North has withdrawn from accepting a post as Bishop of Sheffield. It is always a sad day when someone makes a decision of this kind that affects them personally, and also I believe North is very highly thought of and clearly has many gifts to offer which will now not be exercised in this capacity.
At the same time, it is true that women priests in the  diocese of Sheffield- over 30% of its clergy- would have been faced with the prospect of being led by someone who could not accept their ministry as possible or in any way valid. I read that one of the organisations North belongs to issues "passports" to guarantee priests are of a "pure blood" lineage, in other words they have not only not been ordained by a woman, they have not been ordained by someone who has been ordained by a woman, or by someone ordained by a man ordained by a woman... (continue ad infinitum)
 When I volunteered with WATCH and with Changing Attitude at Synod, it opened my eyes to the bitterness and "at all costs" mentality with which some held to enshrined positions and ideologies. I  reflected on the sheer impracticality of the "good disagreement" that the Church speaks of and of finding a place for all around the table. Surely everyone knew this would happen? Surely everyone realised that it is unacceptable and untenable to have a bishop would doesn't recognise the calling of those he leads? Surely at the same time it is equally unacceptable to promise "good disagreement" and an honoring of those who hold a traditionalist line only to see someone of high standing step down in the face of opposition? This is not to say that I do not think North's views of male headship or the male apostolic succession or whatever he holds to frankly ludicrous, but let's be honest, lots of Christians hold beliefs that might be seen this way and the point is that a gracious place for all was promised.
And what of those outside the Church- an organisation which it is still sometimes mooted "exists for the benefit of its non-members" (really? excuse me while I laugh.) Once again the Church looks downright dodgy and rather nasty, filled with what I believe are termed  "weirdos" and "haters".
It  rather brings to mind the words of Ghandi- "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A True Lent

IS this a fast,—to keep  
    The larder lean,           
        And clean  
From fat of veals and sheep?     

Is it to quit the dish                 5
    Of flesh, yet still           
        To fill           
The platter high with fish?           

Is it to fast an hour,        
    Or ragg’d to go,                    10
        Or show     
A downcast look and sour?

No! ’t is a fast to dole
 Thy sheaf of wheat,   
        And meat,          15
Unto the hungry soul.   

It is to fast from strife,  
    From old debate         
        And hate,—              
To circumcise thy life.             20

To show a heart grief-rent;         
    To starve thy sin,         
        Not bin,— 

And that ’s to keep thy Lent.  

Robert Herrick 1591-1674

Herrick ponders here how to keep Lent and urges us strongly against the traditional ideas. Don't give up one thing such as meat (or chocolate, or wine) he says, only to compensate by piling your "platter high with fish". In fact don't fast at all, he says, unless it is from hatred and conflict, above all show your concern for others -"the hungry soul"- in Lent and starve your sin, and not your bin! 
A friend, who is actually a former monk but now an agnostic,once told me he saw Lent observances as egotistical and self indulgent. I am sorry to say he actually saw Christianity and most Christians as motivated by egotism. I didn't agree with him, but I listened to his arguments and he made a point we should consider seriously.
I don't really "do" Lent, at least not in the usual way and I won't be doing anything in particular this year. I wish I had something deep and meaningful to say to you about it at the moment but my focus is still on putting one foot in front of the other each day. I think that is going to be enough of a Lent for me but I hope you manage to keep your Lent in whatever way seems right and beneficial to you.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Oxford weekend

The Vaults garden
Just back from a weekend visiting my son in Oxford. My son had arranged accommodation in Jesus College and managed to get me a (free) formal dinner in the college hall on Friday. We also spent Friday afternoon just browsing around Oxford and had soup and the most wonderful peanut butter and banana cake in the vaults teashop gardens.
On Saturday son drove me and his girlfriend to Blenheim Palace and we even walked in the grounds despite drizzle and rain!

 In the evening, I treated them to meal at TheTrout at Wolvercote, it was always one of Kev’s favourite places to visit, so that was quite hard. This morning son had boxing training (it is the Varsity match very soon) and so I went to St Michael’s church near Jesus College- sung Matins which brought back childhood memories. In one of our churches, most of the congregation was so tone deaf that my dad used to parody the end of the Te Deum , Lord vouchsafe to keep us this day without sing, he would say to us on our way to service. The choir at St Michael’s in complete contrast were amazing, such beautiful singing. We then went somewhere Matt recommended for bagels and  ice cream; the photo above is my ice cream about half finished. By then it was starting to be a struggle but I persevered valiantly...
It was a good weekend, difficult in many ways because there were so many memories everywhere, but my son really wanted me to go down and I was glad that I did.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Feeling down

The probate grant/ letter of administration arrived this week so up town today to sort things out. Bitterly cold and the shops full of valentines cards. Horrible to have to sort this crap out, banks and building societies want copies of death certificates, marriage certificates, wills, driving licence, utility bills all the usual as well as endless  forms to fill in.
Felt totally wretched. Only good news was the bank as soon as they saw the grant of probate were happy to transfer the ISA with them immediately into my current account so I wouldn't go overdrawn or have to borrow money from my son. Relieved-  but then I should think so, we've been with them decades.Later on I got a call from the bank to say I'd left my debit card behind so had to borrow money for this week from lovely eldest son anyway!  Next on the list was to visit two building societies, first relatively straightforward, the second was a nightmare, wouldn't sort it out with me until a financial adviser was free and wanted endless documents, they were like that just to close the account back last year so I wasn't surprised.
Got home and felt totally low and alone.I hate financial stuff and I hate certificates and having to write down dates of marriages, deaths on bloody forms.The whole day left me feeling just deeply sad and low.
 I think I am going to have to be firm and resolute in the future about  looking out for myself and my family and putting us first. It might not be what it says in the gospels but sometimes you just have to - because really nobody is going to do it for me.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Weekend visit

My younger son and his girlfriend are visiting this weekend. They were here when I got home from work on Friday night. The first thing lovely son said after he'd greeted me was that they were going to take  me out for lunch today. How grown up he is getting, I thought. The second thing he said was that he had brought his washing home... two large bags of it... so maybe things don't change that much after all:)
It is good to have them both here, the house feels a lot more like home with people coming and going. I've also enjoyed talking to them, about all sorts of subjects, trivial and serious. I have my eldest son at home but he is quieter and often out at work at the weekends; today made me realise how much I miss conversation.
 I've been vaguely following the news from America, but because I feel low at the moment, it just depresses me so much to hear how awful things are and reinforces my feelings of futility so I try to switch off to an extent and let it all wash over me. My son's girlfriend is a Muslim so they both feel quite strongly about what is happening and I feel on their behalf. If you are a parent, you will know how that feels.
So, a grim and gloomy world at the moment, I was sickened that Trump brought out his ban on Syrian refugees on Holocaust Memorial Day. Do we never learn from history? In a world which can be so cruel and painful, why do we make things worse by our actions to each other? 
We went to the Wizard of Edge in Alderley Edge for our lunch. I had the soup which was pumpkin, (very Harry Potter) and a pulled pork burger with chips and salad. It left me feeling very full and I couldn't manage anything else to eat for the rest of the day, said son has been nagging me about whether I am eating enough. I am amused at him turning the tables and  giving me a lecture, he really is growing up...