Loyal Sam

Years ago, a group of us saw the Lord of the Rings films together.  Which was all very well until we remembered one of us had a serious spider phobia.  Not good news when Shelob is lurking in awful gloomy darkness ready to pounce on a tasty hobbit snack. Not long before we’d been to Wales on holiday and also, I think to Scotland.  Big hills, wonky bridges and wet walks, where we returned, smelling as attractive as wet dogs.  So we got to the film scene where Frodo is trying to escape alone to continue his mission.  Without Sam, his loyal friend, who can’t swim. He’s dragged, protesting, into the boat and they carry on into the next book/film together to have more adventures.  My dear friend who had dragged me uncomplaining, above my “I’m terrified” climbing height, and over a bridge with no discernable footway left on – for fun – I enjoyed it! (I think) started calling me “Sam” and laughing!!! Not impressed; for one thing I swim like a seal.  Mercifully it’s not a nick name that stuck…

So here’s the thing, I had a little bit of fun doing a myers briggs freebie quiz recently.  I find personality quizzes entertaining and useful to understand a small bit more about the differences between how I react and how others see the world.  And as long as it stays fun, that’s ok, because people are complicated and they don’t fit tick boxes.

And who should turn up as my “avatar” illustrating my suggested personality type, but the little guy at the foot of the page, my old friend Sam.  Turns out he’s there as an illustration of those of us who score high on loyalty, and being prepared at all times. (ISFJ for those who like this game) That would explain why the most exciting thing about guide camp for me was the pre camp packing list.  And kit inspections – I can still remember “pencil, paper, piece of string, clean white hanky, safety pin, two pence, piece of plaster” which we were required to carry in our capacious blue uniform pockets at all times.  No, I never cleaned my badge on my tie at last minute dot.com .  Going on a operation mobilisation christian mission to Birmingham, sadly Aunty Sal (one of the oldest) always had blister plaster, painkillers, small bible and dry socks to lend out.  Like Sam, I’ve been known to mutter the equivalent of “rope, I always knew I’d need it” when at family “do’s” (my family always forget something vital) and walking holidays.  Suncream – in April?  Of course.


Battle scars

My mum makes fantastic cakes. Sticky crunchy top lemon drizzle, got-to-have another piece coffee and walnut, chocolate with buttercream and chocolate buttons.  Being of a similar square, enthusiastic food eating body design, dad and I can’t resist (seconds)

I didn’t inherit the family cake “genes”, I’ve filled my freezer with disaster trifle sponge offerings, collapsed wonky lopsided, undercooked (blame the oven) disasters. My church homegroup/bible study group has a baking rota.  Mine have so far all been bought from tesco or co-op. One home group I turned up even when poorly just because I knew I would get some of our hosts incredible cake (sponge with white chocolate butter icing and chocolate buttons) Hidden shallows….

But now I have my baking “battle scar” – an oven shelf burn and a successful “viccy sponge” pronounced light and fluffy by someone who really knows how to make a can-I-have-another-piece or will that appear impossibly greedy cake!  Storming triumph!

Think the next experiment is going to have to involve icing.  That’s a bit of a holy mystery to me.  Currently I’m taking steroids for an asthma flare up.  There’s a good reason for the food theme here – they make me endlessly, ravenously hungry.  I’m just grateful they work as breathing is such a vital, taken-for-granted thing.  One of the few things in life that makes me feel truly fragile is having to ask for help and needing the kindness of friends when I just can’t summon up the energy. That’s an everyday reality for so many people so it feels shabby even to admit that.

Gas leaks & painted doors

When I bought my house, it looked a bit neglected.  The wooden sash windows were jammed shut with paint, one of the gas fires was leaking and my dad, a retired gas fitter, advised I get the other one taken out as it was installed in the 1970s and not likely to be safe despite being regularly serviced.  Outside, a large grubby looking shed lurked on a concrete plinth: later I found to my cost that it was roofed with asbestos.  The owner had taken all the light bulbs except the one that wouldn’t shift, and left holes where she’d ripped out all the shelves and fittings.  She’d been hard at work stripping paint off the bedroom doors, which hung off their hinges – in all their pine rawness!  It was cold, uninviting and very cheap.  I loved it because it seemed solid and well built and in the almost twenty years I’ve had it, I’ve spent a goodly amount of time painting it and paying money to tradesmen to love it for me.  One of my first jobs, after getting those very solid, heavy doors rehung was to slap clean white gloss paint on them.  And varnish on the downstairs stripped pine cupboards.  It’s a good job she didn’t come back to visit!

Someone asked me why I have been so honest in this blog.  It’s a good question.  For years I think I have slapped paint on the surface of my life and hidden some of the underlying framework, afraid that the quality of the build isn’t good enough.  But I am slowly learning to be a bit more open, and finding that actually that’s such a freeing thing to do.  I’m sure there’s a bit of theology there too.

When I was trying to cope with losing a friend, reading a couple of blogs was helpful to me: it gave me hope that feeling dreadful wouldn’t last – the other hope inspiring thing was buying a new rucksack and planning to walk Hadrian’s Wall.   I didn’t want to talk too much because I wasn’t that solid, and spending my day planning lorry courses seemed a useful thing to do.  The men I worked with didn’t worry much anyway.  So I hope that a little transparency is a good thing from an “I’m fine” sort of person.

Good morning Costa!

I’m a shameless costa drinker. I love the habit of pre work coffee watching the sunlight coming through the trees and the wind riffling the pages of my journal in summer or sunk deep in their nice stripy over size armchairs with my bible and a study book in winter.  That sounds so very good.  The reality is that I spend too much of my discretionary “fun and frolics” budget there and it’s becoming a bit of a must have.  When I was 18 I read the classic christian book “celebration of discipline” by Richard Foster.  I was too young for it as both person and christian – it had quite a harmful effect on me in several ways – I could have done with mature people around me at the time to chat it through with but they just weren’t there.  But I do remember his advice to eliminate anything that encourages a physical or psychological dependancy in you.  For me that’s definitely costa coffee!! I’m going for a morning costa free August.

A friend of mine managed a whole month without chocolate and I was seriously impressed.  What’s challenged me is the news from foodbank that they are out of coffee and the fact that we normally have a “summer of prayer” during August, complete with a days’ fast being encouraged.  Not me – I turn into Attila the hun crossed with a German shepherd without food and my medically inclined friends banned me.  But coffee…..I don’t need that do I?!!?

This is their site and current needs list:


Finding a voice

I’m writing this blog for me.  Should you happen to read with me, fantastic, but it started life on the advice of someone “mentoring”me to find an outlet for my writing that would somewhat dilute the grimness I was experiencing at work.  I’ve written since I was about 17.  I have been to a couple of creative writing type workshops – one of them on story writing had me with sweaty palms and near to tears as I was the last to read my “creation” and I was surrounded by writers reading lush prose, imaginative detail and I had a pretty thinly disguised factual account of a snow deep, breathtaking, silent morning walk up Snowdon!  The workshop leader told me I was being hard on myself but I was incredibly frustrated.  I spent the other workshop staring at the climbing wall behind the speaker, mesmerised by the different coloured holds and tracing routes I would take if I could climb.  I can remember the lunch – bagels and bacon, salad and fruit but precious little else!  I have put together several booklets of “verse” for friends, but I can see that they contain meticulously observed detail of landscapes I love and draw on images culled from real life experience.  I love words; particularly word associations and the big ideas of books and science or history documentaries.  I love to walk and think and I am an awful one for listening with one ear and looking at details!  I always thought poetry was my “format” – maybe it still is – but this feels like undiluted fun! I also love scripture and taking a bible verse “for a walk round” so I can think about it works for me.  Most things feel better outside.  Maybe that’s just an excuse for being totally unable to sit still after a week wearing a phone headset, always expecting another call.

Pictures & pie charts

Today I’ve spent about four hours creating pie charts with colours and data labels of exciting things like ethnicity, gender and entry qualification.  First I had to teach myself as my excel skills were learned during the Jurassic age. So before I go and drive out some swimming lengths, here’s a puzzle: two of the murals below are outside Rougemont gardens – where’s the third one?  A bar of green and blacks to the winner!






Wild City

I’ve loved the Exeter “Wild City” project between the City council and Devon Wildlife Trust- see their website. http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/exeter-wild-city

Here’s a couple photos I took on an early morning walk.  Beautiful, here today gone tomorrow flowers – my favourite roundabout ones are now an untidy pile of weeds.  I can’t help thinking maybe it saves the council money on planting but it’s good so good for the environment.  Oh and I could have photographed the rough sleepers under the City bridge – selective photography I am afraid.