Reflection (& Beer)

Liam finished his exams last week, and so he and I have taken the opportunity to retreat to Devon for a boy’s weekend midweek. Some beer has been drunk, some good bonding has taken place: hey we walked up and then climbed Haytor yesterday:

WE prayed together at the stunning Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Buckfast Abbey

and crawled around the Back Beach pubs of Teignmouth.

Today: Exeter

In the offline times I have been reading a fascinating book which on the face of it does not appear very theological and yet touches the very heart of what Christian Ministry is about. Recommended by Dr Tim Ling (a proper theologian!) it is called “Why should anyone be led by YOU

It is a general management book, and speaks of the need for authenticity in leadership: something which Christian Ministry should have in spades but which is often faked. Someone only said to me last week “With you, Father, what you see is what you get – you never put a mask on” and I thought that was quite a compliment, as I think that I can only care for people from a position of honesty, and a recognition of my failings and weaknesses. Of course, some are disappointed by that as they do expect a quite unreasonable combination of Alan Sugar and St Francis of Assisi, but you didn’t get either of them as your parish priest: you got me. Authentic leadership inspires, drives, leads by example and is open about its own shortcomings; it builds up those around them and has vision. If more priests started to read this book, maybe some more Christ-like leadership (and I keep seeing Jesus as the archetypal best-leader-ever in the pages of this book) might be forthcoming.


Bring back dangerous childhood!

From Mental Floss:

With today’s paranoia of terrorists, child molesters and more, kids are missing more and more opportunities to go out, have fun and well…be kids.  To fight this, a new parenting mentality has started to arise, arguing that kids should go outside to play rough, even if it means getting a few scrapes and bruises along the way. The free-range parenting movement has been getting a lot of steam lately and the idea has been a hot topic of debate. A recent book called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) has taken the concept one step further and actually recommends fifty different potentially dangerous activities that can help children learn about science, athletics and more.

The problem is that without exposure to mildly dangerous situations children never learn to assess risk, avoid harm and once they reach the magical age of 18 they can’t be expected to respond to the world like adults. Mind you, adults can’t be treated like adults anymore, for the compensation culture and the readiness to sue has made no-one responsible for their own behaviour anymore. It is always someone’s fault, and never your own.

I used to joke (especially as most friends had their families 7-10 years after Lou and I) that with Child 1 you are cautious, by Child 2 you are relaxed and by Child 3 you are positively negligent, but behind this is a realisation that children need to learn responsibility, and a response to the real world, whether that is walking or cycling home from school or being home alone for 10 minutes.


Chinese Tea Instructions – now is that clear?

tea

I have a copy of “The Passion of the Christ” from China for which the English subtitles are so badly translated that it renders the film unusable apart from image grabbing. Emma returned late on Saturday night from an amazing trip to China with her school – it clearly has been a life-changing experience and one which she fully embraced. She returns addicted to Chinese Tea (which I also love) and brought home the above packet.

Do you think they used BabelFish to get this?

Blue high official select for use Oolong tea, American ginseng refined succeeding with modern craft. Particle its size even, color and luster present sand to be getting green, fragrance extremely, is it is it steep, is it put to able to bear to wash to able to bear, the millet paste is clarified to flow clearly tomorrow, will assail the nostrils fragrantly, flavour is mellow, tooth cheek flow fragrant after drinking, contain trace element that human body need, modern ideal health care good merchantable brand


Bureaucracy gone mad!

We lived in Sussex until 1999 when as a family we all moved up to Mirfield for my theological training. Then we had two kids, and Liam and Emma both went to a lovely primary school in Alfriston. We gave all the appropriate notice and moved them both up to School in Yorkshire. Since returning to the South they have both been in full-time education since, and Emma is now 14, and looking to take her GCSEs…

Imagine our surprise when we receive this letter from East Sussex Education Dept:

emma-education-followupThey aren’t interested in Liam, as he is now over 16, but to think that I could have kept my child out of school for TEN YEARS and it has only just been picked up. Is it any wonder that children fall through the net, disappear from contact with education or social services.

As for Emma, she asked me what had happened to her education in the past 10 years. If only I knew…


Bureaucracy gone mad!

We lived in Sussex until 1999 when as a family we all moved up to Mirfield for my theological training. Then we had two kids, and Liam and Emma both went to a lovely primary school in Alfriston. We gave all the appropriate notice and moved them both up to School in Yorkshire. Since returning to the South they have both been in full-time education since, and Emma is now 14, and looking to take her GCSEs…

Imagine our surprise when we receive this letter from East Sussex Education Dept:

emma-education-followupThey aren’t interested in Liam, as he is now over 16, but to think that I could have kept my child out of school for TEN YEARS and it has only just been picked up. Is it any wonder that children fall through the net, disappear from contact with education or social services.

As for Emma, she asked me what had happened to her education in the past 10 years. If only I knew…


The Middlesex Hospital – The Names of the Wards and How they got to be that way

As a former Middlesex Hospital (Mortimer Street, London W1) Registered Nurse (Holmes Sellors Cardiothoracic Surgery, HDU and then ITU and well as 75% of my training), I have been more than saddened by the destruction of the building and the slice of Fitzrovia history that it has taken with it.

Lou found this long out of print book and scanned it for your edification and education

frontpage

The pdf can be downloaded from here – enjoy!


Emma – a further update

Well, as dutiful and caring parents we went home at about 9.30pm to let the girl sleep. She was fine, and we’d only cramp her style. As I mentioned before, Emma sits in that middle position: mature enough to be independent and self-confident enough to not need us, and yet still, little, vulnerable and well, still ours. So, once we’d seen her right, we left her too it.

I phoned this morning to see how she is, and the nurse who answered the phone said “would you like me to hand the phone to Mum?” “That’s clever” I said “as she’s stood next to me!” It must be the standard response.

That mild amusement aside, Emma is fine. The other children and parents on the ward (loud new diabetic kid and small quiet little girl with a mum who spends all the time on the phone) were ‘doing her head in’ with the noise, and I know she’ll be looking forward to getting home later today.

Yes, it was a massive cyst, but just that it would appear: no evidence of malignancy, Praise God. The cyst had twisted the ovary and therefore both the ovary and the cyst had died, probably within the first 24 hours of her abdominal pain; so she had it all removed on that side. That’s why you have two: you can fly perfectly well on one engine, and there are no real long term implications for fertility.

The surgeon told us that she can go back to school later next week, so now I have to arrange for a week’s worth of school work so she doesn’t start (continue?) slacking. She has been brilliant throughout all this, and I am very proud of her.


Well, it has started…

I think it’s the hanging around which is the most difficult to bear – the desire to be here in Hospital with Emma, and the realisation that everything else, including the needs of the other two and the pastoral work of the parish are set aside while we sit here… and do nothing.

Why are we here? Engaged in this vigil which I am not sure Emma really needs or wants (not quite a fully grown-up, self assured young woman, but almost, and still my little one). The surgery today could be (on reflection) a mere trifle – a benign cyst which can be removed by keyhole surgery, done and dusted, or something much more sinister and complex, and the beginning of a more complex form of treatment. It could, of course, be somewhere down the middle – something non-threatening that requires a bigger-than-keyhole surgery to resolve, but then that will be all.

Throughout this whole episode, Emma has remained sensible, realistic and very very grown up. She has demonstrated a maturity far beyond her 14 years and a matter-of-fact approach to the growth and the surgery.

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I am very proud of her.

I am also hugely touched by the prayers and masses offered for her, and for us. It has really made a difference. Colleagues from near and far have offered to cover funerals (but it is a bit quiet in Elson at the moment, to be honest). Others have offered to change their plans and many many more have set about working on their knees.

You have all supported us so wonderfully, and I want to pray tribute to you all.

The problem is now, how to cope with the massive stretches of nothingness: here we sit whilst she is in surgery – and we are powerless. It is in the hands of God, and his alone through the Gynaecologist, the very nice and highly thought of Mr Golland.

It is our faith which carries us through this. If you have experienced similar, or by reading this, simply have thought “there but for the grace of God, go I”, then you will see what I mean. This posting is very light on theology (as I suspect is this blog), but it carries with it the rawness of faith – the awareness of God and the profound comfort and assurance only He can give. I wonder idly whether the £135,000 raised for the Atheist bus posters really actually helps anyone, or whether the money shouldn’t have gone on third-world aid, or Great Ormond Street, or youth work in Elson rather than saying (rather weakly, I thought) that there probably wasn’t a God. Without faith, I don’t know how we would have got through this, and with the intercession of the faithful (that’s you), Our Blesséd Lady and the Company of Saints, Emma will be fine.

Simon+