A great knit

I have been convalescing lately and needed to keep myself occupied without any physical exertion. Daytime TV might have been an option but I opted instead to reduce my considerable stash of yarn accumulated over a lifetime of knitting. In recent years I have knitted a whole series of jumpers, mostly for others and there is always some, if not a lot of wool left over and there it sits, crammed into various corners of cupboards and wardrobes, wrapped in a variety of plastic bags, waiting for someone to come along and liberate it into something amazing. What to do with all these odds and ends? Well knit small items and in more than one colour! So it is that I have revised my skills with knitting in more than one colour at a time and rediscovering what fun it is to knit in the round. I have produced two hats, three pairs of mittens and two pairs of socks this year so far.
Here are my stash busting Easter socks – the pattern is the standard heel and gusset variety of sock with a design of my own. Knitted in double knit wool rather than ‘proper’ sock yarn so they are not meant for everyday wear but for special occasions – like Easter day!
I know that a lot of people would say, “Why go to all that effort to knit something that you can buy really cheaply in the shops?” Firstly there is nothing that can beat that feeling of soft comfort around your feet when you put on a pair of hand knitted socks. These particular socks are made of soft pure wool and they positively caress your feet. Secondly, you cannot buy socks with this design from shops. Thirdly, you cannot beat the magic of sock knitting. They don’t take very long – you can usually knit a pair on a bit of evening time only over a couple of weeks or sooner if you are a quick knitter. And then there is the alchemy of knitting in one direction and turning the heel so you are knitting in the other. So, I have now rediscovered the fun I first enjoyed as a teenager of knitting socks with any design I like and with something that fits really well to wear at the end. Nowadays there are real sock yarns that do clever things like ‘self stripe’! Looks like I will need to buy some new yarn to try that out – so as fast as I am knitting up my yarn stash, I will probably be acquiring more…
I never was much good at arithmetic – perhaps I should blame my knitting habit for that!

All at Sea

Ahoy there, shipmates! About every 3 years we follow some sort of theme during the summer in our church which enables us to combine our Sunday worship with the wider world. Previous themes have included Travels with St Paul in which we matched modern cities to the ones St Paul visited and thought about urban life, ideas, globalisation etc. We have also had as a theme The Elements in which we considered water, land, air and fire. This one paired up some famous Bible stories and current scientific knowledge about our universe. And so it was time for another theme and we have chosen The Sea which you may think is a bit perverse since here in Oxford is just about as far from the sea as you can get in Britain. It is for this very reason that we need to remind ourselves just how much we have relied on the seas and still do as a nation. Not surprisingly it is also a major feature of Bible imagery.

So from 30th June to 25th August this year we shall be engaging in a whole variety of sea inspired services and events. Sunday mornings we delve (or should I say ‘dive’) into some well known and lesser known sea passages in the Scriptures and as the weeks go by we shall be on a spiritual voyage from birth/baptism onwards as we sound the depths of human experiences in life and death and beyond.

Alongside Sunday mornings we have some sort of social gathering or event with nautical inspiration: a couple of film evenings, a boat trip, a visit to the dockyard museum in Portsmouth, a trip to the seaside and more.

In addition we have a couple of talks from those who have experience of sea going (a rower who took part in the Trireme reconstruction project and a former Royal Navy man on life in a submarine) and we have nominated a ‘Vessel of the Week’ in which we all think about its purpose and produce some material to make a display on our large back wall in church. If goes according to plan we will end up with an impressive and informative presentation of the many ways we rely on the sea. During the school summer holidays we are challenging our children to build a model ship for under £10 which will actually float…

If you would like to know more or you have clicked through from the parish website to find out what is happening this link will take you to the right place Summer Poster of events

The Wizard of OZ

Well it seems that a simple song in a musical can become a political hot potato. I cannot quite believe that on the BBC website I have just read that if “Ding Dong! The witch is dead” does make it into the Top 40 on Radio 1 tonight only a 5 second clip will be played and a news editorial will explain. On the other hand if another song called “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher” gets into the chart then we will have the song played in the normal fashion. What?! The first song which has been out there in the public domain since 1939 and so not composed as a protest song or to get at anyone in particular is being censored but a song which is clearly partisan is allowed? Really?

Sorry, did I wake up in some parallel universe where freedom of speech has been abolished and only pro Government propaganda is permitted by the allegedly politically unbiased BBC…

I am now wondering just what this might do to our political debates – let’s imagine Prime Minister’s Question Time where only supportive comments can be made and anything remotely critical of Government policy is instantly stifled by Mr Speaker. Mmm not going to do much for debate is it? Then again all sorts of policies are currently being implemented which had no prior airing in any party manifesto and received no mandate from the Electorate so this seems a minor point in comparison. Ah, so I have woken up in a parallel universe…

In which case then were I to form a band and write a song called “I am not in love with Margaret Thatcher” would it be played on Radio 1 (assuming it sold in sufficient numbers of course) without a gagging order?

We are in a sorry mess if the sort of peaceful protest of buying an old song is to be suppressed because some people cannot accept that the same person they choose to admire inspires opposition in others. No prizes for guessing that Margaret Thatcher is a divisive political figure. Surely in a mature Democracy we would rather have a musical contest than the good old days of the 1980’s which involved mounted police, baton charges and scaffold poles?

Now where did I leave my guitar…?

New Pyjamas

I must move about more in my sleep than I imagine judging by the rapidity with which my pyjamas keep wearing out – mostly the waist band. So, as I was forced to abandon yet another pair last week I went online to see what might be on offer that was neither revealing lingerie which won’t keep a gnat warm on a frosty night and tacky pink – pink is simply so not my colour!

Speedy delivery
Before long I was surfing away down a list of possibles. There were a few false starts – a great red pair but not available in my size. Still after about 10 minutes or so I had located a reasonable combo of checked trousers with long sleeved dark grey top and nothing worse than ‘I love sleep’ as the legend across the front. I ordered them online in the afternoon and was impressed to find they had been delivered the very next morning.

Packaging with a punch
Now for the fun bit of unpacking them – The outer delivery wrapping was a large plastic pocket sealed with super glue but my brute strength helped me rip it open to reveal 2 cellophane packages within. I pulled the first one out to examine the stuck on printed label and check they had in theory sent the right size – and there in black and white (literally large thick black letters on the white sticky label) was written Size 16 Extra Large – what! Size 16 (which is my size) is ‘Extra Large’ are you kidding me?!

Supersize Me
I may be carrying a bit of an extra tyre around the midriff these days but “Ten Ton Tess I am decidedly not and actually Size 16 is the ‘Average’ for an adult woman. OK my friends might quibble about how ‘adult’ they would describe me but full grown certainly. Who are these idiots? Should the brand name “Miss Fiori” have given me the clue that any customer over a Size 8 would be considered gross? Assuming just for a mad moment I really am the average size, I am left wondering where all those larger ladies buy their pyjamas – or maybe they just don’t bother.

Sweet Little Sixteen
So, have I now made a New Year’s Resolution to slim down to a Size 14 (presumably ‘Large’) or even a Size 12 (Medium)? Well no, actually. Even in my super fit days (ah yes, there was a time when I could describe myself as athletic and no-one would laugh) I was a well honed and toned Size 16 – I’ll hang on to my curves, thanks, and wait for the day when the fashion industry join the real world. So I am proud to be Size 16 and that’s how I intend to stay – maybe lose the spare tyre though?

Last day of 2012


Credit: Champagne Glass
Creative Commons: Ryan Hyde

After many miles and hours spent on the road or in church Christmas 2012 has begun well, the family greeted and some lovely presents received. All that remains now is to settle down for some time off. Today I have got to grips with a bit more on the website, including adding a suitable new Header for the site. In the first 4 days of 2013 I am planning to indulge myself by listening to the Radio, doing some work on my family history, reading recently acquired books and putting together the Veg Plan for the year ahead – assuming it has to stop raining eventually…So a quiet start to the New Year for me which is just what I need at this stage in proceedings. I shall though, toast in the New Year – so Happy 2013 everyone.

The rain it raineth everyday

Weather symbolHow much more can there be to come down? The wettest year on record and given that until March we had an official drought it must be the wettest 9 months on record? It looks like there is still more rain on its way so not yet time to put those wellies and brollies away. You know things are bad even for Brits with our habitual weather obsession when you find yourself discussing different words for rain with a neighbour. 50 words for rain, anybody? Sadly, there seems to be no truth in that the sky has ever rained cats and dogs anymore than we should take the song “It’s raining men” at face value either. But the weather does seem to bring out the poetical and imaginative in us and this is evident currently on the weather reports on the BBC. “There’s plenty of cloud to be had” “it’s a windy story” “more rain on offer” are commonly heard phrases. Apparently we can ‘lose’ wet weather and fronts or systems can “plough” in a given direction. Sometimes I begin to see that the ancients were not so mad when they imagined winds as deities and earlier map makers placed little cherubs breathing out cloud bursts to indicate points of the compass.

Talking about the Weather

Of course for those who live in Britain the weather is famously an obsession but it does afford a talking point, dare I say an ice breaker, and enables us to strike up conversation with strangers in an acceptable way. The fact that our weather is so unpredictable means we do have to be aware of what is going on in the world around us to some extent. I might have said we need to know when to wear appropriate gear but I have just observed a fully grown man walking past my house in windy wet weather dressed in shorts and a flimsy hoodie! So let me just say most of us like to be dressed suitably for the prevailing weather conditions. So, we do pay attention to the weather but I wonder how much we understand what is going on.

Climate Change is just a lefty conspiracy?

When we first began to hear about ‘Climate Change’ many of us in Britain imagined we would become like a Mediterranean country and that we would have endless hot sunshine. The summer of 1976 but permanently. But even then scientists were trying to get across to us that we were not going to benefit by becoming the dream summer holiday destination resort of Costa Brittanica. Gardeners, who tend to be a bit more savvy have begun to risk growing some plants which are less frost hardy only to find the last couple of winters something of a challenge for sub tropical specimens like banana trees. We also grow more drought resistant plants – mmm. As for those of us who try to grow our own vegetables it has been a constant battle with drought, cold, wet and the consequent outbreak of pests, especially slugs this year. Whereas the growing season sometimes started later than the norm or we got a bit of a warmer autumn extending the season a bit, nowadays you really have to be prepared for extremes. I have become increasingly grateful for anything I manage to produce in my own patch because of this. Scientists and horticulturalists are now all saying some rather large shifts are happening in an unprecedented way which go far beyond previous climatic shifts and it really is down to human activity.

Conservation is Preservation

So, taking care of precious natural resources and species as conservationists have been urging for over half a century are seen to be the ones with real common sense now. Those clinging to some pea brained idea that only trendy muesli eating lefties in sandals are promoting a liberal takeover on the back of the environmental crisis are seriously mistaken and increasingly looking like ostriches with their head in the sand – and there is more of that in the Sahara these days due to climate change. The reality is that we are thoughtlessly plundering the earth and the natural environment has a way of trying to balance things out. We could make more effort nationally, internationally as well as personally in 2013 to treat the planet with more respect and one another whilst we are at it.

Still it rains

It has begun raining even harder now but I am tucked up indoors with some good books to enjoy and then of course there is the weather forecast to look forward to later. I wonder what we will be having or losing in the next 24 hours?

God rest you merry, gentlemen?

St Stephen's House TutorI am putting together all the Christmas sheets and handouts at the moment and one of the carols we are singing this year is God rest you merry, gentlemen. Out of linguistic curiosity I searched on the internet for inclusive versions and got involved in a whole trail of interesting blogs and comments. The best suggested inclusive version is to sing “God rest you merry, gentlefolk” – hardly any easier on the modern ear and it has what I call the ‘ouch’ factor – it is so obviously a tampering with the archaic English that you can hear the gears grinding. It has always seemed to me that the real art with inclusive language is to be so inclusive as to be unobtrusive.


God rest you…

During the various discussions I came across some points were well made – some attempts to be inclusive actually changes the overall meaning of what was intended by the original writer of the lyrics. So, I agree with those who point out that the first line of this carol is a prayer of blessing along the lines of “May God…’ and that rest you merry is akin to expressions like ‘rest content’ and that ‘you’ is not to replaced with ‘ye’ as it switches the object to the vocative. All of this sort of tampering confirms me in my instinct that with many venerable ancient English texts it is best to leave it as the original authors intended otherwise you run the danger of distorting their meaning. If that original meaning is somewhat challenging to the 21st century reader then it can be discussed and in some cases perhaps dropped from usage (for example if anti-Semitic) but this popular carol  does not overtly promote misogynistic thinking so is best left untampered and enjoyed for what it is, a wonderfully jaunty re-telling of part of the Christmas story.


“Peace to all men”

Some threads though elicited comments about the song of the angels in Luke chapter 2 verse 14 – in many places we hear this rendered along the lines of:  “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to all men” – some of the critics of the politically correct approach tend at this juncture to produce obvious examples of what they claim is unnecessary tidying up of such language  and which they suggest is interference of an unwarranted nature. In this way they attempt to debunk the entire inclusive language idea.

It is at this point that the Greek scholar in me takes over. In the latest scholarly edition of the Greek New Testament Luke’s text reads in a literal translation: Glory in the Highest (heavens) to God and on earth peace in/among people of goodwill”  The word used for ‘people’ is the noun ‘anthropos’ from which we derive our terms ‘anthropology’, philanthropy etc. Greek has other words used specifically for those of the specifically male gender and  for those of a female gender. This word tends to function as a more inclusive term – in modern English it is often translated as ‘person’ or ‘people’. The same is true for the Latin version which uses ‘homo’ rather than ‘vir.

Our ancestors translated many such texts using Man/Mankind with a Capital letter as a reference to humans generally because this is how English expressed humanity as a category – it is hard to tell how many of them were thinking of these in definitely exclusivist terms all along because it has only become an issue in modern times. With the angelic song in Luke even if we revert to the alternative reading “goodwill in/among people” the choice of words have not changed merely that in the currently preferred reading peace is bestowed on those of goodwill and in the variant reading good will is bestowed on people in the same general category as before. With this particular text the onus of defence is really on those who wish to stick to ‘men’ in modern usage. By all means leave it in when quoting or using the 1611 Authorized Version but otherwise the more general and inclusive versions prove to be more in line with the original texts.


Not all men are equal

And so not all men are equal especially in Biblical texts and Men does include all those who belong to the human species in older English texts. In sermons, parish magazine articles and other media output these days we should be careful about our language – whatever some of us were taught in our childhood ‘men’ comes across as ‘male only’ in our current age and just as other words inherited from the past have changed meaning such as the famous “Prevent us, O Lord” so we need to be more precise in our discourse. The split infinitive seems here to stay and ‘upcoming’ has replaced ‘forthcoming’. Like some of the bloggers and commentators I read I too find some of the shifts in the English language are not all for the best but I am also prepared to accept that some verbal assumptions can cause genuine offence and, somewhat curiously, in adapting my own speech and written language to be more inclusive I find myself upholding that age old tradition of my ancestors – politeness!

New Catholic neighbour

Friday is meant to be my one ‘day off’ but now and again something comes along which warrants attention. Yesterday I was invited to the Induction Mass for the newly arrived Roman Catholic Priest. Mercifully it had stopped belting down with rain and the 5º C temperature felt positively balmy after the recent freeze. The congregation was welcoming, there were many friends from our locality there and all the other churches in our ecumenical circuit were represented. The choir were in fine voice and so Fr Augustus was duly placed in office as parish priest and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for all our Catholic neighbours. It was one of those occasions when we were all reminded what we are really all about as followers of Jesus Christ – with the Eucharist at the heart of all our living and striving for justice and reconciliation. It was an encouraging event and I am glad I went

I am back

I am back in operation after a very busy few months and a bit more understanding about how these web sites are supposed to operate. So, after a bit of a makeover and some housekeeping I hope to be able to share more of my thoughts with the wider world on a regular basis.

But for now I must stop – time for tea and then a visit to our local Catholic Church. More news soon then…