Monday, 16 October 2017


Have I ever posted about football before? Probably not, because I'm not that bothered about it unless Newcastle are playing. But The Magpies are in the news tonight, and this time it's not because we've been beaten. (Drew with Southampton away at the weekend, if you'd like to know.)

I never knew a thing about football except that you have to kick the ball into that net thing at the end. Preferably the right net thing at the right end, or they call it an own goal, which isn't fair because it's an accident, or even a gaccident. I always thought it would be more sensible to give them a ball each, then they wouldn't have to fight over the same one. But when I had two growing sons I learned very quickly. They were happy to explain things to their ignorant-but-willing-to-learn mum, and I learned phrases like 'strike partner', 'top corner' 'THAT WAS A PENALTY', and 'couldn't hit a cow's bum with a tennis racket'. I could enjoy watching football with two enthusiastic sons. Hamilton Bear got absolutely passionate about it. The boys were here this weekend and he was in seventh heaven, watching Match of The Day with them.

The news tonight is that the present owner of the club, Mike Ashley, is selling it. Mr Ashley - how can I put this? - has not been universally popular with the fans. He has not endeared himself to the crowds at St James's Park. He does not, shall we say, enhance the quality of conversation at the Leazes End. There is now much speculation about who will own Newcastle United next, and whether it'll be all sorted this year, and what effect it will have.

What is called for here is for the club to be bought by a loyal black and white syndicate. I suspect the buy out team is already gathering in a Tynemouth pub -

'Money doesn't grow on trees, so let's get fund-raising. Pass the hat around. Get some lottery tickets. We can have a quiz night, and a raffle, definitely a raffle. Who'll give a raffle prize? Bill?'

'You can raffle me Granda. He makes a grand garden gnome.'

'I'll hire out the bairn for bird scaring. And we'll have a Christmas Fair.'

'Tracey, get knitting. You can sell little cuddly black and white teddy bears for a fiver a kick. Linda! Linda! You can do the cake stall. Chocolate cupcakes, scones, brownies, lemon drizzle, never mind as long as it's all black and white. We'll have a Kevin Keegan lookalike competition and we'll get Rafa Benitez to be Father Christmas. How much do we need to make? About 200 million? Nee bother. We'll make that much just by raffling Bill's Granda.'

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


Yes, I'm still here. Sorry. Family stuff, work stuff, garden stuff, church stuff, going on holiday, going to sleep. All of that. But I'm still here, and I hope you are too. The tree in the garden keeps dropping apples on us and I caught sight of a certain squirrel with a basket on her arm.

You might remember that Mum died in May and the following day my sister was in a terrible road accident. Well, my sister's care was excellent, she is a tough lady, she was well prayed for, and she is now getting about on crutches. She, thank God, is still here. This week we met to put Mum's ashes in the soft dark earth.

There were just five of us there, her two daughters, two sons-in-law, and the vicar. We gathered in the Garden of Remembrance outside the church by the sea where she was married. From then on she attended week by week until dementia and frailty crept up on her. She ran the Mothers' Union for a while, and a playgroup, she baked, dished up and washed up as church ladies do, she befriended, encouraged, and generally did what needed doing. For a while she and her friend did the cleaning of a little upstairs chapel while listening to the organist practising. Our cat was a church cat. (A church kitten, in fact. The curate adopted a stray which promptly had babies. His landlady didn't mind the cat but she wasn't taking on the whole family, so the kittens needed homes. Ours proved to be an Alpha Female. She'd follow us to church and be carried out by a fully robed acolyte.)

I digress. This is about Mum, and she would not be pleased at being upstaged by the cat. Now that dementia Mum has died I have much clearer memories of the way she was in her best days, practical, welcoming, funny, down to earth. She loved having a houseful of friends, especially young people. There was always cake in the tins and a sewing or knitting project on the go. We argued a lot, I raged at her in my teenage years. Mums can cope with that.

We met on a bright, windy afternoon. Mum would have said it 'blew the cobwebs away'. The sky and the sea were bright blue beyond the green as we settled her into the earth and remembered her tucking us into bed. It was her day.

For her and for those of us here, there is the Celtic Blessing. There are various versions of this about and I can't trace the origin, but it comes from the Celtic Christian tradition. I think I first heard of it via the Iona Community.

Deep Peace of the Running Wave to you
Deap Peace of the Flowing Air to you
Deep Peace of the Quiet Earth to you
Deep Peace of the Shining Stars to you
Deep Peace of the Son of Peace to you.

Thursday, 7 September 2017


For the first time since I can't remember when, I have a whole day at home. The end of August took us to Greenbelt Festival, which you'll find here

and it was like this -

and this


and Hamilton was such a Greenbelt Bear

It's about faith, arts, and justice. The sun poured down on us through beautiful music, incisive and inspiring talks, performances, crafts and worship. Lucy Grace gave a moving and funny one woman show about her hunt for Lucy Barfield, C S Lewis's goddaughter to whom he dedicated The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Katherine Welby-Roberts talked with great clarity, humour and honesty about mental health problems. The Nine Beats Collective, who take the Beatitudes as their principle for life, did compelling real life stories and loud music. John Bell of the Iona Community talked about Brexit and Trump, and absolutely nailed it.

My head was still spinning when we came home and Daughter, Daughter's Chap and Frodo came to stay, then LOS and Lady Sunshine arrived. Much hugging, splashing and blowing of bubbles. Then there were some very busy days to do with church stuff. And now I'm back at the computer, with the air outside turning autumnal, the apple tree heavy, and blackberries in the garden. Time for a change of pace, and to process all that I learned and experienced at Greenbelt so that I carry it into the new season.

Thursday, 17 August 2017


On Sunday afternoon I was in puppy heaven. We visited a ruined castle on the Welsh Borders and found that it was a magnet for families with young children and dogs, all of them impressively well behaved. I met so many puppies! The kids were delightful too, but PUPPIES!!!! A teeny beagle and a teenier Yorkie running around like an animated toothbrush. A St Bernard with a coat so thick and soft you could have lost a small child in there. Some sort of poodle cross looking for things to bark at. I'm very much looking forward to meeting somebody's new spaniel puppy soon.

All these, apart from the poodle thing, were pedigrees. I'm not. I'm a mongrel. I like mongrels. They tend to be tough. I have a friend who can trace her family back to ancient Norsemen via Alfred the Great. There was some serious nobility in her family, but, as she says, the nobles didn't get there by being nice.

Various people have climbed into the branches of my family tree. They either fell out or got dive bombed by puffins. We know that the Scottish branch goes back to a place near Glasgow where there were so many McAllisters it becomes impossible to find out which one was which. Grandma's lot were Londoners/South Coast and somebody reckoned that they were descended from the Bourbon kings, but to be honest the Bourbon kings weren't that particular and I suspect a lot of us are descended from them. As for Mum's family, it seems that for generations they wandered around England to wherever the work was. However, I have reddish hair, pale skin and blue eyes, so that means I have real ancient Pictish ancestors. They're just mixed up with a lot of other things, bits of Saxon, Viking, Norman, and, for all I know, refugees from anywhere in Europe that was going into meltdown.

None of us, or very few, are pedigrees. In the UK, unless all sides of your family have occupied the same few Celtic counties for hundreds of years, you're a mongrel. In the States, unless you're pure Native American, you are descended from immigrants.

Whatever you believe your race to be, we are all mongrels.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


Dear Sunshine

If we have said or done anything to upset you this August, we in the north of England are truly sorry. We didn't mean it. We love you very much. And we miss you. We've hardly seen you for weeks and weeks. Please come back. We promise you ice cream and sun cream, t-shirts and tea in the garden, beaches and peaches. We will wear shades and drink Pimms in your honour. If you want water fights, you can have them. Pour into our gardens shine through our windows, and stay as long as you like.

Last week Tony and I read the weather forecast and went to Harlow Carr anyway. All those gardens! As well as the walks, the borders, the ponds and the stream there are plenty of places to take shelter - little wooden sheds, the exhibition, the funny little alpine house and the summer house. It didn't matter that the rain starting pelting down soon after we got there because we were in Betty's, ho-ho, having lunch. By the time we'd finished the 'I really really shouldn't' and swigged the coffee, the sky was clear.

We'd wandered the woodland and had a pleasant chat with the moorhens when the rain began again and bucketed down for twenty minutes while we took shelter. Then the sun came out and we walked up between the flower borders. Raindrops shone on leaves, lay on petals, and hung on to the delicate grasses. Sunshine made them sparkle. We walked through fields of diamonds.

The next day brought another kind of diamond. I attended a Quiet Garden Retreat Day. A local lady, kind, wise and experienced in spirituality, opened her home and garden for retreatants. She gave us some thoughts and readings to be going on with and let us read, draw, pray, meditate, and enjoy the garden. I made friends with a cat. I thought about treasure. I came away with more diamonds.

Monday, 24 July 2017


A mess tends to get worse before it gets better. It is important to remember that. This week I tried to do some sorting out of all the knitting, sewing and crafting stuff that has gathered round me over the years. Yes, I do mean 'gathered around me'. I don't deliberately acquire it. It tangles me up. It follows me home. Beads, needles and ribbons are sociable creatures and gather together. They collect each other, as teddy bears do. That's why they don't stay in their own bundles, they cuddle each other, they twist up together and tie themselves in knots. Me too, if they get the chance. I fought off several metres of organza ribbon. half a mile of pink bias binding nearly choked me, and don't get me started on bead wire. That was an encounter I'd rather forget, but they don't call it Memory Wire for nothing.

I blame the daughters-in-law. (The Daughter is Innocent in this.) A few years ago we went to the Knitting and Stitching Show, and did they try to stop me? Did they drag me away from the special offers? No, they stood and smiled, that's what they did. And last Monday when we were staying with the Sunshines, I happened to say something to Lady Sunshine about knitting. She TOOK ME TO A WOOL SHOP. WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE TO HER? A real wool shop, one of those teeny weeny Tardis places down a little side street. When I walked through the door I would have fainted if there'd been anywhere to fall over, but the stands of haberdashery held me up. To get a good look at the wool meant thrashing a way through the jungle. I left without buying anything in there, but only because I was overwhelmed and you can't handle cash when you're shaking.

Recently I also acquired all of Mum's knitting and sewing stuff. The plan now is to get the daughters-in-law here, pile up all the craft stuff and let them help themselves. They can go and cram boxes of it in their own houses. Except the reindeer ribbon, of course, I really like that. And the oddment of coloured silk, I'm sure I'll use that one day. And everything in the shoebox.

Yesterday I knitted a butterfly.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Wimble Much

It's Wimbledon, and this is really not bad weather for it. It's sunny in London and cool here with a fair bit of rain, so there's an excuse for staying in and watching the tennis instead of gardening. However, Much and Oliver are both made of stone and the weather doesn't bother them a bit. In fact, Wimbers is about the only time Much can be persuaded to get off his snail.

Oliver has been into tennis all his life, but Much only learned it after he moved here. Oliver's very patient, especially as Much's first idea about tennis was to hang on to his racquet with both hands and wallop the ball into the next county. However, he's getting the idea now and it's a long time since any sheep were concussed. Dodger runs about being the Ball Dog, and doesn't necessarily bring it back.

Our garden community has been joined by the sweetest little black cat, a very smooth, small black one with bat ears. I've given him the talk about birds, and he doesn't chase anything bigger than insects and the wavy tops of grasses. I'm looking forward to seeing him watch the tennis. (No, they don't make racquets out of you know what any more.) So our garden is dripping wet but it is a glory of roses, lavender, gooseberries and stone people playing tennis.

Somebody asked me if there were fairies in my garden. Don't be so silly!