Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Bonfire

They lit the bonfire - early yesterday morning.  It was still burning last night and will still be smouldering now I guess. Some kids let off fireworks on the Green at startling intervals.  I can't think what I did yesterday, apart from my studying, and making a carrot cake. We had some carrots that needed using up, plus I had no more home-made cake left for the Captain's packed lunches.

Audrey rang to say that Vera had got my letter.  And Col posted the letter and card for JL.

It is a sunny Autumn morning here, with a chill in the air.  And AutumnWatch has begun.  Hurray!  It comes from Lancashire this year, from near Morecambe Bay.  My mother's family have lived in Lancashire since the beginning of time (pretty much), and our childhood Paradise (Nabbs) was there.   I enjoyed it all, but especially the flock of tame starlings.

The little family of starlings that we fed down by the Pier here many years ago has grown and prospered and does small murmurations across the Green.

The best moment in AutumnWatch was watching the starlings flock together at twilight - wheeling round and round, gathering everybody up, until, suddenly, they settle.  It was one of those moments when you can see the holiness of the world so clearly - its beauty and its glory.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Shock

Yesterday, I got a phone call from the sister of a friend. She needed to talk to me.  Straight away I thought something had happened to my friend JL, but no it wasn't that.  JL's partner had just died - in his sleep - no warning - no previous illness - not even especially old.  Well a couple of years older than me, which does put us all very close to the death zone...

Then I spoke to JL.  She was hysterical with shock and grief.

The world is going to be a strange and frightening place for her without him.  He was such a lovely guy.   I was talking to him on the phone only a couple of weeks ago, and the four of us were planning to meet up for lunch at a pub next Spring/Summer - depending on the state of play with my knew knees.  we were going to find a nice place halfway between our two homes on the South Coast.

Its very hard to take in and understand.

Though IF I have to go, I would like to go like that, peacefully in my sleep. And I am glad for Dave that it was so peaceful.   The next time he opens his eyes, the earth will be more lovely than he could have imagined.

But such a terrible terrible shock for JL, the family, his children, his grandchildren.  We can't even go to the funeral service, as I can't travel at the moment, not much beyond the bounds of home anyway.

We will try to keep in as close touch as we can, obviously.   I have just finished a letter I promised her, putting down my memories of Dave.  I first met him, many years ago, in Dhahran. I had gone round one evening to visit JL, in her little single-girl house, and outside was this good-looking Brit guy sorting out her front garden for her.  He said she didn't even know he was there yet, he had just come round to tackle the garden for her.  I thought: What a nice, thoughtful guy.  And so he proved to be.

Her life is going to be sadly changed without him.

Our storm came and went, leaving some fatalities in its wake, and some damage.  No trees down here though, and the winds not as strong as some forecasts suggested.  I was awake, listening to it howl round the flats, but it wouldn't have woken me up. I was awake because of arthritis pain, in my back, shoulder, neck, knees (old and new), you name it...

As I said above, our sell-by dates are looming.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Damp Squib

Jackie and Linda came round last night -  Linda especially early so she could park her car outside before they closed the road off.  Jackie had to toil up the stairs as the lift is broken!   (I may have to listen in to the meeting today, unless they can fix it in time.)  So not the greatest of starts.

Anyway, we watched Strictly with wine and nibbles and then I brought out the usual bonfire stuff - cheese, biscuits, pate, hot sausage rolls and garlic bread  - (to be followed by apple crumble and ice-cream) - but  we began to realise there were no crowds outside - the bonfire was not lit - nothing.  The whole thing had been cancelled by Health and Safety - because the weather might worsen.

The spirit of the Blitz has clearly gone.

It was a stormy night though, with, so they say, much worse to come tonight.   The Captain has moved the balcony furniture indoors, and all the pots right to the back of the balcony.  The sky is overcast, full of cloud , the Channel is racing, and the seagulls are shining white against the intense green of The Green.

And it making me think of the great power and artistry of the One who created it - the Grand Creator, Jehovah of armies.  And thank Him.

It all looks so lovely.  But how will it look tomorrow if the coming storm is going to be as bad as they say?

So I am also remembering how Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When God's Kingdom is ruling over us, we will be able to enjoy the wonder of storms, without having to fear them.  Everything will be back in the perfect balance that prevailed in Eden.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Aroma of Cows

When we were driving over to Arundel today - on a lovely Autumn morning - and we passed the field of cows, I was thinking how excited Shadow the Golden Retriever would have been to drive with us in England. He never saw cows, let alone smelled them.  He would have been wild with excitement. Though we would not have taken him into a field with cows, obviously, but if he could have been in a field where they had been, and could have smelt all the cowpats...

We had a veggie chile for lunch, then Col got me a mug of nice foamy coffee and I did my study for the Sunday meeting while he went off and photographed.  You can see the results in the Captain's Log.

The bonfire is now built, the fairground is in place, and we are all set for the fireworks tomorrow.

A big storm is forecast for Monday, so we shall be seeing some stormy seas.  The leaves are falling already - and every fallen Autumn leaf is a perfect work of art.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Bow (and The Climb)

On Sunday afternoon there was an enormous double rainbow, showing briefly and perfectly against an ominous grey sky - see The Captain's Log for the pictures.

Now that I am a student of the Inspired Scriptures, both Hebrew and Christian Greek, I can't see a rainbow without thinking about what it means.   Here is an extract from an Awake! magazine (January 1975):

"The world’s oldest history book, the Bible, draws attention to the first rainbow and gives the reason for its continued appearance. It reports that God made a covenant, a promise to the survivors of the world flood, namely, Noah and his family, that “no more will the waters become a deluge to bring all flesh to ruin.” And as a sign of this covenant, God said to Noah: “My rainbow I do give in the cloud, and it must serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen. 9:8-16) What a splendid way to remind mankind of God’s promise!"

And how beautifully Jehovah does everything.

I have been re re-reading Peter Boardman's book about his and Joe Tasker's climb of Changabang's West Wall:  "The Shining Mountain".   As I get to know them more through their writing I feel sadder and sadder about what was so soon to happen, and wonder what on earth did go wrong.  I want to rush into the book and warn them.  And I came across this, on the net, written by Dr.Charles Clarke, who was on their last expedition:

"Although Peter’s achievements with his partners will be recorded in the archives of
mountaineering, it is his warmth, humanity and wisdom, which will be sorely missed by those
of us who loved him. He did not agree with Howard Somervell’s epitaph, ‘There are few
better deaths than to die in high endeavour’. Nor did Joe. As I carved a headstone for their
memorial in the Rongbuk Valley my only wish was the last few moments of their lives to be

Yes. They clearly did not want to die.  And Dr.Clarke wonders too - about what could have happened.   It must have happened very soon after they were last seen, or very soon after they woke up in the morning.  If indeed they did wake up. Perhaps it was simply that the altitude killed them.   Once again, I wonder if - IF - I am to be among those who "inherit the earth", and if they are, would it be alright to ask them?

Well, if I am there, I will know whether to ask or not.  We will be living in "the land of straightforwardness" and the right path will be so clear.

Its a rainy morning here, but with a bit of pink beginning to appear along the horizon. The bonfire is being built, and I must start to think about what  to cook for Saturday. There will only be four of us this year - depleted as we are by old age and illness.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

An Outing

Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis
It was a beautiful Autumn morning on Friday,and Captain Butterfly took me out to the Wetland Trust for lunch - my first such outing for a couple of months.   The new lake was swarming with birds, including a kingfisher which Col had fun photographing.  (see The Captain's Log).

I had fish and chips - he had soup and most of my chips.  I am on my crutches when out and managed fine.

Col chauffered me to the Kingdom Hall on Thursday night - my first time there for over 6 weeks.  I got a warm welcome, especially from Audrey and Maggie.  We have such a busy month coming up - special talks, C.O. visits, and the offering of a new publication at all doors.  At the moment, I can't imagine me managing to have much part of it as my walking/standing is still so poor.  I found it as much as I could do to stand for the song and the prayer.  I do have a talk in the Ministry School though, which I will be writing and performing.  It is all about "the wisdom from above".  If I can, I will use that quote from Proverbs which tells us to trust in Jehovah with all our hearts, and not rely on our own understanding.

Both ankles are now painful after "all" that walking...   I must remember that it was a big operation and only 6 weeks ago, and not expect too much too soon. And just be grateful it is going well so far.

A landmark was reached yesterday, as I can now stop wearing the support stockings.  I am dreading my next operation, but somehow last night all my anxiety about it got displaced onto an anxiety about choosing the butterfly pictures for the Captain's next calendar.  Not sure why, as that is a fun thing to do.   We only have 8 pics so far, we have yet to decide on the last few. And, somehow, that translated into a night of waking and worrying and dreams in which I turned up at some terrifying Corporate Headquarters to discuss it.

Why do I do this to myself?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Visitor from Planet Expat

Julia arrived yesterday, and Jackie joined us for supper.  (Cottage pie, cauliflower cheese, and carrots, followed by ice-cream with a chocolate flake).  A good evening.

Julia bought us a beautiful book about the painter Eric Ravilious. I am looking forward to showing it to Bea, who is also a fan. Though its possible she has already got it.

Julia was also reading through my published poems (not all that many), and especially liked this one, so I thought I would put it in the blog.

It appears in "Ours", and in "Old Playgrounds", two anthologies published by Fantastic Books Publishing.

by me

Grown-ups had made us
Bomb sites to play on
Wasn't that grand?
They'd sown the sea
With fireworks
To explode on the sand
Us kids played at war
But who were the Baddies?
Now no-one was sure.

Was it the Germans?
The big boys said "No"
Baddies were Russian
But how did they know?

Don't call people enemies!
Daddy said it with passion
We didn't go shopping
We went for our rations
Clinic juice was orange
Treacly and free
We journeyed into space
On the wireless
There was no TV

Daddy went to work
Six days of seven
To Silverdale, Jordanthorpe
Planning new Eden
We always found mummy
At home, in the kitchen
Then farewell Coles Corner
Au Revoir, Trams
Goodbye bomb site, hello building site
The brave new world began

Grown-ups soon made us
Landmines to play on
Sunk into sand
Finely adjusted for leg or small hand
Us kids played at war
But who were the Baddies?
Now no-one was sure.

In many ways, the Fifties was a good time to be a child, if you had good parents. There was still a certainty and a cohesion about society - though it was a harsh one  in many ways - and a real feeling of a brave new world coming.  It didn't come. But it couldn't, as "it does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step".

Isn't this why we say the Lord's Prayer? We want a government that really can bring about peace on earth.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

More Mountaineering

I am just re-reading the book about Alison Hargreaves, the young climber who died on K2, on the way down, leaving two young children without a mother.  It has an irritating title "Regions of the Heart" (by David Rose and Ed Douglas), but is well worth reading. She was harshly judged afterwards, for taking such a risk, K2 being much more of a killer than Everest.

It reminds me of that Scottish verse, where the two rivers grimly compete (I don't know who wrote it):

"Tweed says to Till
What gars ye rin sae still?

Says Till to Tweed
Though ye rin with speed
And I rin slaw
Where ye droon one man
I droon twa."

Everest and K2 could have much the same chat, if they wanted.

But, having read the book, I understand the dilemma Alison Hargreaves was in - why she felt she had to climb K2.  And it was not to do with her not thinking or caring about her children. Quite the reverse in fact.

Yesterday Butterfly Mark rang early and the box of sandwiches and the Captain disappeared shortly after.

There such an interesting sunrise this morning that I went and woke up Col, and he came sleepily through and photographed it.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Symphony of Light

This morning it is overcast, lots of cloud, but lots of light too. The sea is a pale shining blue with dark edges, there is the soft red glow of the rising sun in the corner of the clouds, the green is very green, with white seagulls swooping across it.  The balcony geraniums are waving bravely.  It is a symphony and I have just thanked Jehovah for it.

This blog post is a sort of thanks too I hope.

If I am on the earth a million years from now, as I hope to be, I will never have seen another sunrise exactly like this one.

Colin and Butterfly Mark are off to an Insect Exhibition today, and I must get back to the dusting, tidying and polishing as we have a visitor from Expatworld next week.

We had a wonderful evening with Jackie last night. She has had some very good news. She is about to become a granny for the 8th time!   And she becomes a great granny for the second time very soon.  She cooked us a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, including crispy roast potatoes. And we had choc ices for dessert.

The beautiful colours of the morning have reminded me of that lovely passage in Proverbs chapter 8 where Jesus speaks directly to us.   “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago. From time indefinite I was installed, from the start, from times earlier than the earth."  He is God's only-begotten son, the only one created by Jehovah alone.  Everything else was created by Jehovah with Jesus working beside him as a master worker.   Jesus says:  "then I came to be beside him as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time,  being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men."

He loved, and loves, his Father's creation. The beautiful earth, floating like a jewel in space. And he loves us too.  So,as Proverbs goes on tell us: "Happy is the man that is listening to me by keeping awake at my doors day by day, by watching at the posts of my entrances.  For the one finding me will certainly find life, and gets goodwill from Jehovah."

As we go door to door, with our Bibles (not that I can at the moment, sadly), we are trying to get people to listen and to find life and to get goodwill from Jehovah.

There has just been a lovely lovely sunset, to end the day.

Friday, 11 October 2013

"The Ascent of Rum Doodle" by W.E.Bowman

I have been re-reading all my hospital/convalescence climbing books and have been getting hysterical over Rum Doodle.

This is from Bill Bryson's introduction:   "I just love this book.  Everything about it is nearly perfect - the names  of the characters, their mannerisms, their sulks and squabbles, their comfortingly predictable haplessness in the face of every challenge."

Yes.  The names - of both terrain and people - are so right.    Spoiler alert (as if anyone is going to read it for the plot...). The hapless expedition does manage to place one man on top of the mighty summit of the previously unclimbed Rum Doodle (just after all the rest of them have climbed the wrong peak).  Due to the Yogistani word for "mountain base" being exactly the same as the word for "mountain summit", apart from an esoteric gurgle, the Yogistani porters misunderstand the command to return to base and they all trek to the top.  They take with them the one member of the party who isn't on the wrong mountaintop. In fact, one of the porters simply tucks him under his arm and carries him there.  So he becomes the Conqueror of Rum Doodle.

The name of the Yogistani porter who carries him up and down again?   Perfectly, is is Un Sung.

All I can say is that I enjoyed it even more on the second reading.

I listened in to the meeting last night.  The Society has just issued a new, updated, English-language Bible translation. We should all get one in a month or two.  So much work must have gone into that, but, English being a living language, I can see why its so important.

My shoulder is still really painful. No pain killer seems to help.  I hope I am not in for yet more joint operations.  I don't know how many more I can cope with.

To Jackie for supper tonight.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The New Knee Versus the Old

My knees are not working in harmony at the moment and I am hobbling about very lopsided, having occasionally to revert to crutches/zimmer frame. And my physio is sick and has had to cancel her visit today. I can have someone else in, but think I would like to stick with Diana. She is lovely. And also I know how busy they are, especially with someone off sick.

The sun glinted through the gloom this morning and there was a swift rustle of wings, a blur of cameras, the disappearance of the box of sandwiches from the fridge, and Captain Butterfly is nowhere to be found.

I am still mired in butterfly paperwork - I have a production line going on the kitchen table, and hope to get everything parcelled up today.

It is really sunny now.  A lovely Autumn day.  The balcony geraniums are blazing away - red and lilac, though our indoor plants, the orchids are not doing so well at the moment.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

An Odd Thing

Its an odd thing, but my culinary triumph last night was not the stir fry ginger chicken and the egg fried rice, which took me quite a bit of time and trouble,  it was the cheese straws that I hastily made at the last moment, as I realised I had forgotten to put crisps/nuts on the shopping list I gave the Captain.

They didn't look elegant, but they tasted lovely - though I says it myself as shouldn't - and every single one was eaten.

A fun evening, but it always is with Jackie, even though nowadays, we find ourselves talking about the strangeness of finding ourselves in old age.  But we always agree that, much as we would love to be young again, we would only go back knowing then what we know now.

Of course that is what I hope for us all, that we will be restored to perfect health in the Paradise earth - we will be living instead of dying, as we are now.

I am just about to go and dial in so I can listen to the meeting - lovely Watchtower article helping us to continue putting spiritual things first, with a public talk to start with - Why we should live by Bible principles.  It is a beautiful sunny day so far which is good as Captain Butterfly has his Treasure Hunting cap on, and is off out into the Sussex wilderness with his metal detector and packed lunch.

We will soon be adding to our ring pull hoard.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Song she was Singing

This is about the recent tragic siege in the Kenyan shopping Mall.  The article begins:

"During the Westgate siege in Kenya last month, one of the iconic images showed a mother lying on the floor, protecting her two children. Her name is Faith Wambua. She was in the shopping centre with her nine-year-old daughter Sy and her 21-month-old son Ty when the attack happened.
Faith spent four-and-a-half hours playing dead in the mall while keeping her young children quiet, before they were all finally rescued by a Kenyan policeman, Iyad Adan. She spoke to the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse about her experience that day:"

The article tells us that:

"At some point when they came too close and I could smell the gunpowder and I could hear the bullet casings dropping on the ground, then I knew we were finished.
That's the point when I started singing a song about the resurrection because I thought we were all going to die"

On the BBC News yesterday, the little girl sang us a bit of the song, and it is this, from the Jehovah's Witness songbook:

It is based on Job 14:13-15:   
"O that in She′ol you would conceal me, That you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, That you would set a time limit for me and remember me!  If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? All the days of my compulsory service I shall wait, Until my relief comes.  You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning."

The chorus of the song is:

He will call; The dead will answer.
They shall live at his command.
For he will have a longing 
For the work of his own hand.
So have faith, and do not wonder,
For our God can make us stand.
And we shall live forever,
As the work of his own hand.

I always think of my parents and my granny when we sing this.  I hope that Jehovah longs to see them again, as I do, and that He will call wake them from the sleep of death once the earth is restored to Paradise.

How thankful we all are to Jehovah that our sister, and her two children - our young brother and sister - did survive. And we hope that God will remember all those killed, and they too will wake from the dreamless sleep of death when the time comes for the resurrection.

Captain B went to a reunion with old school friends in London yesterday.  And Ron and Lawrence, two of my brothers, visited me (with a bottle of wine!).  Lots of phone calls too - including two from Audrey.  The next load of Butterfly paperwork arrived.

Unfortunately I have regressed a bit healthwise and was back on my zimmer frame this morning.  I have had an arthritis flare up, so now my "good" leg is not operating well either.  I did manage to hobble about and get the chicken made for supper with Jacks tonight.  I have a stir fry rice to make this evening, but hopefully I will be a bit better by then.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

More Armchair Mountaineering - A Woman's Place

I am also re-reading Arlene Blum's book about her all woman Annapurna expedition.  Many years ago I read Maurice Herzog's account of his climb.  Was that the first successful one?  I must just trek off into the net and find out - yes, it was, and he was also the first to climb a peak over 8,000 metres (or litres, or whatever it is we have to call them these days).

How tall is 8,000 metres in real money?

What a difficult mountain it is.  So prone to avalanches.  One of the heroes of the 1996 disaster on Everest, Anatoli Boukreev, was killed in an avalanche on Annapurna.

And, tragically, while Arlene's Blum first group do make it successfully to the top, it has very much the same sad ending as the Chris Bonnington book - "Everest, the Unclimbed Ridge".   The second summit team, Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz and Vera Watson, died.

They are last seen climbing towards camp 5 - are within 20 minutes of it before it becomes too dark to go on filming.   Radio calls to the camp that night go unanswered.  The next day, and the next, there is silence. And nothing is moving on  the mountain (beyond the avalanches).  And  here is the problem. Clearly they are in trouble up there, but everyone else is too exhausted to mount a rescue attempt.

Finally, after 3 days, some of the Sherpa support team are recovered enough to go. And they find them. They obviously fell just before they made camp 5, so just after they were last seen. They fell a thousand feet, still roped together.  Their bodies were left on the mountain.

There is a memorial to them at the base of the mountain.  And I hope that they remain in Jehovah's memory, and will live again when the time comes.

However, all my reading, fascinating though it was, has underlined the fact that mountaineering is a gamble with a precious human life.  It doesn't matter how skillful you are, how careful you are, how experienced you are, you can be swept away in a moment.

Should I be buying books about it and reading them?   Why am I?  Partly perhaps it is the climbers themselves. They are fascinating people, and so different from me. They are so brave. Whereas I am a wimp, and would probably stay at home all the time, wrapped up in a box of cotton wool, on my sofa - if it weren't for my fear of cotton wool poisoning, and of falling off my sofa face down into my cup of tea.  I must remember never to climb on to it unroped.

Actually, my life is pretty ideal for a couch potato at the moment, in that I still can't do all that much, without getting completely exhausted.  i am hoping that, IF Captain B is free for chauffering duties I can get to the Meeting on Sunday.  I was planning to go tonight, but he has put his foot down, firmly. And he is my carer at the moment.  He has just bought me my morning coffee - purr purr - and my breakfast (oats with apple).