Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Orthodox Vespers or The Magic Roundabout? Return from Greenbelt 1

So ran one entry in my festival diary at this year’s Greenbelt. In the event I got to neither that day, but having finally managed Vespers (the only bit of worship I attended all Festival…incredible but true), it seems to me that the one might indeed make a good subtitle for the other!
Greenbelt is always a time of hard choices; so many riches, so little time. Speakers, musicians, artists, market stalls, even food…last night the entire GoodinParts family were to be seen comparing notes over the numerous food outlets in the village, so we could each choose the perfect “Last Festival Meal this year”…based on the experience of others. (Take it from me, refried beans are a mistake. Even at Greenbelt). Apart from this, the choices I made were largely successful. Fuel for lots of blog entries from assorted seminars ….a new wish-list of music I never expected to enjoy so much…more books to add to the guilt-inducing piles scattered around the place…CDs…t shirts….lots of everything really.
But my best Greenbelt moments were the unplanned ones, which could never find their way into a diary. Walking the grass maze on my own first thing one morning, while the festival village slowly woke around me…Lying on the grass under a noon sun listening to Purcell with loved and loving people only a hand’s reach away…Standing beside the bubble stall watching children chase the dancing bubbles that glistened irresistably in the coloured lights of the village at night…I want to dance with God that way.
Oh to bottle all that, to mix it with those friendships, new and renewed, to sustain me for the next twelve months. But as Darling Daughter reminds me every year “Greenbelt is a state of mind, and not just a Festival” so that should carry me through until August 06. I wonder what the theme will be then…

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The boy done good!

GCSE results today: Teen Wonder did not disappoint, with 8 A*s, 1 A and 2 B grades...so now I really can throw caution to the winds and enjoy Greenbelt. See you there, or alternatively online sometime next week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

An announcement of some sort!

Truly not sure if this is something to be proud or ashamed of, but it is with considerable relief that I can confirm that, after a grand total of 13 months as assistant curate of this parish, I have finally managed to submit my expenses claim.
I know.
I really don't manage accounts in any shape or form - the only thing I avoid more assiduously is cleaning the oven- , so I've been hiding every time the Treasurer was sighted for some months.
But now it's done, so I am purged of my guilt in time to enjoy Greenbelt...and the cheque, when it arrives, will probably make me feel quite happy too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Greenbelt countdown....

suddenly there seem to be only hours to go. Actually this isn't entirely accurate, but given the fact that I'm out all day tomorrow on a parish strategy day with my training vicar (whatever possessed me to suggest that late August might be a good time for this??) and that the first set of GB friends arrives tomorrow night, and the house looks (in Adrian Plass's immortal words) as if something sad and terrible happened here not long ago and I HAVE to get a year's worth of parish expenses sorted before bedtime, you'll forgive my sounding a little harried. I'm sure you all know better than to ask why, if I'm busy, I'm blogging, don't you?
My GB wristband finally arrived on Saturday (sorry...have I told you that already?but I'm overwhelmed with gratitude at the superstars in the GB office who found time in the busiest week of their year, to send out a replacement having concluded that even the British postal service is unlikely to take 8 weeks from London to Cheltenham) and LC has been on the site this afternoon helping to set up. He'll be there tomorrow and Thursday too, making me wish I'd taken the week off to give my friends a hand before the Festival takes off.
Suddenly it all feels wonderfully close and real...the highlight of my year, and something every single one of the family loves, praise be!
So...don't expect much of a blog till it's over now...apart from anything else, our isp has taken to cutting us off for long periods with no apparent cause. Internet purdah is a horrible place to be. Perhaps by the time GB is over, they'll have relented and resumed something like service!

Lohengrin, here we go...

Hot on my exposure as one who mothers without a map, let me tell you how my endlessly obliging older children spent the last hour or so.
In two weeks time I’m due to conduct my first wedding. Being aware that there isn’t much margin for error on these occasions, I was anxious to rehearse unofficially, so I’d know where I was when the real rehearsal takes place. Accordingly this afternoon I found myself marrying my daughter to my son, under the benevolent eye of my wonderful training incumbent…I discovered just how likely it is that I will fall off the chancel steps while wrapping my stole around the joined hands of bride and groom (very), where the nearest grating is if anyone does drop the ring, and just how silly Giles looks with a sellotape moustache.
The priceless thing was how concerned both teens were that there was no way that any of it could be legally binding…Luci and I had read a very silly novel by Madeleine Wickham last week on the boat, and she was convinced that we might be in the throes of making it real. Fortunately, they made the vows on behalf of blah and blah...and I'm sure I didn't call those particular banns. They were a very volatile couple, and I'm convinced that the reality will be a breeze in comparison. It certainly should be.

Two bits of nonsense

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz

and this is what happens when I googled my name, as suggested in numerous other quarters, and chose my favourite 10 responses.
I'm sure you'll be glad to know that KATHRYN IS.......
- making a move
- fundraising with candy, chocolate and confections
- the newest Maine schooner
- the queen of internet shopping
- a source for a wide variety of fine original art by over 40 emerging artists
- everything You Ever Wanted to Know
- a new, up and coming writer of Children’s Books.
-one of Britain’s most versatile and respected musicians
- facilitating self empowerment
and above all
-mothering without a map
Happy days :-)

Monday, August 22, 2005

That takes the biscuit!

I've just been doing yet another one of those compulsively silly online quizzes, thanks to Storyteller's World...but to be honest, I'm a bit miffed. How come Tony emerges as an erudite volume by Herman Hesse, while I'm a blinking (hopping, nose-woofling) rabbit?!?!

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd
be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Worse still, I have vague memories of doing a similar quiz a few months ago, and emerging with the same result. I know my children have spent quite a bit of time through the years telling me that life isn't all fluffy bunnies, but honestly....

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tired of spam comments...

so I've added word verification to my comments settings. Apologies if this is a hassle,- please let me know if it's causing major irritation, and I'll jettison it forthwith...but till I can persuade the family that it's legitimate to spend money as well as time on the blog we'll have to muddle along with blogger at its most basic, which I think means that avoidance strategies are limited.
And apologies to anyone who hoped for a diverting Saturday evening post...I'm trying to write something fresh on a passage that I had to preach on only 3 months ago, so diversion more needed than forthcoming.

To combat Saturday stress levels....

please do visit this site. I promise it'll be worth it :-)

Friday, August 19, 2005

All creatures, great and small...

Storyteller's World has a wonderfully silly post about the theology of badgers, which in its turn reminded me of two anthropomorphic text messages I received in the last couple of weeks. One, from Teen Wonder, read simply "Burying Rat. Don't wait" while the other, from my incumbent, set out to inform me of the joys awaiting me here on my return. The content overran one screen, so what I read was. "Can you do funeral on Friday? Furry family..."
After Darling Daughter and I had stopped cackling about the images this conjured of a whole tribe of werewolves in mourning (what...read too much Harry Potter? us?? never!) I was slightly disappointed to scroll down and discover that this was a reference to the 3 cats and 2 dogs who allow us to live with them, and who had invited the vicar to visit while we were away. He wanted us to know they were fine!
And the rat? Not a parishioner, but the late lamented companion of one for whom Teen Wonder does a spot of gardening...
But one final return from holiday story concerns friends whose house was burgled while they were away some years ago. Even their freezer was emptied, except for one item, which lay lonely and unloved at the bottom. It was, as anyone could have guessed, a bag of Mediterranean vegetable stew...but to save time, my friend had simply labelled it "Rat".
You can't really blame the thieves for leaving it, can you?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Trumpet fanfares .....


and indeed several cartloads of fireworks required!

Darling daughter collected her A level results this morning,- A grades for English and History and a B for Music,- which was just exactly what we'd hoped for on our most optimistic days, and a huge improvement on the 3 Cs that haunted my dreams last night. It means that her decision to drop out of the university process this year and reapply with grades in hand is surely the right one, and that there is at least a slim hope that she may not spend the rest of the summer comparing herself unfavourably with her brother or almost anyone else she comes across. Certainly for now we're all quite incoherent with joy....I think I probably cried more than most of the students when she emerged with her precious bits of paper. Now, about those fireworks...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Senseless waste...

Sometimes I simply do not understand what is happening in this world. Brother Roger of Taize is dead, stabbed during an evening service in front of 2,500 young people from all over Europe. Here's the link..
It certainly seems like madness, and such a cruel blow to the Taize community, and to all those whose lives have been touched by it. I'm specially sad for the young people there at this time, whose experience of the love and inspiration of the Taize community will be balanced forever by the horror of this violence.
Brother Roger, may you rest in peace and rise in glory.

Safely home and nobody drowned...

though we did have 2 close encounters with the murky waters of the Birmingham-Fazely (32 locks in 1 day...aaarggghhh) and Staffordshire-Worcestershire canals (one involved the long-suffering clockmaker, but no I didn't push him). Given that this was England in August, the weather was surprisingly good. This was fortunate, as 2 out of 6 waterproofs got stuck in the boot of someone's car. The box of books was excellent in a happy trashy sort of way, - one day I'll learn not to take the worthy volume requiring concentration that I've failed to read thus far all year...if I've not concentrated at home, I'm certainly not going to manage it on holiday. The lack of phonecalls about pcc meetings was fantastic, though I did find myself wondering and worrying about various parish/homebased situations as the week went on. However, that's par for the course, and relationships on board were largely harmonious, since, as Liz sagely remarked, narrowboats may be narrow, but they are certainly loooong... For the first time ever we were joined by one of the children's "partners"...to whit the official girl-friend of my very own, 13 and 4 days old Loud Boy. This was an uneasy novelty, not because she was anything other than delightful, as I knew before we invited her (though I'm really not sure what the poor girl made of the untrammelled madness of the combined Fleming household: she only jumped in once to escape), but because it's a new situation for me to be the mother of such young loves. Not at all sure what a 12/13 year old relationship should look like,- so I spent a fair bit of time worrying that we were all Too Much for her, and that she was utterly wretched and about to dump LB on the strength of this, then being confounded by finding them lying curled up like a pair of kittens,- and with a similar degree of innocence...
And the hot news? We are investigating the possibility of acquiring a narrowboat of Our Very Own. It does make sense...L.C. is short of projects now he is no longer living in a collapsing Georgian farmhouse with a garden too big to manage, and his wife is rather less available than she might be on Sunday afternoons. Because our house has tenants (thanks be to God) we're short of somewhere to bolt outside the parish. My parents are no longer living, and both my honorary mother and L.H's mother are in small flats, so there is nowhere we can honestly impose ourselves when we need to get out of the Curate's House and in the past year this has tended to encourage holidays that blurr the boundaries with work, earning me general opprobium from most of my family. A narrowboat, unlike a weekend cottage, could move to be within easy reach of wherever God and the C of E may take us in the years ahead, so it might also become somewhere to vanish on the dreaded day off.
We've come home armed with phone numbers and are having supper on Monday with the only people we know who actually own one already...Even if nothing comes of it, it has lifted the end-of-holiday gloom that seems to fall when you realise that the sun glinting on the water is now glinting for someone else,- and none of the post you had hoped for has arrived in your absence. Serious panic now on about the final Greenbelt ticket (ordered after the others, when Darling Daughter decided she would be in the country after all this year)...not to mention the RevGal's tote bag (which I was hoping to use to return the 24 library books).
At least, there would be panic, if I could muster the energy.
The trouble is that I now feel so thoroughly unwound I can't actually imagine how I will stir myself into of action of any kind on the morrow, when even loading the washing machine feels far too much like hard work. What's more, though I was totally oblivious to any rolling of the boat, now we're back on land, the room seems to be behaving in a thoroughly restless fashion. Not really looking forward to taking to my bike, if it continues thus.
Tomorrow, however, is A level day, when maternal resolve may well be needed. Watch this space.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Going, going...........

I've reached that point in the holiday countdown when the list of parish things to be done before I go considered in the light of the list of other essential things to be done ( packing/junk sorting etc) gives me those telltale spots before the eyes that presage a migraine. But I don't have time for a migraine....I've got to finish all those jobs.
Which, of course, is why I'm blogging.
Is anyone else getting bored with this personality trait of mine??

There was a point this afternoon, about half way round Tesco in company with Longsuffering Clockmaker, when any casual spectator would have doubted the wisdom of our taking a short drive in a large car together, let alone spending a week in a relatively confined space. However, let us at all costs be positive :-) We HAVE to go...we've bought enough food to sustain a largeish regiment, if not an army....and the vicar is all excited about dog-sitting, bless him!
So, this time tomorrow we will have settled into the boat which will be home for a week. Narrowboating is becoming addictive in this family, as it allows the action men (L.C. and Loud Boy) to have the time of their lives with locks, windlasses and fenders, while the bookworms among us curl up in heaps and do lots of nothing very much. It's remarkably hard to get stressed about anything, when the world is going past at 4 m.p.h...I could, as the saying goes, sleep for a week right now, but that would be a shame. I'd hate to miss the holiday. See you later!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Inspired by the Transfiguration....

Lutheran Chick has a great post on the way we tend to lapse into a state of dazed half remembering, after even the most amazing and memorable experiences of the divine. This reminded me of an experience I shared with a spider, in the course of my ordination training. During a weekend on "Spiritual Traditions" we were invited to spend the Saturday dabbling with Benedictine, Ignatian or Franciscan spirituality, choosing a framework for prayer that we'd not experienced before.
I opted to be Franciscan, and was told to go out on a walk without watch, phone or any agenda except attending to what God wanted to show me. At the time a special friend was in hospital, so separating myself from the phone was a huge challenge in itself, and I was concerned that I would be so bothered at being out of touch with her that I'd be quite unable to hear anything from God at all.
However, I obediently set off down the drive, taking time to look and listen as I very rarely do. Having suffered all my days from a fair degree of short- sightedness, I tend not to be a very visual person, and it was good for me to learn to gaze without hurrying on to the next thing. Normally, of course, I would never have met the spider.
As it was, I nearly missed him, as he span his line around an ivied tree. He had one of those mottled grey-brown bodies that was very much at home amid the layers of autumnal leaf-mould. I watched him scurrying along the bridge he was building from his own body, hardly breathing for fear that I might damage the fragile work of engineering that was before me. But then the rain started…large, heavy drops, which shook the dying leaves around his workplace. The spider froze, midway between one twig and the next, stopped dead in the very midst, the very moment of creation. Perfectly camouflaged amid the dead twigs and bark, suspended on his own silken way, stretched, elongated, he looked nothing like a spider at all.. I waited.
And waited.
As time passed, I became desperate for him to move. I began to doubt my own memory. Had there ever really been a spider at all, or had my eyes been playing tricks? I longed to shake the branch again, to prompt him to move, to reveal himself. I knew deep down that I had seen him, that what I now gazed at, willing him to move, to prove the truth of my experience, had only paused upon its delicate and dedicated course. I knew, but still I longed for confirmation, for fresh evidence of a reality that should need no proof.
Then I heard God laughing.
“Kathryn” he said “You’re doing it again. Don’t you realise that you do this with me, again and again and again? We spend time together. I fill you with a sense of joy and awe at my presence, and you focus completely on me. Then the time comes for you to leave the mountain, and even as you head homewards the doubts crowd in. “Was it really God?” you ask. “Perhaps I just felt happy because it was a beautiful place and a special day. Perhaps I was bouyed up by the presence of loving friends.” You will the moment to repeat itself, to confirm its truth.
That spider is a spider, even though its intricate work appears to halt, even though it seems to vanish, and merge into its own small world. And I am God. You may lose sight of me too, may wonder if you ever really glimpsed me here…but I have the whole created world in which to hide or show myself. You need not doubt the evidence of your eyes”

Saturday, August 06, 2005


This blog has survived for one whole year.
In that time I've cheerfully spent many hours I don't have wittering into cyber-space, met some truly splendid people across the world, been inspired to think in new ways about different topics,- and I still haven't completed my expenses form for the Treasurer.
Maybe next year???
Meanwhile, thanks for your company, any/everyone!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Magic Penny

is one of that strange breed of semi-Christian songs which are perennial favourites in primary school assemblies. For those of you who've escaped these since your own school days, it has a chorus which has been buzzing around my head this week, for all sorts of reasons:
"Love is something! If you give it away you end up having more."
Dan has a brilliant post on the Theology of Receiving inspired by last week's Blah...Manchester*
It spoke loud and clear into my current thoughts about the state of the church,- which is not entirely encouraging, as I'd love someone to tell me that I'm actually quite wrong! It seems to me that in "everyday parish ministry" we spend most of our time wrestling with the impossible needs/expectations of those within our churches, who feel that it's OK, even desirable, to engage with those outside in our spare time, as long as we get all the church agenda sorted first. Mission is fine, as long as you're always there for the PCC and get the magazine article posted. And I guess it doesn't take a genius to work out that even in a community gathered in response to the Gospel, there will still be the sort of fearful survival instinct that demands that if there might not be enough to go round, you jolly well better look after me first. The thing is, we're supposed to be different. God's love has no limits, so there will be enough to go round. It's easy to write that, but as Dan says, believing ourselves loveable, and opening ourselves to be loved is hugely difficult. I once spent a whole Maundy Thursday Watch arguing hotly with Jesus that I really didn't want to have my feet washed by him, thank you very much...only to find that he'd already done it. Just as well, really, as I'd probably still be protesting if he hadn't taken the initiative.
However, as the months pass here, I'm increasingly convinced that most people have no idea how much they are loved...which makes it all but impossible for them to get on with the business of loving the world. I took a sad little funeral recently for someone who'd died in his 80s. Though married, he had no children, had not engaged with anyone else through work, leisure, faith. Rather, he and his wife were "all the world to each other",- which sounds very sweet until you think through the implications.....In this case, the widow was furious that she had been deserted, and still more angry at the injustice which allowed her beloved to die at all.
"He didn't deserve it", she said, "He was a good man. Everything he did was for us. "
Clearly they'd felt the need to build their own little kingdom, with sturdy defences which nobody had dared to penetrate...Not surprisingly, this was reflected in the response to her husband's death from the larger community. I was pleasantly surprised that there were 8 of us in the crematiorium chapel. As always I spoke about the love of God, which is so much stronger than death...but I could well have been speaking a foreign language. I pointed to Jesus as its complete expression,- but I do wish I could with confidence have pointed to the church as well.

I was about to press "publish" when my thought for the day from the Henri Nouwen Society arrived. Yet again, it's extremely apposite, so here it is in full...
Sharing the Abundant Love
Why must we go out to the far ends of the world to preach
the Gospel of Jesus when people do not have to know Jesus in
order to enter the house of God? We must go out because we
want to share with all people the abundant love and hope,
joy and peace that Jesus brought to us. We want to
"proclaim the unfathomable treasure of Christ" and "throw
light on the inner workings of the mystery kept hidden
through all ages in God, the creator of everything"
(Ephesians 3:8-9).
What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we
cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it
to every human being on earth.

* (small irrelevant note here: how miserable do other people get at the repeated news of exciting discussions, inspiring speakers etc in cities we've not a hope of getting to without a major plan of campaign and probably a bank loan for the train fare/petrol? And yes, I know that Greenbelt is coming, but I still need a quick whinge)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Cheltenham (non military) Tattoo?

I've been dithering and deliberating about the need for a tattoo ever since last summer, when it seemed quite a good way of marking my diaconal ordination,- and, helpfully, a tattoo artist was scheduled to go to Greenbelt.
Sadly s/he was finally decided to be a health and safety risk too far, so the Festival passed without any further action, and then real life took over and I somehow never got round to it, though I do have a semi deal with One Pedestrian that if I will then she will, so will I...This summer, after the wonders of priesting, the question has arisen again. My poor husband is more than a little bemused by the whole thing (to put it bluntly, he thinks I'm mad)...and I was slightly deterred myself when Simon Parke, a writer whom I usually applaud loudly in the Church Times (there has to be something to applaud there, apart from Dave Walker's cartoons) wrote an article disparaging the need to preserve a moment in this way.
But still the urge lingers, and I'm not totally sure why. Sue writes beautifully about the thinking behind her tattoo, but my motives are nothing like as clearcut. I'd have a very small celtic cross on my heel, I think...nothing strikingly original, but a simple reminder of an important stage on this journey from, to and with God.
Since I'm totally incapable of making almost any decision without lots of advice,- ("So that she can have something to ignore", says husband between gritted teeth) I'd be glad to hear what anyone else thinks.

Just in case you are having a bad day...

try this link. Very cheering :-)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mid life crises and new discoveries

.....seem to be hovering about the blog world a bit at the moment, with Storyteller finally reading Don Quixote and Quotidian Grace discovering the joys of baseball. Their thoughts made me reflect on the way that my own attitudes have changed over the past few years. When I went to my first Selection Conference in 1999, one of the interviewers suggested rather disparagingly that the whole idea of a vocation to priesthood might be "nothing more than a mid-life crisis", and I was inwardly outraged. Midlife crises seemed inherently trivial,- all to do with men who ought to have more sense spending huge sums on inappropriate motorbikes and refusing to age with dignity.
Now, at the inescapably middle-age of 45, I see things a bit differently and "Mummy's mid life crisis" has become a family code for all sorts of exciting and interesting new things….
I think it’s all to do with having the confidence to be myself, and not some identikit middle class mother, loosely modelled on my own (who died, incidentally, when I was 18...so my version of her reality may well be a far cry from the truth).
I mostly wear the clothes I want to (give or take the vagueries of clerical attire) and don’t worry if they don’t conform to the expectations of my sisters in law.
I don’t feel uncomfortable about messing around with my hair colour (though I’ve not yet succumbed to the children’s suggestion of highlights in the liturgical colour of the season).
I’m even considering a tattoo on my heel (just writing the word would have brought me out in an allergic rash a few years ago).
What’s more, I've discovered that I DON’T only enjoy classical music, though I guess it’s still my major soul food. Nonetheless, my favourite birthday present this year was a CD mixed by Darling Daughter with music from U2, Oasis, Jeff Buckley, Dire Straits and more, - and she’s right, I enjoy all of them. A few years ago, if I’d read this of another middle aged mother, I’d have shaken my head and thought it was sad that she was trying to keep up with her teenagers…but it really doesn’t feel that way. It feels, rather, as if I’m finally growing into myself…and that self is more complicated (and possibly more interesting) than I would ever have thought possible.
So yes…my vocation is indeed an expression of my midlife crisis, but the whole crisis is more to do with coming home to myself than with hiding the realities of lost youth behind a veneer of youthful aspirations. I’m grateful to my children, who’ve taken me with them on voyages of discovery, and never assumed that just because I’m their mother I wouldn’t be interested in their emerging passions.
I’m grateful, too, to those friends who wouldn’t let me sit comfortably in my little box, but challenged me to come out to play.
And to Greenbelt, the place where most of all I feel at home, free to be me.
And above all to God who is leading me on new adventures every day…
Crisis! What crisis? I’m having a ball 