Monday, 31 December 2012

Greenpatch New Year Tealights

As ever, I'm indebted to  Archdruid Eileen, both for the inspiration for this post and  for relieving me of the onerous task of digging around in the bowels of my blog in order to dredge up my "Highlights of 2012." Where the Beaker Folk go, I will follow - preferably at least ten miles behind ensconced in a cosy cafe with copious supplies of tea, cakes and back copies of the Church Times.

1. I too will not obsess over my blog stats this year. I've enough problems with my RL vital statistics. 2012 was the year when post-menopausal symptoms kicked in big time.

2. Tweeting is for the birds, whatever St Francis may have had to say on the matter. However, I shall continue to promote  shamelessly nick   wisdom where I find it; the pearls of a certain Archdruid deserve far greater exposure than they're currently receiving, I'm sure you'll agree.

3.  I'm a Franciscan.  I wouldn't dream of upsetting other people in order to up my blog stats; far better to stick to safe, uncontroversial topics like kittens, embroidery and bird baths. Though funnily enough, St Francis would not have agreed with me on this one. I suspect he upset rather a lot of folk in his time. As I've written elsewhere part of the Franciscan ethos is to be the awkward squad, the irritant in the oyster, the questioner of the status quo. I may need some practice on this one then...

4. Feedjit? Get thee behind me... Though I'll admit to missing the frisson of excitement and panic as you try to work out whether the reader from one's home town is a) My husband, b) the vicar c) a stalker or d) the lady in charge of the after church coffee rota.

5. Klout?  At risk of sounding like that judge in the 60's who didn't know who the Beatles were, what's that? Our son will relate proudly to anybody willing to listen that I still don't know who Cheryl Cole is. I'll just have to resign myself to the fact that I'll never blog with The Big Boys.

6. E-Buzzing?  It's for the bees. I shall nobly resist all temptation to join in the blogosphere's obsession with labelling and  ranking  everything that moves. I shall forgive their predecessor, Wikio (to whose database one of my old blogs was submitted without my knowledge or permission) for placing my most   valuable pieces of  spiritual and theological reflection in the "Entertainment" category. (I think it must have been the Dr Who references that confused them.) For some reason the current setup only ranks Growing Greenpatches on the French version of the site. There  must be some very puzzled French blog readers out there, methinks.  Especially as the "Religion and Belief" category doesn't appear to exist across The Channel.

7. We've kept quiet about the wax splashes on side chapel carpet at church after my last, unfortunate foray into the world of tealights. I like them; they don't like me.

8. ?

9. Re-tweeting? See 2 above. Nothing wrong with it IMHO. It's much the same as recycling my old Greenpatches, surely?

10. Same Sex Marriage? See 3 above.  Could Do Better.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Best laid plans - A Christmas of Surprises

Well, that was "different." Christmas hasn't turned out quite as we'd intended, though  if you've read  A Letter From Home, you'll know that we're not the only people whose carefully orchestrated plans went slightly askew. Mr GP,  chef supremo, was stuck down by a winter bug on Christmas eve and was banned from going anywhere near anything edible. Pictured above are his deputies - Ms GP  working on graphic designs  with a carrot, and her brother (MA Modern Lit) dismembering and stuffing a turkey.

A new skill for my CV!

Ms GP and I continued our time-honoured tradition of prepping the spouts and spuds the night before whilst listening to Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, courtesy of i-player. Actually I caught it first time round whilst wrestling with last minute present wrapping, but you can never have too much of Carols from Kings IMO. Just as well, as poor poorly Mr GP was in no fit state to go anywhere - hence for the first time for nearly 20 years, no Christmas services and definitely no 'Midnight.' He crawled off to bed early, the children hopped off to the pub leaving this  elf wrestling with yet more reams of paper and rolls of sellotape (I have a serrated thumb to prove it) in front of Midnight Mass on TV. I can tell you that it goes on for hours, with processions and clouds of incense that leave "Newchurch" in the shade. I'd plenty time to get Santa's tasks done and dusted well before the Eucharistic prayer. 

Strangely enough, I'd just been thinking  that this year was probably one of the latest we've ever been in terms of practical preparations; (we  only properly began a week before Christmas and rarely put up the tree before the 23rd anyway) and yet it was one of the least fraught we've had. Mr GP has discovered that he can relax and let others take the strain. Myself - yes, of course  I felt disappointed at not being with 'my' church at such a special time, but only a few days previously was lucky enough to share with an elderly member of "Oldchurch" and her son when she had home communion brought over to her. A wonderful and totally unexpected Christmas  surprise.

And whilst on the subject of Christmas surprises, one of GP daughter's friends gave birth to a little girl  - their first child, on Christmas eve, nearly a week early* but what wonderful timing! Ms GP hasn't visited yet, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we were able to see pics of baby only an hour or so after the birth. 

Happy Christmas everybody!

*GP daughter has been frantically sewing together blanket squares ever since. She'd been relying on the time-honoured tradition of a first baby arriving late. Best laid plans...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Santons de Provence

 Here they are! Our Santons de Provence nativity figures plus assorted hangers on, namely: a three-legged camel and donkey, pig, duck, a pottery hippo from Disneyland, one super-duper raindeer pooper, scarey sheep, Vietnamese and Nigerian elephant, flowery camel, assorted angels and flower fairies. Oh, and our new friend, Zebedee the bouncy sheep.

Since the cat has discovered the window alcove, we've moved the waiting Magi to the mantlepiece, ready to begin their long journey across the room, ready for the house blessing on 6th January.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Avent Calendar - Christmas Fairies

I pulled up the kitchen blinds this morning to a wonderful surprise!  Thank you, Mr GP, my very own Christmas elf.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent Calendar - 'Venn That (Christmas) Tune'

I suspect I'm stretching  the definition of Advent here. No matter, here's a link for the mathematicians - to Andrew Viner's great Venn That Tune! Forget my CSE maths grade unmentionable;  I just love puzzling out his song titles drawn as venn diagrams or graphs. It must be my inner geek coming out!

He's even got a selection of Christmas carols and hits. More here on Facebook. Sheer genius.

All together now..."Dings....Dongs....Things That Occur Merrily...Things That Are On Low"...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Winter Flowers, Bruges

Winter Flower Festival, Bruges

An unexpected delight - a couple of arrangements snapped at Winter Flower Festival during our visit to Bruges last month. Church Flower Rota ladies, take note!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Pothole Gardening

 Here's Pothole gardener Steve Wheen's latest miniature creation  in London Fields. I love his  idea of "... bringing happiness in unexpected places."

Monday, 17 December 2012

Advent Calendar - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent Calendar - This Little Babe

This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarmed wise,
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows made of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior's steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
The Angels' trumps alarum sound.

My soul with Christ join thou in fight,
Stick to the tents that he hath dight;
Within his crib is surest ward,
This little Babe will be thy guard;
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from the heavenly boy.
            - From Robert Southwell's New Heaven, New War 

Here's another  favourite, one which has  spelt Advent to me ever since I first sung in Ceremony of Carols nearly 40 years ago. Listen here to Benjamin Britten's magical setting of This Little Babe.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Samaritan Trust Nativity

I couldn't resist this one -  the Samaritan Trust's Nativity!  The Samaritan Trust works with street children in Malawi. 

"Let's go!"

Ready to Wrap

A selection of Greenpatch homemade Christmas  paper for your delectation. I have been a busy little elf today!* Now all I need to do is find some presents to wrap. Oh, and there's that that last pile of cards waiting to be written. When's the last posting date, anybody?

* Or according to the Fairy Name Generator, (thanks Antonia), Bindweed Goblinwand, who brings riches and wealth, lives at the bottom of tangled gardens (who's been sneaking a peek at our compost heap?) and in hedgerows. She can only be seen when the seer holds a four-leafed clover. She wears tangled multicoloured skirts made of petals, (never forget your slip, ladies!) and has gentle green wings like a butterfly.

Friday, 14 December 2012

All I Want for Christmas my two front teeth. I spent a pleasant half hour at the dentist this afternoon having a crown fitted. The objets d'art pictured above are the impressions that were taken of my jaw, which I'll be keeping for future use. (A long way in the future, I hope!). No, the Christmas decorations weren't part of the package; that's just my creativity gone wild.   After all, this is probably the only time I'll  (well - part of me anyway) be immortalized in plaster. Michelangelo, eat your heart out.

Any further suggestions for Christmas themed dentistry ditties welcomed.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Advent - While Shepherds Watched

Another B-ewetiful treasure spotted in Bruges

This little chap is waiting to take his rightful place in the Greenpatch nativity scene. We simply couldn't resist him. As reader who've been following this blog and its predecessor know, the cast of our Christmas creche tend towards the 'eclectic' and he's no exception. Why, with that bouncy spring holding him up, he could even understudy for the Archangel Gabriel.

Whilst we're talking sheep, do have a listen to this jolly 'alternative' version of While Shepherds Watched. Our community choir  (not the choir in this recording) will be singing this at their Christmas concert. Wonderful- -  though such an 'earworm.' I've not been able to stop humming it for weeks!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

How Many Weeks 'Til Christmas?

It can't be only two, surely?  According to the corner shop it is, so it must be true. I'll certainly not be winning prizes for  practical Christmas preparations; I'm nowhere near finished. To be honest I'm barely started -  yet for once I'm feeling pretty unfazed about it all. We don't 'do,' a huge Christmas nowadays anyway. Apart from MIL and SIL's pressies which we delivered last weekend, I've not even begun shopping yet; I've just emerged from a mammoth card-writing session with at least a couple more bouts  to go. With the exception of overseas letters, I tend to do these in bursts  with little regard to priority. Hence all  the cards for my Franciscan small group are duly written, stamped and laid out neatly in the hallway ready for posting, those for supervision group I'll hand over tomorrow, whilst siblings, wider family and  friends far and near, church and neighbours will just have to wait. It will all get done eventually, it always does. As long as the offspring get home safely - Ms GP back from  NY( yes she's there  again!) and Mstr GP MA (you must indulge a proud mother here) from the frozen wastes of Norfolk.

And if, as last year there are 'blips,' i.e. Grown up son still can't find the stocking Grannie gave him as a toddler, we'll just make do with one of Mr GP's old socks. Santa tends not to call round until after Midnight Mass in any case. Both 'children' are remarkably laid back about the odd 'his' that finds its way into the 'hers' stocking by accident; likely because Mrs Santa is by then  rather too hyped up on carols, incense, candlewax and general good cheer for her own good.  Or as sometimes happens,  it's Mr Santa who fails to appreciate the intricacies of the  labelling system that seemed such a good idea when the elves made their first delivery* to Maison Greenpatch. We'll manage. All Will Be Well.

* To be fair - Mrs Santa is usually the one responsible for the forgotten  bags of mouldering chocolate coins/Santas/Snowmen discovered in the depths of the wardrobe the following summer.

Advent Calendar - a Touch of Eternity

“I do hope your Christmas has had a little touch of Eternity in among the rush and pitter patter and all. It always seems such a mixing of this world and the next — but that after all IS the idea.”
             (Evelyn Underhill )

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Nativity Factor: The Little Baby Jesus

Today's gem has a local flavour; local to where I'm located that is. The Little Baby Jesus is one of the many great entries to this year's Nativity Factor short film competition. Enjoy.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Advent Calendar - World Vision

Have a peep at World Vision's Advent Calendar and read today about how they're helping people in Boliva, where nutritional deficiencies  account for 11,500 child deaths every year.

We've sponsored three children with World Vision over the years, one from Vietnam and two from Cambodia. 'Our' latest little girl is just coming up to her eighth birthday. It's easy to become cynical about the seemingly endless fight to relieve poverty and to forget that it can cost so little (from our affluent Western viewpoint) to do so much good.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Balulalow

O my dear heart, young Jesus sweet,
Prepare thy cradle in my spreit
And I sall rock thee in my heart
And never mair from thee depart.

But I sall praise thee evermore
With sangis sweet unto thy gloir
The knees of my heart sall I bow
And sing that richt Balulalow.

 Another  of my Christmas favourites - Balulalow, the version from Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols, performed here by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Shepherds

Welcome to our wond'ring sight
                Eternity shut in a span!
Summer in Winter! Day in Night!
Heaven in Earth! and God in Man!
Great little one, whose glorious Birth,
Lifts Earth to Heaven, stoops heaven to earth. 
                     (From: A Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the Shepherds, Richard Crashaw)


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Happy Birthday to You

Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday dear Greenpatch dog,
Happy Birthday to Youuuuuuuu!!!!

 We marked the Fete de St Nicolas  today by celebrating the 10th birthday of   our resident Gallic hairy horror. He even had his own  homemade cake with ten candles! 

Advent Calendar - A Franciscan Advent and Christmas

For today - "Christ Child's Lullaby," recycled from my old Greenpatches blog.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Cloth for The Cradle


An old favourite which I've used before: "Cloth for The Cradle," a prayer by the Iona Community. The beautiful animation here comes  courtesy of dogcow99.   I discovered this first many years ago when we used it in a Christmas Day broadcast from "Oldchurch." They're going through a tough and  immensely sad time just now, so this is really a prayer for everyone there and for anybody is struggling to find light in the darkness this Advent.      

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent Calendar - Just Take Two Minutes reflect on the differences between Advent and Christmas, courtesy of Busted Halo.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent Calendar

"Expectant - Verses for Advent" by Jim Cotter

From Jim Cotter's beautiful reflections based on the Advent Antiphons, Expectant: Verses for Advent, Cairns Publications.

          "O come, O come, thou wisdom strange
            from deep within God's womb to range
            the earth at midnight's hour of fears
            to make us wise beyond our years.
                   Rejoice! Rejoice! Our God shall leap
                   with light that rouses us from sleep."  

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Light Of The World

'"...on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.""
                                                                                              - Ezekiel 47: 12 (NRSV)

" It is this light [Christ] that is our goal; it is this direction that our gaze must be fixed, despite the dark patches that are cast along the way." (From my current Bible reading notes)

 Here we are at the end of my first week back since my time on retreat and holiday. It's been a bumpy week, with, as you can see from the picture -  dark patches in amongst the blue: a glorious blue that so much speaks of the strength and peace that I found from the time away. The greyish patches? Well, there've been several tragic incidents in the wider community here this last week, incidents which have shaken everybody to the core and will continue to have reverberations whether or not we're close to the people concerned.  There is no sense in words....

Yet, it was a couple of on the surface of it innocuous  - even -  positive encounters the other day that, like, Avila, hit me like a bolt out of the blue,  pressed all my buttons and insecurities: the "You're no good," the "Just who do you think you are to even think you could...?" and worst of all, "You'll never do it..." (ok, I dredged up enough strength to squish this last one very firmly ), and sent me spinning and spiralling downwards into a mushy pile of tears, snot and self-pity. Threatening to sabotage all the wonderful self-confidence and change of focus gained from retreat and  a recent chat with my spiritual director. 

I'm coming out of it now; due in no small way to the patience of poor Mr GP, Avila, from A Weeble's Wonderings, whose bravery in sharing her very similar struggles was so uncannily well-timed, honest prayer ('Quiet Time' is not the best way to describe what the Almighty was offered!), and the passage from Ezekiel and its commentary, which taps back into the energy and sense of a far wider, grounded, more spacious self and place. That's where I know I belong, even if I  still feel slightly Beakerish! Hence the tree I added to the picture, rooted and fed by the water flowing from the sanctuary. "Their leaves will not wither nor their fruits fail..."